Achieving Harmonic Convergence

New technologies make onboard computers more powerful.


"Companies will be able to determine automatically which trailer is attached to each tractor, what the reefer temperature is, tire pressure on each wheel and tire temperature, as well as whether doors are open or closed, all based on RFID tag technology," McLaughlin explains.

Another safety-related recent enhancement to PeopleNet's system, McLaughlin notes, is real-time fault code reporting.

"Our system has the ability to pull those off the engine and deliver them in real time to the safety/maintenance manager. These can be helpful in breakdown situations, or even to warn of imminent component failures that might lead to breakdowns before they occur. Since there are hundreds of fault codes available, we're allowing users to pick the top five that are most urgent to them, and set the system to notify the manager via email or cellphone whenever one of these faults is detected," he explains.

Enhancing Security

One of the key tools Londonderry, NH-based Cadec provides that can help with safety management is its patented Split Screen GPS and Electronic Tachograph (ETOG) feature, notes Tom Lemke, executive vice president.

It provides transportation supervisors in the office with a unique combination of second-by-second speed, RPM and location data displayed via a graphical interface. The ability to visually link speed and RPM data with vehicle location in an intuitive manner is particularly useful in the investigation of accidents and other incidents on the road, such as public reports of speeding or other poor driving habits, he points out.

"You can look at every second of speed and RPM by selecting a point on the map showing the ‘breadcrumb trail' of the driver's actual trip, or you can select any speed or RPM figure and look at every place en route that matches that value. So from a safety standpoint, you can actually see what is going on with the driver all the time he is on the road," Lemke explains.

Another feature of Cadec's system that lends itself to enhancing safety and security is its ability to link with a variety of sensors mounted in the truck and trailer.

"We can monitor door openings wirelessly from the trailer, for example, so that in real time, or after the fact, users can see where, when, and how long a trailer door was opened," he notes.

Cadec also offers an emergency key fob capability, which enables drivers to send a signal to the office indicating an emergency condition that occurs when they are away from the vehicle.

Beal of Tripmaster points out that the convergence of affordable wireless communications with sophisticated onboard computing power has made it "easy to create intelligent real-time alerts and notifications of exceptional circumstances of all kinds.

"So we can now tell in real time if a trailer door has been opened at a non-customer location, or even something as seemingly trivial as whether the windshield wipers or headlights have been left on."

To help supervisors better manage the plethora of information OBCs provide today, he adds, Tripmaster now offers a dashboard interface for its back-office system.

"It provides graphical representations such as pie charts and graphs to show how the entire fleet is performing against a company's metrics. Managers can see at a glance how the vehicles are doing. If there's a lot of green on the screen, there's nothing to worry about. If there are red indicators, supervisors simply click on each item to find out exactly what's going on," he points out. For extreme circumstances, he adds, notifications can be sent via email to a manager's Blackberry for immediate action.

John Lewis, CEO of GeoLogic Solutions, Herndon, VA, says onboard devices are playing a more significant role in safety management than ever before.

GeoLogic, he adds, recently launched a new color display unit for the cab which in addition to enhancing the driver interface, is designed specifically to play a bigger role in insuring safety on the road.

"For instance, the text-to-speech functionality we offer with this new device enables drivers to hear the most recent communication from the dispatch center or fleet office, so he does not have to take his eyes off road to find out what the fleet manager is trying to tell him. And he can hit a single button to replay the same message as many times as needed."

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