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Get Onboard With It

The decision to purchase and implement an Automatic Onboard Recording Device (AOBRD) system is often based on a company's desire to improve its service, reduce or control costs, decrease regulatory co...


The decision to purchase and implement an Automatic Onboard Recording Device (AOBRD) system is often based on a company’s desire to improve its service, reduce or control costs, decrease regulatory compliance exposure, or improve safety -all worthy objectives. While it’s often upper management that decides to buy an AOBRD system, getting the desired results from the implementation falls largely on the dispatcher, transportation supervisor and drivers. Here are some proven methods for making a successful transition to an AOBRD system:

Get Involved Early

Get involved as early as possible in the process of converting to an onboard solution. After all, who knows more about the day-today flow of business than you? A dispatcher is often the central figure who interacts with upper management, customers and drivers to get the day’s job done. Safety and compliance, labour costs, fuel costs, equipment utilization and equipment maintenance costs are common key performance indicators (KPIs) in the trucking industry for which you might be fully or partially responsible. Your experience and expertise can help in choosing which onboard solution to select and in setting parameters to measure data elements.

Eliminate Redundancy

It is no surprise that many private fleet managers have embraced the benefits of modern technology, but it is surprising how many companies don’t use this new technology to replace outdated procedures. Removing redundant processes will save you and your staff a lot of time. What can the new technology replace? Look at everything you do in the shipping office. If it involves data capture of some kind, the onboard solution can probably save you time and energy, and, in most cases, do the work more accurately. Some examples:

A good onboard solution collects mileage by vehicle and by jurisdiction or state. In most cases, a manual spreadsheet can be replaced by a fuel tax report that can be electronically sent to the fuel tax department or maintenance provider.

Most onboard solutions with electronic logging capability capture time information and produce reports with the hour’s results. The better vendors can create electronic customized reports that feed your payroll department.

Ensure Adequate Training

Proper training for all employees who use the onboard solution is extremely important. Ask the onboard solution vendor:

Does training come as part of the package? If so, how much training do we get?

Who does the training? Who gets the training?

What type of training is it? In person? Phone training? Web-based training?

What is the depth of training?

Is advanced training available? If so, what is the cost?

Training is particularly important for drivers who may be suspicious of an AOBRD going in their truck. Reassure these drivers that you will train and empower them. Talk to drivers about the benefits they will enjoy from the AOBRD. Here are few examples of significant benefits to drivers:

Electronic logs will replace paper logs.

Monitoring safety components and establishing standards for compliance show a company’s investment in their drivers’ wellbeing.

Customer log and stop times can be accurately compiled and used to improve routing.

Companies can recognize superior driver performance, as demonstrated by the data captured by the AOBRD (idle time, speeding miles, MPG, etc.).

It is important to start each training session with a short explanation of the role the driver will have in using the AOBRD, and stress the importance the company places on proper use of the AOBRD. Be present at all training meetings to answer questions about how to use the AOBRD within company-specific procedures that drivers perform. Well-trained drivers will provide good data.

The next task is to choose and train your office staff to do something meaningful with the data collected. Choose people who have a natural attraction to new technology. The person proficient on a personal computer is usually a good choice.

Roles in the office will change when the onboard solution is implemented, as the new technology will change or even eliminate certain tasks. Talk to the vendor about what the new system will require from the staff, and evenly distribute those responsibilities. Share the plan with the onboard solutions vendor before the training so the vendor knows what level of training that each staff member needs.

Define New Processes

Most trucking or delivery businesses are subject to government regulations. The motor carrier bears the responsibility of ensuring that rules are followed, and, as the dispatcher, you are probably responsible for making sure drivers are in compliance. Technology of any kind requires disciplined users, so if you establish solid processes for using the AOBRD, your results will be solid, too.

Electronic logging is probably the single biggest reason companies choose an onboard solution. Daily monitoring of a small group of driver log-related reports will ensure that your drivers remain in compliance with government regulations. Be sure to establish a process that sends the correct information to the correct people, and verify that it is being done.

Establish a good training program for new drivers. Have the new driver ride with a senior driver who is proficient in operating the AOBRD for a short trip to demonstrate how it works in a real-life situation.

Review the tasks required to keep the system operational on a daily basis. These may include editing or correcting driver logs, new customer setup, running reports, etc. Be clear about who is going to do what, and when these tasks need to be done.

Decide how you are going to handle lease drivers, rental trucks, equipment breakdowns and maintenance trips, via using an AOBRD.

Use the Data

There’s an old adage that says “you can’t fix what you don’t measure.” With onboard technology, you have a way to measure a lot of things you could not before an implementation. Most AOBRDs can generate more reports than you care to look at every day, so it’s best to decide on a handful of core reports and use them.

Don’t rush into establishing a bunch of harsh rules for your drivers the first week. Doing so might cause drivers to take a negative attitude toward the new technology and fight you every step of the way. Be patient, collect and analyze your data, and, based on your KPIs, start working toward measurable improvement. Set reasonable goals, coach the drivers daily, and you will have employees who feel good about their accomplishments and who show steady progress.

Many companies have established safety and/or performance bonuses for their employees. These can be a terrific way to lead people toward a common goal.

Taking a group of drivers, a fleet of trucks and a warehouse full of product and molding them together into an effective delivery unit can be a very rewarding experience. With your experience and expertise, you can be an integral part of taking an organization to the next level by effectively using an onboard solution.

Bob Sturgis is a professional services manager with XATA Corporation. Prior to that, he was with Unisource, where he was most recently managing the AOBRDs for a fleet of 900 trucks. He has more than 23 years of industry experience.


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