New technologies for monitoring individual driver behavior promise to reap benefits of enhanced safety, visibility, security and efficiency, says Norm Ellis, vice president of transportation and logistics with Qualcomm Enterprise Services.
Mobile computing platforms have brought a new level of visibility to fleet operations, says Ellis. Shippers and consignees can get a more accurate idea of when goods will arrive, allowing them to do a better job of planning their workforce requirements.
Applications to manage workflow are among the newest features of mobile communications technology. In the past, says Ellis, carriers had to use macros or templates, which drivers didn't always complete. Now, key information is logged in automatically upon arrival. The change lessens training requirements, so that "a driver who's been there three months [can] perform the same as one who's been there 10 years."
The level of detail has also increased. Information can be tied to a specific customer's master file record. A driver can follow instructions from the consignee as to where to park the vehicle. Specific tasks are documented for each location.
The technology has also improved on the monitoring of the drivers themselves. It reveals errant behavior such as hard braking, tailgating and speeding.
Systems continue to evolve. Ellis says designers are placing greater emphasis on monitoring the engine, a measurement that's key to calculating a company's total carbon footprint. The data can be proactively shared with shippers, who incorporate transportation into their own calculations.
The biggest challenge, says Ellis, remains the formatting and standards by which data is moved between supply-chain partners. Standards are becoming more uniform, he says, but there's still progress to be made.
The technology is also an essential tool for helping companies to comply with tougher federal safety regulations for motor carriers. The new criteria drill down to the level of a specific driver's record. Nevertheless, says Ellis, drivers aren't necessarily opposed to this new generation of monitoring devices. "They actually embrace it," he claims, adding that drivers realize that strict measurements can lead to safer and more efficient operations, and even earn safe employees more money.
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