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How to use data to your advantage


NASHVILLE, Tenn. – It seems that in trucking, though there are countless fleets big and small across North America, the same ones receive awards and recognition within the industry.

So what are these fleets doing to keep their drivers on board and to keep its good standing within the transportation industry?

That was the goal of the educational session titled ‘Secrets from High Performance Fleets’ at PeopleNet’s in.sight user conference in Nashville, Tenn. this week. The session centered around two information technology ‘titans’ who shared with the audience what they are doing with technology to make their fleets as successful as they can be.

The panelists included Bill Brown, the manager of fleet telematics at Southeastern Freight Lines (which has been a PeopleNet customer since 2003) and Joe Neal, the director of information technology at Heniff Transportation (a PeopleNet customer since 2010).

Neal kicked off the session by explaining how Heniff used the data they were collecting with the PeopleNet system to engage drivers and management instead of turn them off with new technology.

“One of the challenges we had from the very beginning when we started implementing the PeopleNet tablets…and it was really negative feedback from the drivers,” he recalled.

“We got a lot of pushback because lots of people thought we were trying to be big brother. And for us, that was unexpected. We didn’t see that coming. So we had to think of ways to turn that negative into a positive. So what we did is we thought of how could be get the drivers, driver managers and management team engaged so we can show them that this was a good thing. And we did this by developing a driver incentive program.”

The incentive program works by using the data collected by the system like idle information and weather information to score the driver on his/her performance.

“So if the driver is doing everything right, then he or she is up for a monthly bonus,” Neal said. “In the beginning it was a slow start but now it was really taken off. It’s gotten to the point where 80% of our drivers are hitting that bonus each month so it’s been a real big win-win for us.”

Initially, the pushback from the PeopleNet system was from not only the drivers, but the management team, especially those in the finance department, said Neal.

“In the very beginning, when we were developing the program, we got a lot of pushback from finance saying ‘You can’t do this, we’re going to spend through the roof with this program,’ but we were able to show that for every dollar we paid out with the program, we recouped $7 back in ROI, whether that be maintenance, fuel savings, tire savings, et cetera. Ultimately, the success of it has been unbelievable for us.”

Neal added that the program has helped not only with ROI, but with driver retention as well for Heniff.

“Essentially we’re really partnering with the driver with this program,” he said.

Bill Brown of Southeastern Freight Lines said the company uses the data collected by the PeopleNet to improve its maintenance efforts, which in turn helped improve the company’s overall safety.

Like many in the industry, Southeastern was having issues concerning diesel particulate filters and regens.

“We realized it wasn’t the particulate filter that was the problem It was something upstream like the engine,” Brown said. “Well we wanted to cut down breakdowns. We discovered there are two reports that helped us in that regard on the People Net system. So every day we run the alarm report and we’ve turned on the DPF alarm setting within the settings screen. So now every time the engine tells the driver to pull over and do a regen, a light comes on and tells the driver to do a parked regen.”

The problem, however, was that there wasn’t a way to tell if the driver actually pulled over to do a regen. So Brown and his team used the data in the system to solve this issue.

“In a report, you can see the life to date fuel consumed, so what we did was start monitoring it,” he said. “So we could tell if they performed the regen or not. If you look at the life to date fuel consumed, you can compare it to when he starts moving again. If in whatever period of time he stopped and he has consumed the equivalent of more than one gallon per hour, he did a parked regen.”

After they discovered they could see if the driver did a regen or not, they would then follow up with the driver directly.

“We discovered some drivers would do a regen, and so we could take it into the shop and figure out what’s wrong,” he said. “Other times, we would realize that the driver wouldn’t do the regen and we’d follow up and ask why they wouldn’t do it. Some drivers wouldn’t know hat the light meant. Some would say I pushed the button and nothing happened.”

After following up with the drivers on the issue, Brown said the company cut its breakdowns by a third in just one month’s time.

“We also monitor our drivers with the speed alarm that alerts when trucks hit 75 mph,” Brown said. “And we ran weekly reports of that, and brought it to our safety department and they brought those speeding incidents down by two thirds..at the end of the day we believe that safety is its own ROI.”


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