Information Sharing—Motor Carriers Perspective
Information sharing technology is a dynamic process that includes programs, platforms and strategies that seem to change and improve at lightning speed.
But with changes and improvements in the motor carrier industry come questions, with a couple being what are some of the advancements that motor carriers are taking advantage of, and how do they benefit?
"Motor carriers have an important role to play in supporting and promoting technological advancements in commercial transportation," Michael Phillippi, vice president of technology for tech company Lytx told Intermodal Insights.
San Diego–based Lytx develops solutions used in the intermodal industry, and specifically by motor carriers, such as risk detection, fleet tracking and driver safety programs that use artificial intelligence and analysts to identify risky driving behaviors and report real-time fleet information.
"One area of technology that has garnered interest and support from motor carriers is video telematics, which collect and process video and vehicle data together using a windshield-mounted dash cam," Phillippi said. "This data can be used to improve a number of aspects of a fleet’s business, from safety to efficiency to exonerating drivers."
Another company involved in the sector is Ontario, Canada–based Geotab, which specializes in telematics.
Stephen White, a heavy truck fleet enterprise business manager with the company, said that among the many important benefits that stem from motor carriers’ information sharing are improved productivity and cost savings.
"For instance, information sharing offers reduced driver detention and dwell time," he said. "In addition, near real-time data collection allows fleets to predict travel time based on a variety of factors, including traffic congestion, weather, or delays and access to ports, enabling optimized route planning."
"Shared information also increases a fleet’s ability to respond to fuel price variability, and it helps address a variety of safety concerns, including seat belt usage and risky driving behavior, which helps combat rising insurance costs," he added.
Randy Mullett, principal with Mullett Strategies, said that the primary benefit to the motor carriers is more efficiency in their operational planning. He added that carriers don’t need to have the most sophisticated technology in order to improve their product and service, thanks to predictive analytics.
"Machines can start without full-blown artificial intelligence; different algorithms can start seeing patterns of where drivers like to go, when freight is available; over the longer term they can see where you’re positioning assets or where freight may or may not be available," he said. "I think that’s going to play a huge, huge role; predictive analytics that come along with machine learning."
"As we learn more and have better access to informational data from the entire spectrum of things that are tied to the internet, then we’ll have a lot better access to locational data for tractors, trailers, shipments, drivers and containers, and we’ll also have a lot richer data sets that this machine learning and more advanced AI can take full advantage of," Mullett said.
"The big advantage is going to come when TMS systems are not individually siloed by a particular motor carrier or a particular truck broker. It’ll make our transportation system a lot more efficient," he said.
"Anything that helps increase visibility and transparency along the supply chain is beneficial to motor carriers and their customers, because it helps us target areas in need of improved efficiency and work with our port partners to implement remedies," Lisa Yakomin, president of the Association of Bi-State Motor Carriers, told Intermodal Insights.
One way that the ABSMC been able harness technology, she said, is through turn time reports, which the association generates using a customized software module.
"Each month, we track a representative sampling of trucks as they move throughout the port area, recording their travel times both on terminal and in the queues leading up to the gates," Yakomin said. "When we see bottlenecks at certain times of day, or identify an area where congestion is consistent, we use that information to assess the problem and propose solutions."
Such tracking is also being conducted in Chicago and the Los Angeles area as well.
"Having factual GPS data to back up our on-the-road experiences helps advance the conversation and ultimately achieve positive results," she added.
Automation can and will impact motor carriers in a variety of other ways, White said, such as assisting in the reduction of basic human error.
"Automation successfully increases driver safety, eases driver shortage, lowers CO2 emissions and reduces traffic congestion," he said. "Automated safety features such as automatic braking, lane departure systems and proactive driver coaching help to reduce bad driving behaviors before they become driving errors such as hard braking, harsh cornering and speeding."
In addition to reducing truck-related safety incidents, implementing automated safety features could also help alleviate current driver shortages, he added.
"The shortage is partly due to the cost and difficulty of obtaining a license, but improved truck safety could reduce the number of requirements and therefore make the process less difficult, encouraging more people to become drivers," White explained. "In the next 25 years, the need for truck operators and programmers will not decrease, but rather they will need to learn new skills to align with the advancement of automation."
Other common driving errors that automation sets out to correct are idling and phantom traffic. Idling leads to excess emission of harmful CO2 fumes. Automation allows fleet managers to coach drivers to reduce idling and curb their fleet’s overall CO2 emissions.
Phantom traffic, caused when a single driver breaks suddenly and unexpectedly, causing a wave of drivers behind him or her to break, can cause delays on the road for no reason. Automation could alleviate this issue because automated vehicles could brake and accelerate in unison, thereby preventing the problem.
Regarding how data from transport management systems can improve key intermodal areas of attention such as maintenance, operations and safety, White said that since real-time data enable the continuous flow of information across various areas and systems, this in turn enables transportation management systems to have increased visibility into the key intermodal areas of attention, such as maintenance, operations and safety.
"Increased visibility allows for the identification of issues or potential areas of improvement such as reduced downtime through proactive maintenance, encouragement and management of safe driving habits and optimization of fleet operations," he said.
"Our economy and our shipping system are connected in ways around the world that we work around," Mullett added. "These kinds of (information sharing) systems are going to be next generation once we get them a little more developed by specific mode (of transport)."
"Rail, ports, trucks, airplanes, trains, they’ll all do their thing, and then they’ll figure out a way to come together," he said. "But it’s really important that we start that conversation now so we don’t have a lot of re-work to do when we try to actually start to put the system together."