Smart Technology Upping the Trucking Game

Smart Technology Upping the Trucking Game

Waste and recycling fleet managers are under more pressure than ever. Everyone wants more, more, more—more data, more information and better results for the lowest cost possible.

“Fleet managers are experiencing pressure from their organizations to get the most out of their trucks while keeping costs low,” says Bryan Dodds, director of aftermarket product development for McNeilus Truck and Manufacturing. “There is also a constant pressure from their customers to be responsive to their issues, questions, or concerns.”

New rules and regulations at the local, state and federal government levels can also be a big source of pressure, Dodds adds. In particular, he points to municipalities that now require trucks to have additional safety features and recordable video capabilities.

Martin Demers, CEO of FleetMind, agrees that municipal contracts come with greater demands. “We’re seeing a lot of pressure building up for people who cater to municipalities,”  Demers says. “In many of the municipal contracts now the cities are asking for a lot of information. That’s information on service verification, information in real-time, and the position of the vehicles to allow them to respond to residents who call and complain.”

Also, municipalities want to capture as much data as possible about how their recycling programs are progressing. Are people putting out their bins? How often? How much waste is making its way to composting, recycling and landfill facilities? How much gas do trucks use on their routes? How many miles do drivers cover?

Companies that can provide this type of data in real-time will have the edge. That’s the type of advantage that smart truck technology can provide. Features including video cameras, mechanical system diagnostics, a weight scale and RFID readers produce information that can be correlated to create a seamless flow of information.

This information can also make drivers’ work more efficient. “With turn-by-turn directions, dynamic dispatching, and the ability to capture overfills or extra bags, drivers have the tools to not only become better drivers but be recognized for it,” says Dodds.

A smart truck system can also sense danger. “The software can track if there’s a fault on the vehicle; or there’s an impact; if there’s an accident; if there’s a sudden deceleration,” Demers says. “There are many sensors that the systems are connected to that will allow you to detect if there’s a situation that will occur and generate warnings and alarms and send messages to people.”

If there’s an engine problem, the system can alert the driver, the fleet manager and the maintenance manager before things get worse. If a customer complains that a driver ran over a prized rosebush, the manager can play back the truck’s video to see just what happened. Another advantage for drivers is that they can do their pre-trip and post-trip inspections on a tablet or on the vehicle’s computer, which can be forwarded immediately to the back office.

When running a fleet of smart trucks, managers can aggregate data from all of the trucks through the system’s central brain. The opportunity for continuous improvement is perhaps the technology’s greatest feature. Whether it’s using route management software to run trucks more efficiently, live streaming video to coach drivers and reduce accidents, or analyzing data to identify customers that are dead weight, having a centralized place for all of this information can take operations to the next level. With the ability to determine how productive the fleet is on a particular day by tracking hours, yards, lifts, sites, disposal weight and other metrics, managers can make better decisions.

“Once you’ve integrated the scale with the system that’s managing your route and you’re correlating all of the data, then you can analyze profitability,” says Demers.

The old way seems fine enough, but with more real-time data what more could be possible? Instead of waiting hours to find out that a driver missed a stop, or realizing that a minor maintenance problem that could have been easily fixed has been exacerbated by a day of driving, by staying in tune with their fleets, managers can react quickly to prevent service disruptions.

“‘You don’t know what you don’t know’ applies to a lot of companies without a central brain,” Dodds says. “The lack of visibility and access to data can prevent organizations from identifying issues until it’s too late.”

More important, companies without smart truck technology may miss out on lucrative contracts. “There are an increasing number of municipal contracts requiring the type of data and transparency these systems provide, and if you don’t have a system in place organizations may not even be able to bid,” says Dodds.

While smart truck technology is a newer trend, it’s catching on. FleetMind and McNeilus have begun working together to build smart trucks, rather than retrofitting the on-board computing systems.

“Until now people have bought on-board computers independently from the vehicles, and it’s been more of a retrofit type of business. A year ago, we announced that we had started working with McNeilus, and we’ve deployed systems jointly to more than a dozen customers,” says Demers.

McNeilus offers smart truck products, including its Street Smart Vision 10 software. “The software ranges from GPS and breadcrumb trails to full route management software with live streaming video and scale systems that integrate into existing billing software,” says Dodds.

Dodds and Demers will join panelists Richard Knight, vice President & COO, Knight Waste; Evandro Silva, manager, Connected Vehicle Services, Volvo; and Eric Voss, sales manager, South Region, Rehrig Pacific Co. to discuss how smart truck technology is changing the industry at the WasteExpo session entitled “New Directions in Smart Truck Technologies & Capabilities” on Monday, June 06, 1:30 PM- 2:45 PM. 

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