Technology is moving at an ever-increasing rate in the trucking industry.
Telematics, which involves sending data from a vehicle via satellite, cellular networks, Wi-Fi or any other means, has been revolutionizing the industry for more than 25 years, but its adoption rate has increased exponentially with the government's mandate of electronic logging devices (ELDs), which track hours-of-service. The mandate became effective in April.
While most large truckload carriers already were using these devices, medium-sized and small carriers were dragged kicking and screaming into this new technological age. Many are now seeing the positive benefits technology can have on other areas of their operations and bottom lines.
One example of this is the use of electronic driver vehicle inspection reports (eDVIR) solutions. As you are probably aware, the Department of Transportation (DOT) requires that drivers inspect their vehicles before and after every trip to ensure they are roadworthy and report any deficiencies so that they can be properly repaired.
In the past, this has been done with paper and pen, and most fleets used DVIR log books for this purpose. Today, many ELDs also provide eDVIRs that are integrated into fleets' management software suites.
Drivers can download an app to their phones or use the telematics device in the truck cab to complete the report and fleet managers can access this data on the provider's web portal almost immediately.
Use of this technology makes real- time equipment decisions possible before a larger maintenance issue happens on the road or a CSA inspector puts the vehicle out-of-service.
Technology also is enabling fleets to diagnose a vehicle's problems remotely. Connected diagnostics provides fleets with access to fault codes and tire alerts and status information as well as guidance in rectifying the situation. Some second-generation tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS 2.0) even forecast how much time the tire has before it reaches 50 psi, which is considered flat. This enables fleet managers to plan for service depending on location and information provided in the diagnosis, which increases uptime and improves productivity.
Now that technology has overrun the trucking industry, fleets are expecting to see technology used to improve their tire programs and reduce costs. As fleets become more sophisticated, their need for accurate, real-time, actionable data is increasing.
As a result top-tier tire producers have been developing portfolios of outsourcing options from which fleets can choose. The implementers of these programs are, of course, commercial tire dealers.
The biggest cost items fleets have that stem directly from their tire programs are enroute breakdowns, lost vehicle and driver productivity, CSA violations and increased fuel consumption from improperly inflated tires.
According to Michelin, about one out of five vehicles inspected in its Michelin Tire Care program has tires with critical issues that require immediate attention to prevent an emergency breakdown or CSA out-of-service violation. Another 63 percent have issues that are not critical but that will result in additional long-term costs such as increased fuel consumption and irregular tire wear.
These results are very similar to a survey published by the Technology and Maintenance Council (TMC) in 2002. It was found that only 44 percent of 35,128 tires in the survey were inflated within +/- 5 psi of their targeted air pressure, 22 percent (4,786 trucks and tractors, 1,301 trailers and 1,500 motor coaches) had at least one tire underinflated by 20 psi or more, and 4 percent had at least one flat tire (50 psi below targeted pressure).
Obviously, not much has changed in 16 years. But it needs to and it will if technology is employed to address this dreadful situation.
It could be said that until now commercial tire dealers have been rather reticent to jump on the technology bandwagon.