Using technology to its advantage is an operating philosophy that has served Fleetmaster Express well. Its stated goal—to remain at the forefront of technology to ensure loads are delivered timely and safely—is now even more important as the company grows and expands its service offerings and its operating footprint.
Founded in 1987 with two tractor-trailers to haul temperature-controlled produce for large chain grocery stores, Roanoke, Va.-based Fleetmaster Express now operates more than 300 trucks and 1,300 trailers that provide over-the road, local and dedicated freight hauling service from 15 terminals in Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio, Arkansas, Texas, Georgia, Indiana, Tennessee and Wisconsin. The company also operates 100 tractor-trailers in its Englander Transportation refrigerated operation based in Rustburg, Va., and offers freight brokerage, warehousing and spotting services as well.
Throughout the 30 years that Fleetmaster Express has been in the transportation business, it has adopted technologies that can improve its operating efficiency and productivity. For example, in use at the company today is TMW Systems software for dispatch, operations and enterprise management, including EDI capabilities to ensure efficient transactions with customers. Also in place are Omnitracs systems for on-board communications, satellite tracking, real-time load information and automated alerts, and Drivewyze weigh station bypass systems.
Fleetmaster Express also uses Yardview management software to provide real-time updates on trailers, containers and equipment at its facilities. The web-based system offers reporting capabilities on dwell time, trailer status, trailer contents, trailer history and driver productivity, and scorecards and KPI information.
“Using technology to improve safety was one reason we adopted the Lytx DriveCam video safety program,” says Andy Kester, safety/human resources manager. “With this solution, we’ve seen improvements in highway safety and driver performance, as well as an overall improved safety culture throughout the fleet.”
Results from the Lytx DriveCam system at Fleetmaster Express include a 91% improvement in frequency and severity of events, a 61% decrease in collisions and a 71% drop in near collisions.
The company attributes much of that success to the ability to use DriveCam to address driving behaviors. The system combines video capture of road incidents such as hard braking or swerving, data analysis of those incidents and personalized coaching insights to improve driving behavior. The Lytx Video Services platform delivers on-demand continual video and optional live stream video of the road to show critical events.
“We are a very dynamic fleet, with a range of hauling services, and we have an intense focus on customer service and safety,” says Travis Smith, the fleet’s chief operating officer. “We’re also a growing company, and as our footprint expands we need a solution to efficiently identify and manage driver coaching opportunities.”
Platform for the future
Smith also points out that the DriveCam solution helps effectively tackle safety challenges not just now but also in the future. In particular, a factor in the choice to adopt the DriveCam program was the embedded sensor and machine-vision technologies in its ER-SV2 event recorder that give Fleetmaster Express the flexibility to add functionality and services, including fleet tracking and connectivity to third-party solutions.
Lytx’s ER-SV2 also enables its ActiveVision service, which uses machine vision and an analytics algorithm to detect and capture driving patterns consistent with distracted and drowsy driving, such as swerving within a lane or driving slowly relative to surrounding traffic. It can also work with data from roll stability systems.
“Defending against false claims is also a priority. We’re using DriveCam to protect our drivers and the company,” Kester says. “For example, a recent claim of a hit-and-run against one of our drivers was proved false when the DriveCam video revealed that the driver had properly followed all procedures.”
Fleetmaster Express also uses DriveCam videos to recognize and reward good drivers. “While the driving event videos are great way to show a driver what they could be doing differently, it’s a real teaching moment when we can show how a driver is doing things right,” Kester says. “That also reinforces our core value of promoting the safety of our employees and the motorists that we share the road with every day.”
In many ways, drivers at Fleetmaster Express are treated like family. The company, Kester relates, works hard to cultivate genuine relationships with its employees. “For example, every new driver is onboarded at one of our three regional offices and often meets with one or more members of the executive team,” he explains. “That demonstrates how much Fleetmaster Express values connecting on a personal level, and it leads to having drivers that provide superior and professional service to our customers.”
Fleetmaster Express also provides a comprehensive system for safety training and refresher courses on equipment and safety matters to its drivers, holds annual driver meetings and works hard to maintain an open-door policy. “By listening to the questions and concerns our drivers may have we have been able to address issues and keep them fully informed,” Kester says.
Late model fleet
Fleetmaster Express has addressed equipment needs as well, including fielding a fleet of late model Freightliner Cascadia tractors for it dry freight and refrigerated operations. “In addition to driver considerations and safety, we spec trucks to meet customer service needs,” says Bill Wolven, Fleetmaster Express’s director of maintenance. “For example, our tractors and trailers are as light as possible without sacrificing integrity.”
Current specs at Fleetmaster Express that address weight-saving needs include wide-base single tires and aluminum wheels on tractor drive and trailer axles. In addition, the fleet is specifying 12-in. fifth wheel sliders and composite trailer floors.
The Fleetmaster Express fleet is maintained by 12 technicians at four company shops in Roanoke, Va.; Columbus, Ohio; Eden, N.C.; and Albany, Ga. To keep technicians up to date, the fleet takes advantage of training from Freightliner and other suppliers.
Fleetmaster Express also relies on the Excel Truck Group, its local Freightliner dealer, and uses the manufacturer’s dealer network for service across the country. The carrier uses the Michelin OnCall 24-hour emergency road service program for all over-the-road tire repairs and replacements as well.
Focus on consistency
The entire maintenance operation at Fleetmaster Express is managed using TMT Fleet Maintenance software from TMW Systems. “We focus on consistency in service practices across all of our shops and service providers,” Wolven relates. “That approach is leading to success in areas like on-time PMs, which are above 96% consistently.
“All of our maintenance practices are audited by shop supervisors,” Wolven continues. “They are also focused on building relationships with our drivers. By engaging drivers, we are able to get feedback on equipment; that allows us to do our best to repair issues correctly the first time.”
Throughout its operation, Fleetmaster Express is firmly focused on having the right information, the right relationships and the technology to ensure success.