CALGARY — New technology is being touted as the great equalizer in helping carriers stay on top of an ever-increasingly expensive economic landscape, especially when it comes to fuel.
While there are a number of products and technological developments designed specifically to reduce fuel consumption – APUs, hybrid trucks, alternate fuel engines, aerodynamic fairings, wide single tires, just to name a few — there are a few indirect factors that will contribute to fuel economy; mainly, everything.
Shaw Tracking recently tweaked its mobile communication system and the new OmniVision mobile computing platform has technology to monitor some of those indirect factors.
"These are only tools. They’re just software and don’t mean anything unless there is a return on investment," says Mike Ham, vice-president of business services with Shaw Tracking.
ON THE ROAD AGAIN
The Mississauga, Ont.-based company recently took its new suite of products on the road and hosted a number of western outfits.
While the communications company has been hosting user sessions for a decade and a half, it’s actually the first time they’ve hosted one outside of their home base.
"For once Toronto’s not the center of the universe," mused Ham, as he welcomed about 50 attendees to downtown Calgary.
The center of the universe these days, as far as operation costs are concerned, seems to be the price of fuel. For many carriers fuel has surpassed labor as the number one cost of doing business.
"If we are not using a strategy to monitor fuel — and hope is not a strategy — at $5 per gallon, we’re wasting money," noted Ham. "A 0.5 mpg improvement at $5 per gallon is a big boost; do the math."
The OmniVision system offers in-cab navigation — provided by Maptuit — with real-time turn-by-turn directions on truck approved routes, which will help drivers avoid traffic congestion and construction whenever possible.
The system also includes Critical Events Reporting and a vehicle maintenance portion, which provides real-time information of pending problems to help lower maintenance costs.
"The driver is still rolling down the road, but you can plan to get the driver in safely," explained Ham. "You can plan to get to the closest truck stop, plan for a switch, plan with the customer; whatever you have to do."
In-cab scanning is another new feature of the OmniVision system, which will allow drivers to quickly send invoices, border documents and other paperwork without having to find a truck stop or business center.
"A year and a half ago we weren’t even looking at this," added Ham. "We live in a very paper intensive world and where there’s paper there are delays and errors."
A handful of fleets have migrated from the OmniTRACS platform to the new OmniVision system and while the specific reasons differ, it all came down to improving the company’s bottom line.
"We want all of our units outfitted (400 in total) before adding the new applications, but I think in-cab navigation will probably be first," noted Alan Klassen, director of fleet assets with N. Yanke Transfer Ltd.
While HOS monitoring is available through the OmniVision and OmniTRACS systems, it has not been a hot seller among Western fleets.
"Until everybody does something, it will be tough for anybody to do something with HOS monitoring," noted Steve Atnikov, western Canada sales manager for Shaw. "But it’s there, so when you need it you won’t need to run out and buy a new system."
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