Managing a Foodservice Fleet

Temperature and food safety concerns up the ante for fleet managers in the foodservice sector.


The FMCSA’s rules regarding electronic onboard recorders (EOBR) are yet another example of a key piece of transportation legislation that continues to be delayed, Smith adds. The EOBR rule 395.16 missed a 2012 deadline, and now the FMCSA is looking to issue a proposed rule in March. It’s likely that the agency will miss this self-imposed deadline too, however. In fact, some industry analysts estimate that a final EOBR rule may not be published until mid to late 2014, or even later.

That hasn’t stopped proactive fleet managers and software and technology providers from moving the industry forward, though. “There’s been a trend towards mobile devices rather than fixed screen displays,” Smith explains. For starters, more drivers are carrying their own smartphones on the road, while more companies are issuing them to their employees. There’s an opportunity to multipurpose the devices, he says, but there are obstacles. If a driver is not using a manual logbook, he must present a roadside inspector with a display device containing the log. This becomes a problem if the driver leaves the smartphone at his last stop, or drops and breaks it. The best scenario is to have a computer installed inside the cab that’s always logging miles, eliminating the reliance on smartphones or other devices.

Other providers are adapting their solutions to the industry’s ongoing move towards mobility. In January, Blue Tree Systems released a portable version of its R:COM in-cab terminal. The newest version is a one piece plug-and-play device that is temporarily mounted on the dash of a vehicle and plugged directly into the vehicle diagnostics. The permanently attached antenna makes it easy to install and transfer this version of the R:COM to other vehicles.

This latest product enhancement takes flexibility to a new level for the fleet manager. “Job management, turn-by-turn navigation and two-way communication with leased vehicles can now be conducted in exactly the same manner as it is with regular drivers/vehicles,” states Mark Whitney, product development manager at Blue Tree Systems, in a press release. “Fleets keep the Portable system on hand for precisely these situations, ensuring that the addition of a last minute owner-operator or leased vehicle occurs seamlessly. Thanks to the R:COM In-Cab Portable device, adding drivers and vehicles at short notice is no longer a major communication and operational nightmare.”

There are other improvements that providers are looking to make to their solutions in order to help drivers make decisions “hands free and in real time,” says Cadec’s Smith, who clarifies that “real time” itself differs when it comes to various software and technology providers and their offerings.

“Some products in the marketplace claim to deliver information in real time, when there’s actually a 20 minute delay. With Cadec, ‘real time’ means real time. If there was an opportunity 20 minutes ago and you missed it, you don’t get that opportunity back. So when it comes to software, what may have been good enough a few years ago is no longer the case. We’re seeing fleets become more challenged because of fewer drivers in the pool, more compliance requirements, so you really need to increase that business intelligence to squeeze more dollars out of the supply chain,” he says.

Shifting the data mining responsibility to the software and technology solutions and freeing up fleet managers’ time to better concentrate on actionable parts of their job is the focus, Smith says. “That means the ability to be more efficient with their assets, both equipment and drivers, and doing it in real time to improve customer satisfaction and their overall operations.”

When it comes to foodservice, Cadec aims to give companies a more complete view of the cold chain as they enhance their products and services in 2013. Historically, “we have focused on the in-transit piece of the supply chain—once a trailer is coupled to a tractor, we have custody of that temperature data until we deliver it to its destination. But, that’s not really a 360-degree view of the cold chain,” says Smith. “During the course of this year, we plan to build a true cold chain solution with partners that have the other pieces of that temperature data, such as the temperature of the product inbound to the warehouse, the temperature inside the warehouse, during staging, once it was loaded onto the trailer, et cetera, and marrying it up with what Cadec already has available. For the foodservice provider, it’s about taking cold chain data from disparate databases, broadening it, and presenting it in one actionable control panel or dashboard.”

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