Telling telematics

Telematics target a whole lot more than the bottom line

March 12, 2012
by By Kara Kuryllowicz

When talking telematics, cost-savings are the focus for many fleets. At Toronto based Carmen Transportation Group—which provides shipping, trucking, cartage, warehouse, distribution and logistics services—telematics target a whole lot more than the bottom line.

“Customer expectations have changed dramatically and we require certain systems to assure a particular level of service,” says president Vince Tarantini. “I can send my best driver, but how do I maximize my support to the driver and his vehicle? It turns out telematics technology is the answer.”

Since May 2010, Carmen, which runs 70 trucks, has installed Shaw Tracking’s Mobile Computing (MCP) on its 45 over-the-road vehicles to better support its customers and drivers, while maximizing productivity and efficiency.

Since its 1985 debut, the company has embraced available technology such as cell phones and mike radios and finally real-time GPS about five years ago. So why did it take so long to commit to telematics?

“Most transportation companies have basic telematics, but the challenge lies in identifying the manufacturers of the latest, greatest technology with a 12- to 24-month ROI and figuring out how to integrate it into your company’s culture,” says Tarantini.

After selecting Shaw’s MCP, Tarantini homed in on several key applications, one of which is Automated Hours of Service (HOS), in which electronic on-board recorders (EOBRs) automatically update drivers’ logs and other administrative tasks. It replaces paper logs and handles all of the calculations required to tell drivers when they need to rest and for how long, as well as the hours driven and the remaining hours of service.

Access to accurate, real-time data allows Carmen dispatchers and drivers to plan, schedule and immediately adjust daily and weekly plans. As well, management can address behavioral issues immediately, while eliminating the costs associated with the monthly outsourcing of logs and the six- to eight-week wait for their return. When the automated HOS and traditional records were compared, the automated records showed some drivers were rounding up so much they were sacrificing hours of valuable driving time rather than risking thousands of dollars in fines or being pulled off the road.

“They’re drivers, not record-keepers, and HOS gives them the onboard secretary they’ve always wanted,” says Tarantini. “The fact their own recordkeeping often worked against them—indicating they were illegal when they were in fact legal—astonished some of our drivers.”

Thanks to the automated HOS, drivers and vehicles are less idle and more productive and the costs related to warnings, infractions and violations, as well as insurance premiums, have fallen. However, the automation can add costs because better records mean drivers are reimbursed for everything from road and border tolls to the downtime resulting from unexpected maintenance.

HOS has made a significant cultural shift. While most drivers love it, others resent what they see as a loss of control and the freedom to decide when they’ll work. Yet, as HOS continues to produce positive results, Tarantini says that even the non-believers are becoming more accepting.

Carmen already monitors fuel consumption, but the next step is to connect to the vehicle’s ECM, accessing as many sensors as possible to better control downtime and communicate any issues to operations and the driver, along with the location of the nearest service centre and directions via secondary routes.

MCP’s automated vehicle positioning, messaging and onboard scanning integrate into Carmen’s back office to expedite and improve the accuracy of tasks such as order-taking, dispatch and billing. It’s as elemental as ensuring the driver receives the correct address to get the shipment where it’s supposed to go and improving cash flow with same-day invoicing. The signed waybill can be scanned onboard and sent back to head office in order to expedite billing and Customs. Employees can also take on more value-added tasks. “

Human error is reduced and greater automation allows us to expand without new hires,” says Tarantini.

How much money has Carmen saved, or made, with MCP? Despite the fact Tarantini loves figures, he won’t commit to hard numbers. Why? Because as he’s learning, actions that reap savings in one area may incur costs elsewhere. However, overall, productivity gains have been achieved without compromising safety, outsourcing costs have been reduced, DOT fines have been eliminated and Carmen’s carrier score is up.

“No one can discount the complexity of a fully integrated approach, but real-time, dynamic data turned into knowledge allows you to make better business decisions that do more than grow the top and bottom lines,” says Tarantini.        b2b

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