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Driving performance with information: ATA summit addresses the value of information technology

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For fleets that have embraced technologies designed to provide a better understanding of business processes, the ability to analyze and use data to make more effective choices is a clear path to a more competitive advantage in the market.

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How information technology is changing the trucking business for the better was the premise of the recently held Executive Summit on Technology-Driven Performance hosted by the American Trucking Associations (ATA). The idea behind the event was simple: In today’s highly-competitive environment, fleet executives and managers need faster, more convenient access to reliable information they can use to find efficiencies and grow their businesses.

At the summit, participants discussed how data is used to develop predictive models and to address issues that hamper success. Among the questions they set out to answer were:

• Is information more valuable than freight?

• Where is the transportation industry headed with converging and integrated technologies?

• Will Big Data drive your future?

At the ATA event, experts from technology solution providers and early adopter fleets came together to share answers to those questions. Information technology companies also provided a look at future solutions, while transportation companies described the steps they are taking to increase information management capabilities.

Can information really change the competitive landscape?

“There is no lack of data on trucking operations, just a lack of the ability to pull it together and make it actionable,” said Steve Bryan, chief executive officer of Vigillo, a company known for its suite of CSA scorecards. “Mining and using data can lead to solutions that enhance efficiency, safety and profitability for trucking companies.”

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At the ATA summit, Bryan was also on hand to introduce Athena, Vigillo’s big data platform. “Athena gathers data from a wide variety of sources and provides it in consolidated interactive reports and dashboards,” he explained. “It distills complex data into understandable information and presents it in an incredibly straightforward format that trucking companies can use to improve a range of operational factors.”

The Athena platform—named for the Greek goddess of wisdom—is an open source solution that aggregates data from 12 or more initial sources. Initially, a large amount of the data is focused on safety. On the list of sources are data from on-board electronics, carrier sales, dispatch and operations, human resources and maintenance systems, as well as public data from government agencies.

To develop Athena, an expanded team of data scientists at Vigillo is working to identify opportunities for making informed and effective data driven decisions.

These will include specific metrics that trucking companies can use to more effectively manage safety, operations, sales, maintenance, fuel purchasing and driver recruiting and retention, to name just a few areas.

The unique universe of data in Athena is presented in an initial set of about 30 highly-customizable dashboards. For example, the ability to identify and geo code every inspection and weigh station in the United States will lead to a data set carriers can use to anticipate enforcement activity when making routing plans and decisions—and be properly prepared for compliance.

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Today’s trucks carry more than freight—they carry information, the ATA summit organizers noted. Shippers are expecting more from carriers than just better performance and top CSA scores. Fleets are under pressure to deliver data, and in many cases it’s a requirement for doing business. Shippers are demanding the ability to track and control freight through the entire supply chain.

Carriers that can provide that level of visibility into their operations are going to be the clear winners in the battle for available freight. Using data to their advantage they can put themselves into position to not only retain, but also expand their customer base and to have safer, more efficient, productive and profitable trucking operations.

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