Streamlining fleet operations through onboard technology

Streamlining fleet operations through onboard technology

In any business, it’s important to maintain constant communication across the organization to effectively manage operations and produce the best results. This concept reigns true in the transportation and logistics industry, and has become especially relevant for professionals working in fleet services.

To achieve such constant communication, trucking companies rely on technology to communicate with drivers and customers. As that technology continues to advance, it’s also allowing companies to communicate with the fleet itself, collecting real-time data for everything from the tires to the odometer, providing valuable data to help oversee fleet performance and maintenance.
For the past 24 years, Southeastern Freight Lines has been implementing on-board technology to increase efficiency in all facets of the organization and to provide their customers with groundbreaking services.

The technology was first implemented as a way to better monitor and record pickup and delivery activities, reduce the administrative paperwork on the drivers, enhance load projections, and provide an automated system to update the status of each shipment for customers. As a long-time user of mobile communications/telematics systems, Southeastern has seen tremendous changes in the technology and has consistently updated its onboard technology to meet market demands.

Most recently, Southeastern updated to its fifth generation of on-board technology with the PeopleNet system. This new mobile technology is now installed across Southeastern’s entire fleet of more than 2,900 tractors and continues to enable the company to provide prompt updates and route scheduling, as well as to meet the ever-growing customer requirement for supply chain visibility.

With this updated on-board technology, the fleet services department can now utilize applications that incorporate the location, vehicle performance, and other data surrounding a truck and its route. For example, Southeastern’s fleet services department can now monitor the health of vehicles while they are on the road, sending notifications if service may soon be required or alerting the maintenance team if a truck experiences an issue such as overheating.

In addition, mobile onboard technology allows drivers to be as timely and resource-efficient as possible by electronically monitoring and reporting vehicle faults. Before and after each day’s operation, drivers fill out a Daily Vehicle Inspection Report that records an overview of the status of their vehicle. If a maintenance issue is found, the on-board technology electronically submits a service order that is instantaneously received by a fleet services associate. From there, technicians can create a repair order that matches the specifications outlined by the driver in accordance with the American Trucking Association’s Vehicle Maintenance Reporting Standards. This process streamlines the fleet services department’s operations and eliminates the need to create and manage an excess of nine million paper-based forms each year.

Through updated technology, fleet managers have been granted access to data that wasn’t previously available. For instance, in years past, Southeastern’s fuel economy information could not be as effectively monitored. Now with the latest technology, the data collected provides access to monitoring the utilization of cruise control, excessive idling, tracking gradual starts and stops, as well as shifting gears at optimum RPM levels.

Southeastern is also beginning to use the developing technologies for improved safety. Prime examples of these opportunities are in collision mitigation, anti-rollover and seatbelt compliance.

It is evident to see the benefits provided by on-board technology applications. As technology advances and with the real-time, actionable information already available from mobile onboard devices, fleets will only continue to garner more information from their tractors, which will ultimately lead to new opportunities for improved operations.

Editor’s Note: This article was provided by Woody Lovelace, the senior vice president of corporate planning and development with Southeastern Freight Lines.

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