CALGARY, Alta. – A Calgary man has developed a comprehensive truck safety system he says can reduce heavy-duty truck accidents by 50 to 75 per cent.
“We believe that this will revolutionize trucking in the same manner as when the computer was introduced to the workplace,” says Eluminor president, Tom deWaal.
If that name sounds familiar, you may recognize it from an article in the August issue of Truck West. President deWaal was the first person in the trucking industry to implement Mobileye’s vision system – the only product of its kind to offer lane departure warning, forward collision warning and headway monitoring capabilities in one system.
He has since taken it to the next level using the Mobileye system as the foundation for a much more comprehensive program that includes everything from biometric fingerprint scanning to GPS tracking and tire pressure monitoring.
Marketed under the name Eluminor, a prototype has been built into in an East West Express-owned Kenworth W900L demonstration unit. Tom deWaal has been introducing the concept to carriers and insurance providers and hopes to soon roll the product out to the entire industry.
In addition to the vision monitoring system, Eluminor’s system incorporates a number of advanced technologies to improve fleet efficiency and truck safety.
Key among the additions is the biometric fingerprint scanner, which is used to record paperless driver logs. When the parking brake is released, the driver is prompted to scan his or her fingerprint and the beginning of a driving shift is recorded.
“We will be using this for the purpose of the logbooks but also to associate how a truck’s being driven by a particular driver,” deWaal explains. “From this we will know how often a particular driver accelerated too fast, decelerated too fast, what his fuel mileage was, whether he followed another vehicle too closely, how many times he crossed a lane marking without having the appropriate signal light on and when he’s speeding. All of these things can now be associated back to that driver based on his biometric input.”
Throughout a driving shift, the driver will be periodically prompted to re-scan his finger when the speed reaches 0 km/h just to confirm the same driver has remained behind the wheel.
When asked by an inspection officer to produce his logbooks, the driver can display them on an in-cab monitor in an easy-to-read format.
“It’s designed in the same format as the paper logbooks that they presently use,” deWaal says.
The biometric scanning system has the ability to restrict the vehicle’s use to pre-approved drivers, however that’s a feature that will only be activated if the customer desires it, deWaal says.
Another key component to the system is a black box-like “crash survival module” which stores key data that can be retrieved following an accident. The module is designed to FAA standards and can survive an impact of up to 3,400 Gs and exposure to 2,000 degrees F for up to an hour.
This can be a key tool when trying to piece together the events that led to an accident and could prove valuable while defending oneself in court in the event of a lawsuit.
“Chances are, when you’re in a collision with a car, it’s the car’s fault,” deWaal explains, noting nearly 80 per cent of truck-car collisions are the fault of the motorist. “In a situation like that, you want that data to represent you.”
The Eluminor system also features GPS tracking (and fuel tax reporting) which deWaal insists is superior to any other system on the market. He compares the Eluminor system to a DVD, while many other tracking solutions are of a VHS caliber.
While the vision system, GPS tracking, biometrics and crash survival module are non-reducible, there will be additional options as well.
One such option is a tire pressure management system that allows drivers to identify leaky tires and have them fixed or replaced avoiding costly on-highway blowouts.
“You can easily pick up a nail and develop a slow leak that just thumping the tire does not detect,” deWaal says.
However, another benefit of the system is that drivers can become more productive by spending less time manually checking their tire pressures, and more time behind the wheel.
“If you have a driver checking his tire pressures twice a week, I would estimate you’re looking at half an hour to check all the tire pressures and while he’s doing that your driver’s unproductive, your trailer’s unproductive and your truck’s unproductive and your driver is doing a menial task he really doesn’t want to do,” insists deWaal.
Other benefits of a tire monitoring system are improved fuel mileage and increased tire life, since the driver is alerted to any tires running above or below the optimum tire pressure.
Another component that can be spec’d as part of Eluminor is an on-board scale system that measures the payload capacity of individual truck and trailer combinations. This allows a fleet to ensure it’s getting the maximum payload aboard its trailers while reducing time spent visiting stationary weigh scales.
As a previous manager with East West Express, deWaal has seen the value of such a system first hand.
“We had owner/operators who were paid by a percentage of revenue whose desire is to put the most freight possible on that truck. That causes us problems with overweight tickets and that all goes on our carrier profile,” he explains. “On the other hand we have company drivers that are paid by the mile and their main objective is to put on miles. They may not be as motivated as we are to put that last 100-200 lbs on.”
The on-board scales can be read from a fleet’s terminal so managers can ensure trucks are being properly loaded. As with most of Eluminor’s features, the improved efficiency of the driver is a key benefit.
“If we have to take 45 minutes to go to a scale, weigh the trailer and then find out ‘Yeah, we can put on 200 more pounds, that whole process has cost us a considerable amount of time and we’re reducing our ability to service our customer,” he says.
Another optional feature to be offered by Eluminor is a document scanner which can be used by drivers to file paperwork to the terminal, enhancing the flow of information and speeding up the invoicing process.
“Now we can control our credit costs,” says deWaal. “We want to keep our drivers away from the terminal as much as possible so they can service our customers.”
This tool also allows a carrier to provide shippers with tracking and delivery information which they can monitor themselves online.
“Shippers can track the shipment 24/7 without engaging any of our employees and the customer can obtain proof of delivery without engaging any of our employees,” adds deWaal.
There are many other functions that can be integrated into the Eluminor system, deWaal says. He plans to roll it out within East West Express in early 2005 and expects it to hit the open market by the second quarter. While a cost has yet to be determined, he suggested the $6,000 mark would be a realistic price. He’s confident the efficiencies a fleet can gain will provide a solid return on investment in very little time.
“Just from an administrative standpoint, excluding safety benefits, this system pays for itself,” says deWaal.
Another source of potential payback is insurance rates, he suggests. Carriers can establish risk indexes for each of their drivers and use that to reduce their accidents and prove to insurance providers they are not a high-risk client. In fact, deWaal hopes this system will lure more insurance providers into the trucking industry as they see a trend of improved safety and lower-risk.