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The future potential of truck telematics

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. -- Imagine a prospective new hire showing up at your recruiting office with a USB drive in hand, containing his or her complete driving record over the previous six months.



MISSISSAUGA, Ont. — Imagine a prospective new hire showing up at your recruiting office with a USB drive in hand, containing his or her complete driving record over the previous six months.

Every trip, every day, every mile. Every speed limit violation, every evasive maneuver, every panic stop. All of it presented right there in an easy-to-read scorecard format.

That could be a reality sooner than you’d think, thanks to the rapidly growing world of truck telematics, the machine-to-machine transfer of data that streams information on how a truck is being operated to a Web portal or device where it can be analyzed by a fleet owner or safety manager. Speaking to the Fleet Safety Council’s Toronto chapter this week, Scott Cober, vice-president, national leader with Marsh Canada’s trucking practice, said vehicle telematics is more accessible than ever and can even be captured on the latest generation smartphones.

The latest iPhones come equipped with digital compasses and accelerometers, and Cober predicted it will only be three to five years before smartphones are capable of providing quality, detailed data on how a vehicle has been operated. A driver will be able to plug his or her own phone into a portal in the vehicle and then collect their own driving performance data.

Angelique Magi, vice-president of strategic initiatives with The Guarantee Company, said the younger generation drivers are already comfortable with technology and will be likely to embrace telematics and understand the benefits of what it can do for them.

“That generation of driver will welcome technology and see it as an incentive to work with a particular company,” she said. “New drivers could show up for an interview with a USB card that says ‘This is how I drive, this is my driving record for the past six months’.”

With many fleets reporting they now hire only 10% of the drivers they road test, this information would prove invaluable during the recruiting process and a way for safe professional drivers to ensure employment with their carrier of choice.

Both Cober and Magi believe telematics is reaching a tipping point.

“The technology side is changing so fast,” Cober said. “It’s being pushed to smartphones and tablets. You don’t need hardware anymore.”

As for the future of telematics, Magi said it will continue to become more all-encompassing. She said the technology exists today for so-called “biometric telematics,” which measures much more than how a vehicle is being driven.

“The device sits in the cab of a truck and it encompasses the entire atmosphere,” Magi explained. “It can smell, monitor the driver’s heart rate, it can detect a change in posture and it can immediately tell if something has gone wrong with your driver physically.”

This could help eliminate accidents related to driver fatigue or health-related issues.

While that may seem extreme, Cober pointed out telematics technology could at least easily be adapted for the tracking of cargo. So many fleets employ trailer tracking, but the technology also exists to attach pill-sized tracking devices to cargo itself. Then, instead of retrieving empty trailers following a heist, fleets would improve their chances at recovering the actual goods that were stolen.


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