YOUNTVILLE, Cali. – When choosing which brand of truck to buy, connectivity and telematics are playing a larger role in the buying decision, according to Dan Deppeler, vice-president of maintenance for Paper Transport.
“This becomes a much more important piece of the purchase decision,” Deppeler said of telematics. “Because the truck is beginning to become more commoditized and these are some nice differentiators.”
Deppeler was addressing trucking journalists at a Detroit Connect Showcase press event.
About 70% of the 730-truck Paper Transport fleet are Freightliners, and the new Cascadia is performing well.
“We want an inexpensive truck that doesn’t burn a lot of fuel, that we don’t have to spend a lot on maintenance, and we want our drivers to love it. The new Cascadia delivers on that for us,” Deppeler said. “It’s the most fuel-efficient truck we have in our fleet right now.”
The company was drawn to the Freightliner and Detroit brands in part because of the work they have done with connectivity. Deppeler said the in-cab third-party telematics providers couldn’t match what Detroit was offering. Deppeler wanted a system that would benefit the company’s drivers, through reduced downtime.
“Our drivers have limited time with family. Their typical week is leaving out on Sunday morning and not coming back until the following Saturday, or if they’re lucky, on Friday night. They really only get 34 hours with their family. More time at home is the single biggest thing we at Paper Transport think we can do for our drivers,” Deppeler explained.
He saw telematics as a way to reduce roadside breakdowns and increase uptime, to allow drivers to spend more time at home.
“Having that truck running becomes critically important for him when he’s out there,” he reasoned.
Just last week, the company’s fleet generated more than 2,000 fault codes, 200 leading to repair orders. Using Virtual Technician, the company was able to address these issues without interfering with the driver. In some cases, repairs were made at the shop when the truck returned, so the driver could continue his delivery uninterrupted.
“That’s where I feel these tools provide us a lot of value,” Deppeler said. “We can get out in front of these issues, and sometimes see them before they do.”
He added: “From a driver experience standpoint, we don’t want them to have to worry about maintenance.”
In addition to remotely monitoring fault codes, Paper Transport also uses telematics to measure driver performance. It monitors fuel economy, time spent in cruise control, following distance, hard braking, and other events. The company rewards top performers with bonuses of up to 2.25 cents per mile.
The goal, said Deppeler, is to use data generated by the trucks to close the performance gap between drivers, which amounts to as much as 1.2 mpg on trucks that are spec’d the same and running similar routes.
“We see a 1.2 mpg gap on identical equipment. Our goal is to take that bottom half of that gap and raise their performance. It should be a 0.3 or 0.4 mpg gap,” said Deppeler.
To encourage greater use of cruise control, the company recently gave drivers an extra 2 mph in cruise compared to the top pedal speed of 63 mph. The data, Deppeler said, helps with education as drivers can’t dispute its findings.
Drivers have accepted the heightened scrutiny, he said, since they’re a competitive bunch who enjoy trying to place among the top performers within the fleet. As for telematics itself, Deppeler urged Detroit to continue with an open architecture platform, which will allow Paper Transport to integrate its own apps. For instance, it’s currently developing an estimated time of arrival app for customers, which will also offer them visibility into Paper’s capacity in real-time.
“Keep this information open and allow fleets to bring this into their systems as well,” Deppeler advised. “In the end, whoever does that and does it well is going to be the one who sells the most trucks.”
James Menzies is editor of Truck News magazine. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 15 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies. All posts by James Menzies