My Writing: Getting published and corporate blogging (July 1 to 8)

There must be some form of critical mass that, when reached in corporate writing at any rate, causes others to start publishing your work even without you knowing it (not that I mind). On opening the June issue of BC Tech Magazine (page 60), what confronted me was, well, myself. I could also see that a new and unseen hand had left his or her mark on my work, particularly around stylistic sensibilities such as changing our corporate branding (I would never do that). On the use of verbs, though, it still carries my thumb print. I’ve been giving a lot of thought to using verbs for maximum punch, and to that end have classed some as ‘weak’ or ‘vague’ while others as ‘strong’ or ‘descriptive’. I was pleased to see them unmolested by the phantom new editor.

Imitation is the highest form of flattery, they say. That was the case for me this week as I discovered my article based on an interview with Troyer Ventures for a Webtech Wireless award application has appeared (in print) in the BC Tech magazine. How did I not know that?

 

Distracted Driving: Legislate or Implement? reveals the connection between the recent settlement by Coca-Cola to a Texas woman injured when struck by a Coca-Cola truck driver who was on the phone while driving. I created a new image for this because we agreed that, on a scale of one to ten for suitability, my “Telematics: It’s the Real-Time Thing” probably rated a nine.

 

Is Your Favourite Summer Sport Covered? advises you to, before undertaking a dangerous summer sport, consider whether or not your extended coverage includes extreme sports.

 

Summer Driving Tips describes some tips provided by ICBC to help keep the roads safer this summer for both drivers and cyclists. It’s a good news story.

 

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.

A Week of Writing, June 24 to 30

There have been some interestingly overlapping stories this week, which made me wonder which client I’m writing for. Take for example, the news of disability claims denied causing a near 30% increase in complaints to the Ontario Ombudsman’s Office. Along with that, the story mentioned a man suing the Ontario Ministry of Transportation for contamination to his water supply due to excess road salt usage. Wait a second. That’s a good story for my Webtech Wireless/InterFleet client. This must be what multi-tasking looks like.

Below are my blog posts for this week:

Ontario Ombudsman Sees 30% Increase In Complaints describes the increase of complaints including denied disability claims. With Ombudsman, André Marin and his staff beseiged, getting resolution may prove more difficult than usual.

 

Know Your Insurance Policy describes an interview with Adam Etchart, insurance policy agent at Talbot Insurance Services on the Sunshine Coast. He described the various horrific and unnecessary scenarios people can create for themselves by not understanding what auto insurance they’re buying, or worse, misrepresenting their needs when buying it.

 

Leaner, Greener Operations Saves Costs for Fleets is a collection of snapshots of how different companies are saving both the environment around them and fuel wastage using AVL and telematics solutions for their trucking fleets. It doesn’t green wash trucking; it just states some greener practices that are emerging.

Leaner, Greener Operations Saves Costs for Fleets

It may be a while before our roads witness emission-free trucking fleets running on solar and battery power. In the meantime, fleet managers are discovering that if they take steps to green their fleet by implementing telematics and automated vehicle location (AVL) solutions, they’ll not only reduce carbon emissions, but they’ll also save a lot of money.

Here are some snapshots of how different companies are saving both the environment around them and fuel wastage:

The City of Columbia, Missouri is reducing operating costs by letting fleet managers monitor idling, speeding, harsh braking, sharp acceleration and engine over-revving. This helps their drivers develop long-term best practices to decrease fuel consumption significantly and thereby reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

“Our director instructed us not to let the drivers sit in trucks with air conditioners running. Now we know our trucks are not running up and down the road as much. Drivers are where they are supposed to be and working where they are supposed to be—at all times—so it makes it a lot easier for us to track.”

— Sam Thomas, City of Columbia Street Superintendent

Cascade Sierra Solutions is committed to helping trucking companies green their fleets and one way their doing it is by helping them navigate their way through applying for grants and loans to purchase energy-efficient newer trucks. Newer vehicles are more efficient and those savings mean they can expect a quick return on their investment

Loans are available, and a number of public agencies, such as the Port of Tacoma and agencies in California, provide grants to help truckers upgrade. Cascade Sierra Solutions. “We help them with all the paperwork,” Banks said, “and it can be a lot of paperwork the average guy doesn’t have the skill set to fill out.”

“Truckers doing their part for the environment with the help of Cascade Sierra Solutions!”

—Cascade Sierra Solutions website

Cascade Sierra installs Webtech Wireless GPS units in each vehicle, connected directly to the truck’s engine management system. The Webtech Wireless units report truck location, speed, fuel consumption, and much more over the AT&T Mobile Network. These reports give Cascade Sierra the data needed to ensure funders, truck owners, and pollution control agencies trucks are being used as required, and goals are being met.

Webtech Wireless’ NextBus division, is also providing clear incentives for people to take more sustainable and environmentally friendly transportation options. Cities throughout North America are luring people out of their cars and onto public transportation by implementing the Nextbus solution to let riders know in real-time when the next transit vehicle will arrive.

For example, NextBus technology was deployed on 60 buses in the Canadian Maritime city of Saint John, New Brunswick. Because riders know when the bus is arriving, they spend less time waiting and therefore there’s more incentive to leave their CO2 emitting vehicles at home. The environmental value of a NextBus implementation, when coupled with a transit authority’s switch to bio and electric vehicles is profound for each city that implements it.

“The Government of Canada is proud to invest in modern technologies that are both efficient and environmentally responsible.”

—Member of Parliament for Saint John, Rodney Weston.

A Week of Writing – June 18 – 23

This week, my work has chiefly been in the area of copy editing content for our corporate brochures at Webtech Wireless. I finally discovered why so much of our writing comes off sounding like marketing bumbf, instead of the targetted technical content that it’s intended to be.

Curiously, I found the answer in our case studies, which read beautifully because they’re written in a narrative style (i.e., they tell a story). The simple answer is to employ a narrative style throughout and to chain sentences in a way that tells a good story. Something to think about.

Here’s my corporate blog writing for the week:

Disability and the Law describes how by contrast, your life may seem less complicated than the above three strange and horrifying tales from Quebec of murder, extradition, and disabilities. It’s written to those who’ve had their disability claim denied and are looking for qualified legal representation.

 

What are Injured Homemakers Worth in ICBC’s Eyes? describes ICBC regulations that apply to mothers and homemakers who are injured in MVAs (motor vehicle accidents).

 

A Week of Writing, June 11 – 18

This week has been much more about meeting people than being the scribe in the corner. I’ve got a fistfull of business cards after visiting the EMSCC (emergency services) convention and trade show at the Westin Bayshore. Then,  in the evening, I was wined and dined at the Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre as a guest (on behalf of Webtech Wireless) to the annual British Columbia Technology Association Industry impact awards (TIAs). In part to me interviewing our client, Troyer Ventures, and writing the award application, we were nominated and last night, we won! The following day was a mad montage of assembling all the copy including a news release, new Home page, and new blog post (listed below):

BCTIA-Award-Webtech-WirelessI wrote the content for the new Webtech Wireless Home page and photographed and photoshopped an image of our award. It, being glass, was quite a challenge, but eventually I prevailed.

 

Webtech Wireless WinnersI also slammed together a rather festive blog post describing the event for the Webtech Wireless blog. Our winners were holding their glass awards toward themselves, so I had to flip the image (and therefore some buttons on jackets) for the best effect.

http://webtechwireless.com/

Award Winning Solutions Win the Day…and the Night!

And the award goes to…

2012TIAs-WebtechWireless

Scott Edmonds (centre) shares the stage with Steve Troyer (podium) and Chris Maddocks (right)

On June 14, 2012, Webtech Wireless celebrated its win of the Adoption of Technology award at the 2012 Technology Impact Awards (TIAs). The British Columbia Technology Industry Association (BCTIA) hosted the awards night held at the Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre. BCTIA President and CEO, Bill Tam said, “The Adoption of Technology award recognizes a company whose technology has proven to make a positive difference for customers”.

By definition, this award is collaborative and we were thrilled to share the stage with our client, Troyer Ventures, and technology partner, TMW Systems. Webtech Wireless President and CEO, Scott Edmonds, Troyer Ventures’ owner, Steve Troyer, and TMW Director of Development, Chris Maddocks jointly accepted the award. We were chosen over many applicants by a panel of eight judges representing technology, innovation, and business for our Quadrant implementation to Troyer Ventures, a service provider based in northeastern British Columbia, and in partnership with TMW Systems.

Other 2012 Technology Impact Award Winners

Company of the Year Avigilon
Person of the Year Ryan Holmes, HootSuite
Community Engagement ParetoLogic
Emerging Company of the Year Tasktop Technologies
Excellence in Product Innovation Recon Instruments
Most Promising Pre-Commercial Technology Lungpacer Medical Inc.
Most Promising Start-up Kashoo
Team of the Year CounterPath

2012TIAs-WebtechWireless-celebrates

Joined by hundreds of British Columbia’s technology glitterati, this was a gala night to recognize and celebrate outstanding British Columbia companies in our sector.

Read more about our Troyer implementation…

A Week of Writing, June 3 – 10

One of the beauties of corporate blogging of course, is to be able to do it from anywhere. As I’ve been quick to irritate my friends and co-workers by saying, “If I can work from home, I can work from the South of France”, which is exactly what I did last winter. This week, however, I’m writing from Toronto where I’m holed up researching and writing for Webtech Wireless’ InterFleet division (headquartered in ultra trendy west King street area). Once again, much of my work is research and less finished projects, so get ready for the deluge when all this stuff goes to print.

How Voluntary Disability Insurance Works describes the recent story of how the Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada has introduced a flexible set of voluntary group disability insurance options.

 

 

Could You Live on 25% of Your Wages? describes the sad tale of Pat Tillapaugh of Burnaby who was in an MVA (motor vehicle accident) and found that her loss-of-work coverage from ICBC amounted to only 25% of her wages.

 

This week, I interviewed a client at LA County Transit about the InterFleet GPS devices they use to track the whereabouts of their 38 mini vans and buses. They approached me to write the story although their isn’t yet much content. There isn’t really a story, but I’ll probably write a little slice-of-life blog post about how their using this technology.

 

I also drove up from Toronto to the City of Vaughan (a satellite/service town of Toronto) to interview the senior engineering assistance for their Public Works department about how their GPS winter fleet management solution is equally effective in summer (on grass mowers instead of snow plows). I asked a few questions about business intelligence (the buzz in the industry) and non rolling asset watcher devices, piquing their interest in technology InterFleet is also now offering. Maybe I helped make an additional sale.

A Week of Writing, May 21 – 31

Okay, it’s a long week (ten days). There’s been a lot of research going on in the background (not ready for release), but the following corporate web-based posts provide the overview. Of note, I finally finished managing the French translation of the InterFleet brochure. The company I’ve hired, Anglocom, is a joy to work with. To me they should form the template for how other companies manage communications and customer service. Thanks to them, I’ve been able to put together a first class brochure confidently in French.

Spinal Care Available from ICBC considers how spinal injuries affect British Columbians. Many spinal injuries result from motor vehicle accidents and every MVA means a trip to ICBC with the risk of your claim not being settled in your best interests.

Canada’s Top-Five Employers for People with Disabilities surveys partnerships large companies have developed with disability societies. This cross-country survey of best employers for people with disabilities describes initiatives taken by five employers.

Webtech WirelessNextBus to Provide Real-Time Passenger Information to CyRide is a news release I wrote that among other things, (posting to the Webtech Wireless website and wider circulation), seems to have resulted in an article with Business in Vancouver. Nelson Bennett, writer for BIV, wrote his article liberally borrowing the quote I obtained over the phone from Project Manager, Barbara Neal in Iowa.

Truck Idling versus Fuel Economy: Every Minute Counts

–By Chuck Lane, Solution Engineer, Webtech Wireless
Idling for longer periods of time—whether at a job site, railroad crossing, or pulled off to the side of the road to make a cell phone call—consumes gasoline that could be saved by simply turning off the engine.


Idling truck Eliminating an hour of idling per day produces significant cost savings and emissions reductions over the course of a year. For fleets operating Class 3 and larger trucks, the savings are even more significant. For example, a typical truck burns a half-gallon of Diesel fuel for every hour it idles and, in the process, adds the equivalent of 40 miles of wear-and-tear to the engine. If you want to green your fleet by reducing emissions, you need to decrease fuel consumption, and the easiest way to do so is to decrease unnecessary idling.

For example, every gallon of gasoline burned idling creates 19.5 lbs. of CO2. Similarly, every gallon of Diesel burned idling creates 22.4 lbs. of CO2

The key is to be able to measure idling accurately. There are idling reports (using non BUS connectors) that simply calculate the time between ignition on and ignition off, and then subtract the time while moving to equal the actual idling time. This type of idle reporting, however, proves to be inaccurate for drivers that use the ignition to access the vehicle for things like radio and air conditioning, while leaving the engine off (Key On, Engine Off).

This type of scenario can be mitigated. If we install the Webtech Wireless Locator (GPS Unit) ignition wire to ignition on—avoiding accessory key position—the driver can then go to accessory position without affecting the Locator operation.  This is true for most light-duty vehicles. Most heavy-duty trucks/tractors have a key on and engine off alarm, so drivers don’t spend a lot of time in the key on, engine off scenario (the alarm is a soul piercing, shrieking high-pitch buzzer).

Webtech Wireless conducted a study with a major customer where we compared ignition on/off durations, to engine on durations.  The plan was to target this key on, engine off scenario.  We found a 2.7 percent deviation between ignition cycles and engine cycles. So for 100 minutes of key on, 97 minutes were engine on.  As this was so low, the customer accepted the Webtech Wireless Idle report using ignition cycles and not engine cycles.

Of course, the Non-Bus Idle report is completely different from the BUS-related (such as JBUS, CanBus, or OBDII) reports that actually report engine hours to be used in idle calculations. Webtech Wireless conducted the above study with the assumption that future non DLOGS (Driver Logs)/ HOS (Hours of Service) installations would avoid the BUS entirely.  We really have no control over the BUS and the failed elements that sometimes occur with customer vehicles.  We’ve already enabled odometer GPS to eliminate the BUS impact on the Locator odometer.  We found that over 2,500 tractors measured during fuel tax testing, had more errors with BUS than with non-BUS GPS (see Why Increased Accuracy Matters).

While it’s possible to gather idling information from both GPS and BUS related statistics, any vehicle that has a DLOGS/HOS system must be intrinsically synchronized with the vehicle BUS connection. In laymen’s terms, DOT (Department of Transportation) compliance requires a BUS connection.  We can’t avoid BUS anymore, if the solution is supporting DOT.  Fuel tax compliancy does not require BUS connectivity.  IFTA (International Fuel Tax Agreement) regulations state ‘use an odometer’, and don’t require that the vehicle BUS odometer be the only one used.

In conclusion, non DOT system installations can use ignition and GPS data to measure vehicle idling accurately. Reducing unnecessary idling is the simplest way for a fleet to reduce fuel costs and unnecessary emissions. In addition, excess idling causes needless engine wear-and-tear and unnecessary noise pollution. A typical goal for many fleets is to reduce engine idling time to less than 5%, a goal that motivates many fleets to implement anti-idling initiatives.

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