Making the Business Case for On-Board Monitoring

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GRANDE PRAIRIE, Alta. – The use of on-board monitoring systems is becoming commonplace among trucking contractors in the forestry sector, and Tom Grabowski of TruckBase says it’s easy to see why.

“The log haul is the single biggest cost item for delivered log costs,” explained Grabowski, noting it accounts for about 40 per cent of the total cost. “It’s the single largest cost item, but it’s an area (forestry) managers know very little about.”

Edmonton-based TruckBase offers a GPS truck management system for log fleet management. It’s designed to help fleet managers improve productivity, increase safety, reduce operating costs, monitor compliance and provide added security.

Increasing productivity

On-board monitoring systems allow users to determine where bottlenecks are occurring on logging roads and then adjust scheduling accordingly. They also enable individuals to track waiting times at loading and unloading points, which can be a handy tool during rate negotiations.

“Information is power, and the bigger you are, the more information you need to run the business,” said Grabowski. “If you don’t know what’s going on in your log haul, you can’t be controlling your costs the way you should be.”


TruckBase and other on-board monitoring systems can be used to determine stop events as well as speed events.

“Did the truck stop where it should have stopped? Did it stop at random checks? Did it stop at stop signs?” are all questions the system can answer, Grabowski said. “Companies who haul on public roads should see the safety aspect of on-board monitoring as the single biggest reason (for using it). They know if they have one bad incident, it could negatively impact their tuck haul for a long time to come.”

Reducing operating costs

Operating costs can only be reduced when the excess waste is pinpointed, and that’s where on-board monitoring systems really shine, Grabowski said. He cited an example of a forestry company that was having trouble with truck packs developing, which caused productivity to deteriorate.

“They would have everything scheduled out nicely and then halfway through a shift they would have truck packs and the corresponding inefficiencies during loading and unloading,” explained Grabowski. The customer was able to determine through the use of on-board monitoring systems just where the packs originated.

On-board monitoring systems also track fuel use and maintenance costs, and they also make drivers more accountable for their actions. In one case, a TruckBase customer had been involved in one major accident per year before implementing on-board monitoring. In the five years that the system has been in place, there have been no further incidents, Grabowski said.

“That has a big impact on the bottom line,” he added.


It’s great to be able to monitor drivers’ actions, but sometimes there’ll also be cases where government wants to monitor the fleet’s actions as a whole. For instance, if Central Tire Inflation (CTI) is approved in regions where it’s currently not allowed, government may mandate the use of on-board systems to ensure the technology isn’t being abused. TruckBase tracks CTI usage to ensure it’s being used properly.

“Several jurisdictions are looking at CTI for its ability to extend the logging season but the big question is, did the operator use CTI when and where he was supposed to?” pointed out Grabowski. “You have to be able to prove you’re using it properly so then monitoring becomes integral to CTI being accepted by the government.”


“Security is a bigger concern down in the United States,” admits Grabowski. However, the capabilities are still there through on-board monitoring, to track loads.

“Did the truck deviate from an authorized route? Did the truck stop at an unauthorized place? Did someone offload some logs where they shouldn’t have?” are all questions that can be answered by TruckBase, said Grabowski.

There are other uses of the data as well. The RCMP have used TruckBase’s data on a number of occasions to recreate accident scenes.

“So far, the truck driver has been exonerated almost exclusively, because they were doing what they said they were doing,” Grabowski said. The one risk of implementing on-board monitoring systems is that it’s possible to suffer from information overload.

“You can certainly drown in the data, so it requires a real focus on your key business issues,” said Grabowski. TruckBase uses the Internet to share data with customers and it sorts through the multitude of data and only presents the requested or relevant information.

“The Web is the way to go,” said Grabowski. “It allows our customers to focus on their core business, which is typically delivering logs to a log yard as economically as possible subject to environmental and social concerns.”

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