Technology Provides Fleet Insight

View Point

If you can measure it, you can manage it. You hear that a lot at successful businesses. But getting consistent, reliable information can be a challenge at many private fleets and trucking companies.

The workforce is largely unsupervised: once a truck and driver leave the yard or distribution center, it's tough to know precisely how they're performing at any given moment. Drivers have to phone in their location and load status. Handwritten trip sheets and hours of work logs need to be turned in. There's often no indication of out-of-route miles, fuel economy, or on-time performance until the truck and driver come home.

"Measuring it" can seem downright unmanageable.

That's changing with the emergence of onboard computers, GPS and wireless data networks. Integrated for commercial truck fleets, these tools can capture and deliver the information you need to handle everyday challenges: reducing empty miles, improving fuel economy, stopping unauthorized equipment moves, automating paper processes, proving compliance and more.

Supply chains today have very little slack in them. There's no time to react to yesterday's problems when you have to be productive and predictable today.

That's why you should consider equipping your operation with fleet management systems that utilize the latest in GPS and wireless technologies. Some full-service leasing providers like PacLease offer fleet management systems that use GPS-based tracking, two-way voice and data communications and Internet-based business tools to provide you with information about your trucks and drivers.

PacTrac, a suite of fleet management products developed specifically for our customers, was developed in concert with PeopleNet, a provider of onboard computing and mobile communication solutions for commercial trucking.

It's important to understand specifically how this technology can help you improve your operations. There are five basic needs that should drive your investment in these fleet management systems.

Automate driver entry. A driver with a trip sheet and pen has to record work hours for compliance and payroll, mileage for maintenance scheduling and tax administration, and events related to picking up or delivering freight. Automatically capturing that data produces accurate, complete, and consistent information in electronic form, eliminating the need for handwritten entries by the driver or someone at the office.

Exception-based reports. Most of the time, your trucks and drivers perform as expected. Exception-based reports alert you when conditions vary from the norm: the truck is off schedule, exceeds a speed threshold, or suddenly stops or starts.

"Geofencing" is an exception-based report that's triggered when a truck crosses a geographic boundary you create. When it reaches your customer's location, for instance, or strays out of route, you're alerted by e-mail, fax, or page. It can be used as an additional security feature and aid in the recovery of stolen equipment and freight.

Vehicle location. Accurate to within three meters, GPS-based tracking puts the precise location of each vehicle in the fleet--as well as its direction and road speed--at your fingertips. PacTrac's onboard computer records GPS coordinates and saves them as a small data file that can be sent frequently and cost-effectively over the cellular network.

The PacTrac Fleet Manager gives you access to position reports anywhere there's an Internet connection. From maps of the entire country or of local streets, you can view your whole fleet or a single truck.

Monitor from afar. Your engine control module (ECM) gives you the ability to track and modify hundreds of operating parameters, from idling time to engine RPM to hard braking. This data can be transmitted wirelessly and in real time to help you monitor fuel economy and driver productivity.

Improve compliance. Accurate mileage and location information makes it easier to file returns for taxes and other purposes. PacTrac's eDriver Logs feature uses time and location data to calculate driving hours automatically. This 100 percent paperless logbook meets all legal requirements in the United States and Canada and requires no extra hardware, software, or special training to use.

Some fleet management systems like PacTrac, already offer upgrades that allow you to send audio and video messages to your driver. And, like with PacTrac, these upgrades will eventually deliver spoken, turn-by-turn directions, which can be simultaneously shown on a moving map display.

These fleet management systems can and will revolutionize how you interact with your drivers and help you manage your fleets more effectively.

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