In the beginning, high-tech fleet connection meant watching a dot lurch around on a digital map. Then came mobile devices. Now we are in what some call the third wave of connected fleets.
Thanks to sensors and cloud technology, dispatchers can see many status points and details about any load almost instantaneously, including: location, speed, trailer temperature, whether the trailer door is locked and how many hours of service a driver has worked. Drivers can watch their driving stats and stay tuned in to the health of their engine and rig. And the numbers of these computerized fleet-management systems are growing. In fact, more than 12 million commercial vehicles in North America will have them by 2020, more than double from the nearly 6 million at the end of 2015, according to IoT Business News.
Real-time analytics that display speed, engine health, location and driver hours, with graphs and raw data instantly sent to a computer screen or handheld device, there are fewer shipping surprises, safer roads and more uptime.
For example, data and GPS can help drivers can find the most efficient routes — or get a heads up about a traffic snarl — all while delivery times are adjusted instantly as conditions change for better or worse. Better yet, with a bank of data history to draw upon, such as historic traffic patterns, weather events, and other factors, fleet managers will offer more accurate delivery times.
Connectedness makes highly responsive truck maintenance possible. For example, early wear is flagged as soon as it happens, allowing drivers and fleet managers to evaluate and plan ahead. Should we pull over immediately, or can it wait a few days? Which diesel repair facility has the parts available? Who will take over the load, and when can it be delivered? Not only does this keep the load going, minimizing delays, but smaller, more targeted repairs are also completed quickly and cheaply rather than creating chain-reaction engine damage or, worse, a wreck.
Of course, the federal government has mandated that all trucks will have to be electronic logging device compliant (ELD). These are devices that monitor distance and driving conditions, allowing dispatchers to monitor and respond to real-time data that shows how long a driver has been on the road. This is meant to reduce driver fatigue and the road hazards that can lead to.
The fourth wave of high-tech fleet connectedness is several years away, and promises to feature driverless trucks that are capable of communicating with and responding to one another.
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