New Technologies and Techniques Aid Log Haulers

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GRANDE PRAIRIE, Alta. – Implementing new technology and properly training drivers are two keys to success in the forestry sector of the trucking industry.

That’s the message transportation consultant Michael Mallock delivered to a gathering of forestry transportation professionals at a recent Forest Engineering Research Institute of Canada (FERIC) western transportation conference.

It’s more important than ever to implement methods and technologies to improve performance, “as our fiber supply continues to get farther and farther away from our mills,” Mallock said.

One of the most beneficial steps a trucking company can take is to implement a driver incentive program, he said.

But they can be ineffective if not implemented properly, he warned.

“To be effective, you need results monitoring and driver feedback on a daily, weekly or monthly basis,” said Mallock.

“If you don’t give a driver feedback in a timely fashion, it doesn’t have the same impact.”

A good driver incentive program is: user-friendly for the drivers; accommodates all drivers; and attaches some form of recognition (often monetary) for improvements.

Mallock has worked with trucking companies in the forestry sector who have seen fuel efficiency improve by five to 10 per cent thanks to proper driver training and a driver incentive program.

“That’s a significant amount per truck,” Mallock said.

However, he added those numbers typically nosedive after four to six months if the program isn’t kept current and updated along the way.

The best drivers in the company mustn’t become bored by the program and the least fuel-efficient drivers should remain motivated, so frequent changes to how the program is run are important.

At the very least, the drivers should have bragging rights over their colleagues.

“Each day he’ll want to be better than the driver beside him,” he said.

He also spoke of the need to spec’ the right equipment for the application.

There’s a wide range of components that can be spec’d, (engines, transmissions, wheels and tires and drive and steer axles to name a few) and it’s a good idea to test various combinations, he said.

“Any one of these components, you can change and you can mix and match. But how do you measure that? You need some form of electronic tracking to determine that,” Mallock said.

There are two types of equipment monitoring programs available – real-time and post-trip tracking.

For the forestry sector, Mallock suggested post-trip tracking is often more feasible. The bottom line with this technology, however, is “…the system must provide feedback to the driver and the manager,” he said.

It’s important to give the driver as much information as possible, not just the bottom line, said Mallock, who works with Alberta-Pacific Forest Industries (Al-Pac) to monitor trip summary reports.

“You need to give them the raw data as well as the fixed result,” he emphasized.

The programs available today are able to monitor everything from fuel consumption, to vehicle speeds and brake usage.

“Brake usage is something a lot of contractors focus on,” Mallock said.

Tracking programs can also issue violation reports for drivers who exceeded speed limits or were abusive to equipment.

That’s important, as speeding is one cause of poor fuel mileage.

“Every time you get over the posted speed limits, your fuel consumption goes right through the roof,” he said.

Al-Pac also uses tracking programs to measure out various routes and determine the most cost-effective route available.

“The shortest route is not always the most efficient,” he said. “You can plan your best haul routes with regards to time and fuel economy.”

Another key feature is the ability to track central tire inflation (CTI) usage.

If drivers know that information can be monitored, they’re more likely to properly use the system, Mallock said.

“On a voluntary basis (CTI) worked to some extent, but it really began to work when we could see if they were using it properly,” he said.

Also, when government sees how easily CTI usage can be monitored, it may pave the way for its more widespread use in the future. To conclude, Mallock told the audience that “undertaking a driver training program and reviewing vehicle spec’s will realize both a cost-savings and a decrease in safety-related incidents.”

But in order to do that effectively, a vehicle monitoring system must be in place so results can be analyzed and alterations can be made when necessary.

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