The fleet manager who wants to improve safety, efficiency or simply reduce costs has a wide variety of methods from which to choose, including the use of technology to help achieve the goals.
However, when considering technology there is a risk of becoming overwhelmed by the choices available or becoming too enamored with a specific product.
Before moving into the acquisition phase it is important to see past the promotional material, take time to consider the pros and cons of the product, and evaluate how it will address your fleet’s actual needs.
Once the real goals for the fleet have been defined, corporate approval attained, and the products and suppliers researched, all it takes is money and the willingness to invest it.
In an article in the current edition of PMTC’s magazine The Counsellor, Mark Murrell of CarriersEdge offers some good advice on buying technology.
Among other concepts, he discusses the need for buy-in at the senior levels of a company along with a commitment to change if the acquired technology is to have any chance of meeting expectations.
The culture of the organization and its approach to operations is as important to the success of the purchase as the technology itself, according to Murrell.
The article goes into more detail on this subject and makes some interesting points.
To my mind the most valuable trucking technology falls into one of three camps: safety; efficiency; or the environment.
Some technology is of course mandated, such as the 2007 and 2010 engines that reduce emissions. Others are options, but valuable options.
Among these there are many important and exciting tools that are available now or are newly emerging, and a number of them impact safety. They are designed to prevent accidents or at least minimize the ensuing havoc when one occurs.
Impressed by ESC
Like many of you, I have had the opportunity to experience electronic stability control on a test track.
To say I was astounded at the results of the test run would be a complete understatement, so much so that I would encourage every fleet manager to do everything possible to have the fleet equipped with some form of ESC.
Such a relatively inexpensive device should probably be mandatory because of its ability to keep a truck from rolling over if it enters a turn too quickly or when it is involved in a violent maneuver such as trying to avoid a crash site or another vehicle that changed lanes without looking.
I’m also very interested in other crash avoidance technology such as forward collision systems and lane departure systems.
Forward collision systems monitor the vehicle ahead of the truck and send either (or both of) an audible or a visual warning to the truck driver if a potential collision is detected.
One model can accelerate or decelerate the truck to help maintain a safe distance between vehicles. Users point to a couple of drawbacks with these systems, but those are surely outweighed by the benefits.
Lane departure systems monitor the truck’s position relative to the lane markings and deliver an audible warning if the truck drifts across lanes, allowing the driver to take corrective action, hopefully before a collision occurs.
Perhaps yours is one of the many fleets in this country with an excellent safety record, but even if that is the case, the likelihood that one of your trucks will be involved in a collision is evident.
Even the best, benefit
A Transport Canada study covering the period 1994-1998, found that there were an average of just less than 44,000 collisions involving heavy trucks annually during that period.
Another study, using 2004 collision data of all vehicles, estimated the social costs of collisions in Canada to be $62.7 billion a year.
Even though heavy trucks accounted for only 4% of all vehicles involved in collisions, these statistics make it clear that the risks to our professional drivers and to other road users are as real as are the tools available to prevent collisions.
And as for the argument that the truck driver is not at fault in the majority of collisions, that is exactly why this type of technology is a must-have. The best drivers need help avoiding the others.
Of course, no technology will completely defeat an inattentive, fatigued, or careless driver. Conversely, nothing is as effective as an attentive, alert, and conscientious driver.
But no matter how good your drivers are they are likely to find technology helpful, if not a lifesaver at some point in their driving career.
There are many poor driving decisions made out there every day, and your drivers deserve all the protection you can provide. •
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