Solving The Transportation Puzzle

Software solutions coupled with onboard computers improve routing efficiency.


“We’re hearing a lot in the marketplace regarding distracted drivers and the dangers of texting while driving, so our primary objective is to make the driver productive, meaning they get information about where they’re going and what they’re supposed to be doing while making sure we’re not distracting them,” says Silver.

To achieve that, Qualcomm includes a text to speech engine in its MCP100. Instead of drivers having to pull off the road to read an email-type message, they simply use a remote control to scroll through their messages, listen to the subject line and choose whether they want to have the entire message read aloud.

Cadec Corp., Londonderry, NH, is another major player in the onboard computer device field. Complying with hours of service regulations is a major part of the driver’s work day. Currently, most companies require its drivers to log on paper every minute of the day, indicating whether they were on or off duty.

Cadec’s Mobius TTS and PowerVue include onboard electronic Department of Transportation log information, which helps reduce the time drivers spend doing paperwork. Audible and visual warnings from the onboard computer help keep the drivers informed and alert so they can maintain compliance.

Nearly all onboard computers, including Qualcomm’s and Cadec’s, integrate with the major route optimization software solutions; however, some onboard computer manufacturers also provide their own software for the back office, also.

XATA Corp., Eden Prairie, MN, provides both parts of the equation.

“We do provide onboard computers but the main value we provide is the software that goes on the computer in the truck in the office,” explains Tom Flies, senior vice president, product marketing, XATA Corp. “The onboard devices are a way of capturing and transmitting the data and getting it back to the home office, where our software can do its work.”

XATA also provides customers with the ability to monitor the truck itself. Their onboard computer connects to the truck’s engine to investigate things like hard braking and speeding.

“Companies can expect to save about 10 percent in fuel savings,” says Flies. “We monitor idle time, speeding and how the driver shifts the truck. We make sure they look at everything to get optimal fuel economy.”

Many factors that contribute to fuel efficiency are directly linked to the driver’s habits and performance. Keeping track of that information can help greatly reduce your company’s transportation costs.

Monitoring Driver Performance

“Fuel continues to be one of the largest expenses in a distributor’s transportation budget,” says Silver. “You never know when a huge spike in fuel prices will happen, so if you at least control the things you can control, as in your drivers’ habits, you’ll be in a better position.”

Qualcomm’s MCP100 can be a useful resource for monitoring driver performance. The system can identify when a truck is idling, hard-braking and speeding.

“With some of the EPA regulations being discussed at both the state and national level, it’s important to know what drivers are exhibiting the type of behavior that increases emissions and decreases miles per gallon,” says Silver. “Based on the data we provide, companies can incent their drivers who have higher MPGs and coach drivers with poor records.”

Another ongoing problem for distributors and 3PLs is drivers not sticking to their routes. Brandt explains how quickly the savings from eliminating this problem can add up.

“If a driver goes five miles off the route for lunch everyday and five miles back, that’s 10 extra miles a day,” she says. “If you’re paying $2.20 per mile, that’s an extra $22 per day. Multiplying that by the 261 delivery days in a year shows that you’re spending more than $5,700 a year. If this is going on with only 10 drivers a day, that costs $57,000 a year. So driving out of route can be very expensive. It’s important to know if drivers are doing what they’re supposed to be doing.”

TMW’s TripAlert has an interesting feature that sends email alerts to management based on different parameters. It can be set to alert when a truck is out of route by 10, 20 or 50 miles.

Looking Ahead

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