Archive for Market Insight

Drawing Intelligence from Data

Huckabee addresses the TMW Transforum 2012

For anyone who saw the irreverent film, Freakonomics (“the hidden side of everything”), knows that we’re now collecting data on a vast scale. The stories that are emerging from all this data are remarkable. Who knew that, with this accumulation of data, we could prove Sumo wrestlers were cheating or that the reasons politicians cited for falling crime rates were wrong?

At the TMW 2012 Transforum this week in Orlando (attended by 1,700 vendors and customers), a key theme was, “how do we draw intelligence from data?” According to TMW Senior Project Manager, Michael Malecha in his session on business improvement, “We have 86% more data than even just two years ago, but how do we draw meaning from it?” He also stated that 93% of CEOs believe they are losing opportunities from a lack of tools to handle this data.

Since all data sets contain noise, the secret is in discerning the noise from the signal. The signal, of course, refers to meaningful trends.

His cautionary message is simple:

  • If we treat noise as a signal, we spin our wheels;
  • If we treat signal as noise, we miss opportunities.

Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee (speaking neither as politician nor as pastor and pictured above) decried the state of personal accountability when he said, “We’ve created a monster”. Sometimes, the gathering of data can be seen as a monster—Big Brother tracking our every move. But business intelligence (knowing how to draw meaningful conclusions from information), serves the needs of small to medium companies just as it does large—if they know what to do with it.

In order to optimize fleet operations and enhance financial performance, fleet managers often turn to automation. Initially, the desire is for dot-on-a-map visibility of their vehicles. Using GPS/AVL technology, they collect location and sometimes diagnostic data in real-time. As the data accumulates, managers may want to report on it, such as exception reporting to filter out only data that doesn’t conform to expected norms. Data then starts to fulfill a more complex need: analyzing trends to facilitate better cost projections (such as optimizing fuel usage), and route planning. Finally, with data streaming in from multiple third-party sources, they can integrate information to discover complex relationships between external events and internal actions.  This is the essence of business intelligence.

TMW CEO, David Wangler, in the general session keynote speech emphasized this point when he said, “It’s no longer the big who eat the small, but the fast who eat the slow”. In other words, becoming leaner and more efficient enables us to outmanoeuver the competition. Your GPS/AVL fleet tracking solution is sending you real-time data that not only provides you with visibility here and now, but down the road, will enable you to see trends and anticipate opportunities.

Perhaps as a fitting representation of the need to draw intelligence from data, the TMW awards gala was warmed up by Jean Francois, the Quebec-based visual artists who drew fantastical pictures for everyone while dinner was served. Accompanied by pulsing rock music, the images appeared abstract and confusing at first until he ceremoniously turned them over (new right-side up) and delighted everyone with images of the Statue of Liberty and a long-haul truck.

Jean-Francois-TMW-WEW

Cargo Temperature Monitoring Helps Reduce Hunger

Webtech Wireless Cargo Temperature Monitoring Helps Reduce Hunger

Vladivostok, Russia may seem a long way away from America’s heartland, but a summit being held there points to a shared concern—food security. As Russian President Vladimir Putin put it, food security “is one of the most acute problems of our time.” So while Asia-Pacific summit leaders are focusing their attention on the rising concern over food security, a new report by the US Department of Agriculture states that 17.4 million American families (almost 15 percent of US households) are now “food insecure”.

What is The Local Face of Hunger?

Did you know that a staggering 40% of all food produced in the United States is wasted? Of that, 20% is wasted through spoilage during distribution (i.e., transportation).  But food spoilage can be reduced, if not eliminated through better temperature tracking during transportation.

NGF-food-waste-detail

Detail from Next Generation Food infographic

 

Monitor Your Trailers and Prevent Waste

At Webtech Wireless, our GPS/AVL tracking solutions help trucking fleets reduce all kinds of waste: fuel wastage, time wastage, and food wastage. By providing you with the ability to monitor the contents of your shipments on route, you ensure that perishable cargo travels within the required temperature specifications. With status updates sent to you remotely, you are assured that you are part of the solution, not the problem. It’s that simple: Monitor your trailers and prevent waste.

September is Hunger Action Month

Many people assume hunger is supposed to happen in other places, yet hunger is a reality in the most plentiful of nations. According to Feeding America, a Chicago-based food bank network, one in six Americans goes hungry. Among its charitable activities, Feeding America food banks provide food and groceries to 33,500 food pantries, 4,500 soup kitchens and 3,600 emergency shelters.

Feeding America is promoting many programs to help including online donations, a “Give a Meal” program, a virtual food drive, and corporate donations. Find out and view their “Map The Meal Gap” study. Remember, September is Hunger Action Month.

Fresh Life for Long Island’s Aging Infrastructure

InterFleet Hempstead, New YorkWith a population over 750,000, Long Island’s town of Hempstead prides itself as ‘the largest township in America’. Due to its proximity to New York City’s Borough of Queens, Hempstead was one of the first post-war communities to be suburbanized and now, with aging infrastructure, Hempstead must balance its many assets with diverse new 21st Century challenges.

According to The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), “In a country as vast as the U.S., with such great geographical, historical and political diversity, one challenge seems sadly universal: the infrastructure we rely on to live and thrive is rapidly coming unraveled. Roads, bridges, public transit, airports, water and sewage systems—most are failing to keep pace with the expanding needs of a burgeoning population, and some are virtually on the brink of collapse.” The ASCE, which also annually releases a state-by-state infrastructure report card, New York’s current top-three infrastructure concerns are roads, bridges, and mass transit.

While Hempstead is no exception, the Town has been able to breathe fresh life into its road maintenance fleet using an InterFleet GPS/AVL solution from Webtech Wireless. Describing that solution, Deputy Commissioner of Highways, Craig Mollo says, “It’s fantastic. We love it! We had 35 units installed into sweepers and 30 installed in snowplows (about one third of our fleet), and within a year, we were able to re-organize our entire mapping system. As a result, we found that we could reduce our equipment and drivers by five, redeploying them where they could be used most effectively.”

For communities, such as Hempstead, that boomed over 50 years ago and now suffer from aging infrastructure problems, there is light at the end of the tunnel in the form of federal funding. Last week, Washington’s Transportation Secretary, LaHood, announced $787 million to “repair and modernize the nation’s aging transit infrastructure”. With improvements coming to mass transit, road maintenance cannot be far behind.

Even so, Hemptead has found that, with the success of a GPS/AVL for its sweepers and snowplows, the Town plans further InterFleet deployments for its payloaders, pickup trucks, and other vehicles used for highway maintenance, sanitation, and traffic control—eventually 400 pieces of equipment. “With public safety and wellbeing of residents a priority for us, we also plan to install safety buttons to send emergency alerts,” says Mollo.

Distracted Driving: Legislate or Implement?

Distracted drivers cost Coca-cola dearly

Faulted for its inadequate cell phone driving policy, Coca-Cola has been held responsible to the tune of $21 million by a Texas jury. Coca-Cola’s driving troubles began in 2010 when a 37-year-old woman was badly injured in Corpis Christi by a Coca-Cola driver who was using a cell phone at the time of the accident. Injury attorney, Thomas J. Henry, commented, “From the time I took the Coca-Cola driver’s testimony and obtained the company’s inadequate cell phone driving policy, I knew we had a corporate giant with a huge safety problem on [its] hands”. The news doesn’t say whether the call was personal or work related, and presumably from the standpoint of litigation, that’s irrelevant.

“We have accepted responsibility for the accident. We understand that this verdict is a response to a plea from plaintiff’s counsel to the jury to ban all cell phone use while driving.”
—Statement released by Coca-Cola after the verdict

Coca-Cola has two big problems: lost revenue and a damaged public reputation—its bright red trucks are as ubiquitous on the streets as the famous beverage is at meals. The broader implications mean that corporations will be racing to shore up liability risks by drafting tougher policies on company cell phone use. As it is, governments too are under pressure to legislate against driver cell phone and texting.

But where does this leave fleet managers who need real-time communication with their drivers during the working day? There are an estimated 1.2 million trucking companies in the U.S.—the majority of companies with 20 or fewer trucks. In Canada, over 227,000 Canadian truck drivers make trucking one of the top occupations in that country. With so many trucking companies and drivers, how can any kind of safety policy really be effective? A substantive shift is needed in which cell phones no longer play any part in fleet communications.

To enhance corporate no-cell-phone policies and government regulations, a fleet manager stands the best chance of maintaining a good safety record—and staying out of court—with an in-cab solution such as our Quadrant mobile data terminal (MDT).   The MDT includes a touch screen display with a smart on-screen keypad for easy navigation, and the added benefit of restricting usage while the vehicle is in motion.

While preventing distracted driving is more important to service fleets, this solution—also known as EOBR (electronic onboard recorder)—is perfect for long-haul operators as it supports regulatory compliance requirements such as HOS (Hours of Serve). With a Quadrant EOBR solution, you get a handle on fatigued driving as well as distracted driving.

Such dedicated solutions also transmit a wealth of data—from driving behavior to CO2 emissions and to job completion. These data can be used strategically by company decision makers to improve company-wide operations. While vehicle data gathered electronically has been admitted in court to dispute false liability claims after the fact, the most important reason to considering a telematics solution is to ensure driver and public safety by preventing unnecessary and costly accidents in the first place.

Oil and Gas Safety: What’s Working/ What’s Not

IrtizaIrtiza Zaidi is the Product Marketing Manager at Webtech Wireless.  He works closely with the safety professionals in many companies in the oil patch.

Recently, he attended the Petroleum Safety Conference—billed as “Canada’s premiere oil and gas safety conference and tradeshow”—in Banff, Alberta, for a few days to learn more about safety concerns in the oil and gas industry.

Below are his latest discoveries about the Conference and safety professionals.


Irtiza Zaidi: “Before I dive into the meat and potatoes, I wanted to share some insight into the safety profession and the folks I interacted with. I went to one breakout session led by Imperial Oil, which was quite an eye opener. The purpose was to describe the risks that safety professionals take every day on the job and how they deal with them. The idea is that, before we can start preaching to others, let’s evaluate ourselves first.

Now the view I had of safety folks was they were risk averse by-the-book people. They worked Monday to Friday and in their off time did everything possible to avoid risk. They would never cross a yellow light while driving nor would they park without paying. Well, was I was in for a shock!

We had some safety people talking about how they chased storms in Alberta. Winter storms, rain storms, blizzards, and how they had been doing this for 15 years. Another safety person talked about how they wore helmets on their motorcycles while travelling at speeds of 120 on the Canadian highways, but once they got to the US, the helmets came off. Or the safety person who jumped between moving boats in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean while it was raining, so she could help out with a lobster catch.

The presentations I attended were delivered well and the topics of immense importance. Colonel Mark Trostel, Driving Safety Advisor with Encana, presented, Driving Safety: Enhancing Performance, Reducing Exposure, in which he described some of the challenges of using in-cab audible feedback (such as buzzers and beeps), to try to change driver behaviour. He provided helpful statistical information as well as first-hand knowledge of the affect alerts have on drivers.

Here are some statistics shared in this presentation:

40% of all fatalities in the energy industry occur in vehicles

Leading indicators of crashes

–          Excessive Braking, following too closely, distracted driving

–          Rapid starts and aggressive or reckless driving

–          Habitual speeding dramatically increases risk and severity of accidents

–          Frequent Lateral “Gs” are precursors to a rollover crash

Encana’s AVL program for its light-duty vehicles provides

–          Driver scorecards that were emailed to the driver each week

–          Supervisors with the ability to review their drivers’ driving habits

What worked?

–          Providing drivers with feedback about their performance on a weekly basis

–          Providing incentives to drivers with good behavior worked

–          Having drivers compare themselves with their peers led to the drivers creating their own “Top 100 Club”

What didn’t work?

–          Driver feedback by way of audible tones or flashing lights only lasted three weeks before the drivers went back to their old driving patterns.”

“Safe Driving Programs – Why Should I Care?” by Colonel Mark Trostel, EnCana in 2010

Pro-EOBR Campaign Gaining Ground

Pro-EOBR Campaign Gaining GroundOn May 2, 2012, The Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) said that its campaign to provide carriers, drivers, owner-operators with an easy way to send pro-EOBR messages to federal MPs is gaining ground. According to the CTA, “To date, several hundred carrier companies and individual drivers have sent about 1,500 messages directly to MPs from across Canada.”

The web forums are crackling with debate both for and against electronic on-board recorders (EOBRs). Many comments cannot be reprinted here, but some point to a rich fabric of support for EOBRs—from fleets owners to independent drivers. Ultimately, EOBRs support accountable drivers.

“Bring on the EOBRs. Drivers need a wakeup call as to the hours they’re putting in and not getting paid.”

If you’d like to weigh in for EOBR support, here’s what you can do:

1. Look up your Member of Parliament (for Canadians only).

2. Choose from the following links:

Company owners and fleet managers

Drivers

3. Complete the form and choose Submit.

4. Alternatively, by typing a four-digit text code, drivers can send a message to their MPs from a cell phone. Simply text the letters eobr to the number 77777.

Federal Transport Minister, Denis Lebel, said EOBRs can “improve Hours of Service regulatory compliance by reducing the opportunity for commercial drivers to exceed regulated driving hours or falsify logbooks”. Lebel added that “a technically flexible, performance-based EOBR standard, combined with a suitable phase-in period would hopefully allow sufficient time for suppliers to offer cost-effective options meeting the needs of carriers and drivers”.

CTA president, David Bradley, agrees with this statement adding, “While we understand that there is a minority in the industry who may oppose an EOBR mandate, it’s important that decision makers hear from those who have experience with EOBRs in enhancing compliance and making highways safer.”

“Our efforts show that there are many carriers and drivers who are clearly in favour of replacing outdated paper logbooks with more efficient and compliant electronic monitoring devices,”
—David Bradley, President, Canadian Trucking Alliance

Transport Canada supports the development of an EOBR standard that leverages the work done in the United States. It is in favour of a harmonized North American standard that Transport Canada states, “Ultimately, a harmonized North American standard would be ideal in consideration of the importance of domestic and cross-border trade.”

Meanwhile in the United States, the American Truckers’ Association (ATA) and the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) are squaring off about mandated HOS solutions. The ATA maintains that EOBRs make roads safer and drivers more accountable, while the OOIDA counters that it poses an infringement of drivers’ rights and is prohibitively expensive for smaller independent trucking companies.

“Clearly, these devices lead to greater compliance with maximum driving limits, which is very good for the trucking industry as a whole and highway safety.”
— Bill Graves, President and CEO, American Truckers’ Association

Are Your Winter Fleet Contractors Worth Their Salt?

City of  OttawaOne of the hidden costs of winter road maintenance is its affect on the environment. Much of the salt applied to keep roads ice free finds its way into soil and waterways. Toxins found in fish, either from surface water or metals dissolved in water by salt, are among the toxic effects of excessive salt usage. A municipality’s ability to supply quality drinking water is also compromised by surface or groundwater that’s contaminated with salt. Soil retains salt year after year, destroying its ability to sustain plants leading to increased erosion. Also, salt residues by the side of roads serve as an enticing salt lick, luring animals into dangerous on-road encounters with vehicles.

“We cannot keep trading short-term cost for long-term cost.”

Reducing salt usage is good for the environment and fits well with municipal, provincial, and state environmental efforts. To address environmental concerns, some municipalities have experimented with other solutions over rock salt, such as using calcium magnesium acetate (as it has far fewer toxic effects). While less toxic, calcium magnesium acetate has the drawback of taking longer to melt ice than rock salt and it’s 20 times more expensive.

One remedy is to drastically reduce the use of cheap rock salt and phase in one or more of the expensive alternatives. But to really reduce your salt usage, you need to increase your ability to track excessive salt usage with precision—especially when it comes to third-party contractors (some of whom charge for salt and thus may be incentivized to use it to excess).

In 2009, The City of Ottawa implemented the InterFleet winter operations solution for government fleets. By gaining the ability to identify excess salt usage by its contractors, the City reduced its salt costs by 20%.

 “Installing GPS technology in our salt spreader vehicles is a great way to help us reduce the amount of road salt we use, and reduce costs at the same time,” said Mayor Larry O’Brien, “By installing these systems, we will both prolong the life of City infrastructure and keep more money in the pockets of Ottawa taxpayers.”

In Ottawa, where they don’t use contractors, InterFleet’s Live Material Monitoring tool saves costs by highlighting in real time when an operator is using pure salt (icon appears red), as opposed to the environmentally friendly alternatives (such as pre-wet applications, allowing for less overall salt usage).

Other government scenarios, which use contractors, utilize InterFleet’s real-time visibility to verify contractor compliance with salt-usage standards. This is particularly advantageous if contractors are charging for salt used.

The most impressive advantage of InterFleet’s real-time visibility is that, unlike passive GPS tools that merely store data and upload it when the vehicle returns to the yard, live data allows a fleet manager to bring immediate attention to help an operator if salt levels are too high. Real-time alerts provide operational efficiency that can foster an environment of cooperation between government and its third-party contractors, and in the end, less salt on the roads means a better environment for everyone.

Integrating Fleet Technology Boosts Revenue

Recently, we talked with CEO, Steve Troyer, and found out how Troyer Ventures is generating revenue to stay way ahead of its competition.

Challenge

As a leading fluid transportation company in the oil and gas sector in north-eastern British Columbia, Troyer Ventures found that it couldn’t grow with the old system. And to realize their growth potential without replacing the old system, Troyer was facing adding an additional dispatch office or even splitting the fleet, which in itself presented another host of operations challenges.

To realize its revenue generating potential, Troyer made the strategic decision to embrace an integrated technology solution.

Solution

Troyer took the unprecedented initiative to adopt a challenging integration combining the best of three different software providers: TMW, Great Plains, and Webtech Wireless’ Quadrant solution.

“It allows us to re-allocate staff to more strategic activities than merely pushing paper and most importantly, it has allowed us to grow and handle more revenue with the same staff.”
—Steve Troyer, Troyer Ventures

Better ROI

So far, the implementation is showing many encouraging trends and Steve concludes that what’s emerging shows what a great fleet management tool Quadrant is, because it has allowed Troyer to “realize better returns on our assets and people”.

“With the level of minute-by-minute information we’re getting, Quadrant is the best thing going.”
—Steve Troyer, Troyer Ventures

How Much Better?

Steve expects benefits to increase over next 12 months with trends pointing toward a complete return on investment in the not-too-distant future. In addition, the new growth strategy leverages on improved staff efficiencies, particularly as staff re-allocations mean increased revenues for the company without increasing staff.

“In the end, it all pays off—we doubled our revenue.”
—Steve Troyer, Troyer Ventures

How Dade County Service Fleet Relies on Job Management

All-AirAs service companies grow and add more vehicles to their fleets, they are challenged to track vehicle whereabouts and driver behavior. Without some form of automated vehicle location (AVL) and telemetry (vehicle diagnostics) fleet managers are in the dark while their vehicles are on the road.

That’s why All-Air of Dade County, Florida is re-investing in its Webtech Wireless Quadrant job management solution. Integrated with Garmin®, the job management solution enables fleet managers to dispatch vehicles to their next location, and it saves drivers from needing to call for other dispatches or directions.  Drivers can enter address information and get turn-by-turn directions.

Without their Webtech Wireless solution, fleet managers at this air conditioning solutions and service fleet would have no verifiable way of knowing how safely their drivers were driving. All-Air utilizes the Scorecard and LED feedback to maintain its driving quality. Dangerous driving is recorded on the Scorecard and drivers also see a flashing LED light that warns them that their driving is dangerous and it’s also being recorded.

Now, to fulfill All-Airs’ commitment of  “professionalism, care and attention” to its customers, the company is increasing its investment in the Webtech Wireless’ Quadrant Job Management solution across the entire fleet.

5 Ways to Lower Costs with Your Telematics Investment

Our customers frequently report that the way they realize the best results from their AVL (automatic vehicle location) solution is knowing what to do with all the data the solution provides. Webtech Wireless solutions contain extensive tools (such as score cards and reports), designed to show you how your fleet is operating.

Here are 5 ways you can lower costs:

1.    Re-allocate Resources

A GPS/AVL fleet management solution allows you to see where your vehicles are in real time. Knowing this enables you to allocate resources where they’re most needed. For example, Webtech Wireless’ Quadrant Manager provides the Find Nearest Vehicle feature, which also shows the best route to the desired location. This saves you in fuel costs and provides better service to your customers. Simply put, increased visibility into your mobile assets lowers your operating costs.

Quadrant - Find Nearest Vehicle

Quadrant - Find Nearest Vehicle

2.    Reduce Unnecessary Idling

A truck burns one gallon of fuel per hour of idling. Idling times are shown to range from 500 to more than 4,000 hours per year. How much idling is unnecessary in your fleet?

“Depending on the cost of fuel, distance traveled, and the size of your fleet, a 0.1 mpg improvement in fuel economy justifies the entire cost of a telematics deployment.”
— Telematics Return on Investment: the Human Factor

3.    Improve Driver Behavior

Our customers tell us that, after unnecessary idling, driver behavior (speeding, fast accelerations, and harsh braking) wastes more fuel, thus driving up the costs of doing business. They find that improving driver behavior (i.e., training and motivation programs) is the best way to eliminate these wasteful practices.

Accidents are costly. The more serious the accident, the more time and attention management must give to deal with it. Vehicle repair costs can vary from $3,000 to $5,000 for a fender bender to $50,000 to $100,000 for a serious accident. Liability risk, human injury, and brand reputation all create significant risk for an organization.

“There are so many unknown losses from accidents. There is lack of productivity when we all have to turn our attention to managing an accident. All kinds of personnel wasting their time dealing with the accident and managing the consequences. The cost itself can be really bad. Trucks are down, customers are upset, and it is an amplification of a problem.”
–Kevin Bookey, National Foods, Transportation Manager

4.    Eliminate Paper-based Reporting

Webtech Wireless’ Quadrant solution provides state-of-the-art Hours of Service (HOS) reporting that will save you thousands of dollars in errors, overtime, and even non-compliance fines. Without an electronic on-board reporting tool (EOBR) solution, the most common practice is for paperwork to be completed at the end of the day—almost always billed as overtime hours. Quadrant’s MDT device records HOS information automatically and reports it to head office in real time.

5.    Minimize Risk

Minimizing risk pro-actively also lowers operating costs. For example, fines for inaccurate fuel-tax reporting can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Companies take enormous risk with manual records. Once a fuel tax audit starts, it is almost impossible to predict how long and expensive the resulting audit will be for the company. After fuel tax reporting is automated, this risk is vastly reduced.