We need to get away from all of the hype and look at telematics in the real world. For a quick assessment of the use of telematics in a modern trucking business, Diesel News talked to Darren Nolan from Nolans Interstate Transport about how the company uses its system on a day-to-day basis.
As a company, Nolans finds its telematics system to be a good overall management tool. Used for areas like compliance, driving hours through fridge temperatures, locating vehicles and how long they have been there. The system also monitors loading and unloading times, idling time, the list goes on…
The data is all there in the system and different aspects of the business can access the data they need in a form which helps keep improve safety and productivity. Nolans are in the middle of a five year plan to integrate the company ERP with the monitoring system.
“There’s a heap of data,” says Darren Nolan. “That’s the thing with all of the systems. Sometimes there’s too much data, but if you really strip it back and understand what you really want to try and achieve out of it. Then you can focus on the stuff you can try and use.
“For example, if we get a report vehicles have been sitting too long at an unloading facility, we can run geofence reporting based on how long trucks have been sitting. That then provides us with some data and we can go back to the customer and tell them we need to talk about this.”
Operations will use the system for something completely different. They are simply wanting to know where the vehicle is and where it has to load. They can see the distances and see who is in the local vicinity. The depots may simply use it to see which vehicles are available in the depot.
“All of these programs, they all do the same things,” says Darren. “There’s nothing particularly different from this program to another program. You can use them for things like speed management through to driving hours compliance.”
Nolans have Future Fleet units on 95 per cent of all their line haul trailers and on 100 per cent of the prime movers. This gives them two data sets from both truck and trailer when they are out on the highway.
“We decided to fit out our interstate fleet because they are running to DCs, refrigerated or freezer freight and they need very good monitoring,” says Darren. “A lot of the time, when there’s a discrepancy about a vehicle, we can tell the customer what’s happening, for example, the vehicle has been there for fifteen minutes.
“Now, the big picture is how we can pull this into our system, so we have one area where we are looking at this stuff, as opposed to three or four different areas. Each department needs a different dashboard from the same data.
“We are changing our internal system. The workshop is just coming on board. When we have got it all up and running we will be able to use, what they call, an SQL back-end, where talking to it and getting information is a lot simpler.”
The company found speed control difficult to monitor. It only works if the system is pinging the truck second-by-second and this ends up creating very high data usage. The solution has been to set speed bands and when a vehicle is going over a set speed, the system will then track it every second until it comes back down below the speed band.
Nolans find themselves in the same situation many other operators share, they are investing in a box and technology, but do not know what may be just around the corner in technology terms.
“Let’s say electronic logbooks are introduced, what if more IAP gets the green light,” says Darren. “The last thing we want to do is completely retrofit or change all of our boxes or keep adding boxes for different things. To me, it doesn’t make any logical sense.
“The more complex it becomes to try and stop tampering to keep the regulators happy, the much more difficult it becomes. People find a way around. I told the NHVR, there is no need to overcomplicate this. I as a driver should be able to record my hours on a mobile phone. I can email a copy if needed. The questions then come about not being sure what the driver and truck is doing.
“When you are talking about 200 drivers, you are talking about one hell of a lot of data,” says Darren. “The problem is, the more people you have the more data you have. Then you need more people to process the data, and what do you do with the data? How do you work with it? What do you do when you find and issue? More is not necessarily more!”