NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE, Ont. – Along with swapping ghost stories and tales of devotion to NHL teams both in and out of the playoffs, the presentations and discussions at the PeopleNet Transportation Summit, shared best practices, industry information and company news updates.
The event began with a networking evening at the Olde Angel Inn, which describes itself as “Ontario’s oldest operating inn.” Originally built in Niagara-on-the-Lake in 1789 and rebuilt in 1815 after the War of 1812, the inn is said to be haunted the ghost of Capt. Colin Swayze, killed during the American invasion of May, 1813.
While Capt. Swayze didn’t appear, presenters conjured up tales of spooks and magic while invoking the spectres of government regulation and technology updates.
PeopleNet president Brian McLaughlin discussed the final US government ruling on its electronic logging device (ELD) mandate, calling it a “whopper” of a document. McLaughlin explained that currently the mandate is being subjected to the required 60-day comment period (which he thinks may be extended), and then told attendees “once the final rule hits the federal registry, which is probably the beginning of next year, those who use current AOBRDs or e-driver logs, will be remain in compliance for four years from that period of time. So if you are using a PeopleNet system, or another similar one, it will be compliant for four years from that time. If you aren’t using anything, then you have two years from that date to become compliant.”
McLaughlin added, “in general we were pleased with the rule making, but there are a couple of things we are commenting on, and we are suggesting our customers comment on, and we will provide guidance if you are interested.”
He mentioned some specific, noteworthy regulations, including the fact that drivers are now able to edit their logs, and that they must approve any changes to their logs made in the back office before that record becomes official. The mandate also requires drivers have direct access to the log information. McLaughlin said this will cause the company to “beef up” the driver centre information in PeopleNet displays.
“There is also a lot of discussion around interaction with law enforcement. You will have to have multiple forms of interaction with law enforcement. A printer is optional, it’s not required, but you will have to show some type of communication on screen law enforcement will get to see. You will also have to pass the data wirelessly at the roadside,” explained McLaughlin.
“Canada has been ahead of the US in terms of encouragement for a uniform policy, and the US was very slow on this.”
As the Canadian wireless telecommunications industry grows and evolves, it will force users to adopt to changing technologies.
“The good news is, all the networks up here, Telus and Bell are the particular ones we primarily use, are building out their 4G and HSPA+ networks, as well as LTE networks, so very rapid adoption and rapid movement towards these.
“The other side of that is they are sunsetting the CDMA 1xRTT networks over the next 12-18 months. This is something we use today. 1xRTT DMA is really 2.5/3G classified, but certain geographies will phase out sooner than others. What we’re hearing—and these are the most important dates we are planning for—is July next year [telecom] carriers will begin to shift capacity off the 1xRTT in particular in British Columbia (except for Nelson), Alberta and parts of Quebec along the Gaspé Peninsula. And in early 2017 carriers will begin more of a universal shutdown. They won’t go any faster, whether they go slower will depend on consumer response and mission critical systems response to this….There is one caveat. In 2015 there may be some early change-over in Thunder Bay as well. What this means is in these areas, the systems you use will start to feel some network degradation.”
To put the new technology in context, he said the current speed range from 140-160kbps and with 4G that jumps to 4Mbps.
“So massive, massive amounts of data for the same low price.”
McLaughlin said in comparison, the US takes a slower approach to sunsetting, with Sprint/Verizon promising to continue 1xRTT for another 10 years.
To deal with the technology changes PeopleNet will be deploying a new onboard computer, currently nicknamed “the puck.” McLauglin promised it will be released “as soon as feasible” with it being in full commercial release by Q4 this year. He said it will be plug-and-play and quick to install (a maximum of 30 minutes) and backwards compatible to all existing systems. It will be able to run on HSPA+ or, for an extra cost, LTE networks.
In a related topic, McLaughlin announced PeopleNet is creating interfaces for Android-based devices, which means customers won’t be limited to using Windows-based smart phones and tablets to access their data.
Managing telematics data
Fred Myatt, commercial auto segment director for Zurich North America, told attendees that it’s not enough to be collecting telematics data. They need to manage the information as well. He admitted that it’s easy for people to become overwhelmed by the sheet number of variables on board systems can record, so he suggests limiting the number of reports regularly reviewed.
When an incident occurs on the road Myatt said there are a few basics that need to be checked, and in these circumstances, the telematics data must be paired with information collected gathered by other, less high-tech methods. First, he said if drivers are working as a team, it’s necessary to establish who was behind the wheel. Next, he said it’s crucial to understand the driving conditions, noting driving out of Toronto at rush hour is different from a highway in the middle of nowhere. “It’s not an excuse, but I have to understand what else is going on,” he said.
As for the telematics data, “I tend to look at a couple of really big things: hard braking, speed versus posted speed…changes in hard steering. These give me a really good idea of what is going on out there.” For hard braking, Myatt tends to use 7mph per second as a threshold.
While computerized information is valuable, Myatt reminded the audience not to neglect the human element when it comes to managing drivers. One business Zurich dealt with even took a radical approach when it wanted to help drivers improve their skills and performance: “They talked to drivers like they were human beings,” he said.
“How many people in the industry have you seen that frankly don’t talk to drivers? Whether it’s at customer sites or at their own company? They aren’t always the nicest to those drivers.”
Craig Whittaker, process improvement manager for the Seaboard Transport Group of Companies in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, was able to tie measurable savings and improvements to his company’s use of PeopleNet over the past 10 years.
Even though he didn’t know it, Seaboard had Permitax as part of its software services bundle. Once Whittaker began using that application to manage its fuel tax reporting, he was able to eliminate four full-time positions.
“We had drivers filling out fuel tax reports every day, handing them in. Then somebody had to make sure we got one from every truck, then they had to manually input them into a spreadsheet. Then they had to create reports to process,” he said adding that after the system was up and running, it only takes about three hours to manage the fuel tax reporting.
On the road, the results were equally dramatic. In particular, by setting over-sp
eed alarms and sending daily notifications to the drivers of their infractions, Seaboard changed their drivers’ behaviour.
“Within a year we reduced [over-speeding] by 88%. We did sudden stop alarms and had about a 65% reduction in sudden stops.”
When the company implemented elogs, Whittaker said Seaboard completely eliminated a three-day process for five people, and reassigned the staff formerly responsible for filing and processing driver logs to the task of educating drivers. “There is more value in that than processing paper,” he said.
When Seaboard originally started running speed-checks, it set the limit at 5km/h above the limit. After a few months, it reviewed the data. In total approximately 80,000 speed checks were run per day, whici resulted in a speed exception being recorded once every 62 miles. “Those were pretty scary numbers to be honest,” Whittaker said. After engaging in driver education and awareness programs, the current figures show company drivers travel over 500 miles before registering a speed exception. “That’s a huge improvement.”
Even though Seaboard has a decade of experience with the system, it is still finding new capabilities. Currently the company is in beta testing to close the loop on managing its DVIR workorders, and reduce the amount of paper used in managing repairs. After that fault code monitoring and management is top of Whittaker’s wish list.