CALGARY, Alta. –Having achieved success in the Canadian oil patch, a US-based technology company that provides real-time driver monitoring and coaching, has set up a Canadian operation in Calgary.
inthinc Canada was launched in September with plans to open a Toronto office in the future.
The company produces the tiwi and waySmart driver mentoring systems, which provide audible alerts to drivers who are speeding, driving aggressively or neglecting to wear their seatbelt.
If the driver doesn’t acknowledge the verbal warning and immediately correct the unsafe driving activity, an alert is sent to the company’s fleet manager or safety department. The waySmart system has been especially popular among oilfield services companies, prompting the opening of the Canadian office, Todd Follmer, CEO of inthinc said in a recent interview.
“We’ve had a significant presence in Canada with some of our oilfield services customers and in supporting them, we needed to have a bigger presence in Canada,” he said. “Most of the oilfield services companies have a major presence in western Canada, which is why we’ve started in Calgary.”
The waySmart system also allows for the electronic logging of driver hours-of-service and can follow workers from vehicle to vehicle, a capability that made the system popular with oilfield services companies such as Schlumberger.
“They have drivers who will go from one vehicle to another, so the logs have to travel with them in real-time,” Follmer explains. “Let’s say I’ve got eight employees in a van going to a job site. When they get into that van, they all log in and their hours begin to accumulate. Then when they get to the job site and get into another vehicle, the hours that were in that van have to follow them into this other vehicle and be current. It’s a very complex problem to solve and somewhat unique for that type of application but it’s common in the oilfield services industry.”
inthinc’s tiwi and waySmart offerings can prevent speeding anywhere in North America by comparing vehicle speed to inthinc’s proprietary database of speed limits that includes more than 40 million road segments.
“You can’t just go and buy a database that includes all those road segments,” Follmer said. “We have 20 employees that all they do is edit speed data.” That information is collected from states, provinces and municipalities, and end-users can easily send a notification if there’s a discrepancy. inthinc will then investigate the discrepancy and, if necessary, update its database.
The waySmart system is also equipped with accelerometers that can detect aggressive driving maneuvers like hard-braking, sudden acceleration and abrupt lane changes. Fleet managers can customize the settings to indicate how much leeway they wish to give their drivers before being notified of infractions, but the systems are designed be corrective rather than punitive.
“You have to give your driver a chance to change their behaviour in real-time or it’s just a ‘gotcha’ system,” Follmer said. In fact, that’s the main differentiator between inthinc’s solutions and other tracking systems in the market, he claims.
“Others have a post-processing environment where data is captured in the vehicle, analyzed to some extent by a computer program, a report is generated, a human being has to look at the report and then decide ‘What am I going to do with this information’?” Follmer contends. “All of that costs time and money. We change driver behaviour in the vehicle.”
Coming soon, inthinc will be adding the ability to automatically put cell phones into “safe mode” so they can’t be used to make calls or send text messages while the vehicle is in motion. And by next year, the company will be coming out with a walk-around inspection feature that will instruct a driver on what to check during their pre-trip inspection.
It will also include a timer, so the manager can ensure drivers are taking sufficient time to actually conduct a complete inspection. The driver will then enter a signature using the touch-screen display and the inspection report will be automatically filed along with the driver’s electronic hours-of-service logs.
Follmer says inthinc’s systems deliver a payback by: improving driver behaviour and reducing accidents; eliminating speeding fines; improving compliance; and by reducing idle-time, which can also be measured by the system. After two years of testing, Barrick Gold recently announced it is spending $16 million to install waySmart in all its worldwide vehicles.
Full deployment in about 3,000 company-owned vehicles is expected to be completed as early as December, inthinc says. For Barrick, a haul truck accident can cost millions of dollars in damage and even more in downtime, which is also true of the oilfield services industry, Follmer notes.
“Halliburton can have an accident with a vehicle with $1 million worth of equipment on it, but it may also be a key part of an eight-asset operation at a wellhead,” he explains. “If they don’t have this one, none of those other ones get to work either. And if they don’t produce a barrel of oil today, by definition that barrel of oil becomes the last barrel that ever gets produced out of that well -and that could be 15 years from now. If they don’t get that job done today, that revenue effectively gets pushed way out into the future, so it’s very expensive to have an asset go offline in that context.”