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Trucking data as currency: What is your data worth?

An exploration of data’s value.

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Trucking Data Value Currency Dollars

Information is valuable. The small bytes that stream from your equipment add up to a vast sum of knowledge. Whether you’re an early adopter of telematics or were thrust into the truck data world by the ELD Mandate, chances are that you’ve seen how valuable data can be to increase fuel efficiency by monitoring truck idle time and time spent in cruise. As the use of data expands within your fleet to areas like driver and back office management, know that data is also valuable to your clients, suppliers, OEMs—basically anyone you work with.

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“Data isn’t just an asset anymore, it’s a new currency,” said James Langley, senior vice president of Trimble Transportation.

Consider this: You’re running a multitude of trucks that are generating massive amounts of data across multiple OEM nameplates, perhaps on a common third-party data platform. You have plenty of other data within your dispatching, driver training and office management software that probably isn’t integrated into a telematics platform. So what’s its value? Who would want it, and who already has it?

As with everything in the fleet world, there’s no absolute answer. So let’s dive into three use cases to find the value.

Your data’s value to OEMs

Every trucking manufacturer has its proprietary telematics platform for capturing truck data, and they are using that data for everything from equipment benchmarking to improving the next generation of equipment to building future predictive event models.

“All fuel economy numbers are not calculated the same.”

Conal Deedy, Volvo Trucks

“We’re able to refine our product,” explained Mark Curri, senior vice president of uptime and customer support for Volvo Trucks North America. “We can say, ‘Here are your trucks and here is how they’re performing,’ and not just within their fleet, but we can benchmark against the whole universe of trucks that we built like theirs.

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“It’s anonymous; it gives us a target of how well a spec can perform in an application. If it’s not in the top percentiles, then we ask: Why? We drill into data and equipment details—that’s a value that the OEM can bring. We know the nuances of each truck—when they were built, enhancements and software versions we’ve released since then—to further enhance the performance of the product.”

Conal Deedy, director of connected vehicle services for Volvo Trucks North America, added that all telematics aren’t created equally. Consider fuel economy.

“All fuel economy numbers are not calculated the same,” he said.

Why?

“Take the odometer—there are four different places on the truck where there’s an odometer. The engine has one, the vehicle ECU has one, etc., but which ones get delivered to a telematics service provider [TSP], and what do they use to calculate fuel economy? If a fleet has 26 different TSPs: Are they getting the same data off of every truck from every TSP? Are they comparing apples to apples? I can tell you, it’s a little more complicated than you might think.”

Every OEM, supplier and software provider is in the market to win your business. You have massive amounts of operational data from all of your trucks. As Deedy noted, it might not be apples to apples, but it’s the foundation of a conversation with manufacturers and providers. How can your current manufacturers and suppliers help you gain MPG through data? How could a competing manufacturer or supplier help? What can your third-party telematics provider tell you about how they collect your trucks’ data and produce reports?

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All questions worth asking your partners when you’re looking to improve your efficiency and productivity or add assets to your fleet.

Your data’s value to shippers

Responsibility for equipment assets means responsibility for getting loads where they need to be on time. Trimble’s Langley noted that shippers want more visibility. How can you provide it? And where’s the value?

The first step is that you have to share.

“I think the very first thing that holds carriers back is the fear that if they share their data, if they connect to this community, then someone is going to steal their customers, steal their rates, understand their business, reverse engineer their business, take away their competitive advantage, etc.,” he said. All scary prospects to be sure. But are you leaving money on the table by building data walls when you should be building connections?

“What Trimble wants to be able to do is say, ‘You’re here to find the value. We’re trying to make sure that everybody wins. It’s not just one side or the other,’” Langley explained. “And, yes, the shipper is going to dictate that you do more of what makes you productive because they need more value from you, but as a carrier, what if I show you that you can get value out of this in return? It’s not just about making your customer happy. That there’s ROI for you as a carrier that enables a better connection, better collaboration, better resource utilization by optimizing your data in a way that they couldn’t before and connect it to others within the supply chain.”

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In a previous position, Langley was a president of Dart Transit Co., where he saw the power of connection firsthand.

“People would come to me and say, ‘I want you to connect to these solutions,’ and I would say, ‘Okay, but I have a couple of conditions,’” he said. “My first condition was always: What do I get in return? I’d ask them to show me the value in the connection for Dart beyond the value in it for my customer or my customer’s customer. And one of the things I’d tell them was that I wasn’t asking them to pay me a transaction fee, but that they might be able to pay me in data—to show me information I never had before. That way, I could make better business decisions on the markets I ran in and how I optimized my fleet.”

“…There’s ROI for you as a carrier that enables a better connection, better collaboration, better resource utilization by optimizing your data in a way that they couldn’t before and connect it to others within the supply chain.”

James Langley, Trimble Transporation

The second of Langley’s connection conditions?

“They had to prove to me they were a good steward of my data.”

This is a big bullet point for Langley and Trimble as a whole, because all of those threats that he rattled off earlier are a real menace if you’re not careful about how and with whom you share your data.

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“I had to have the ability to see who they were sharing specific data with so that I could protect myself,” Langley said, and pointed to an example of good stewardship: Trimble’s Trust Center, a secure and centralized location for controlling data access allowed to visibility providers. Through the Trust Center, Trimble’s carrier customers can know which visibility providers will receive their data and what data they’ll receive. “We want to refine user agreements and put the power of control in the user’s hands with the ability to opt in or opt out of what get shared to the Trust Center and the partners that it gets shared with.

“And to be perfectly honest with you, this is a work in progress. The more we engage with our partners and customers, the more we learn how to better optimize that relationship. What people aren’t willing to do anymore is trust providers to anonymize and aggregate their data. More people are getting educated and intelligent about data usage. When it comes to sharing data with specific people we’re currently working with several large customers that want to understand how we’re using their data and want the ability to set permissions for sharing certain types of data with certain people.”

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Value and vigilance. Ask anyone collecting data from your trucks how they are using it, who are they sharing it with and what control you have over it. And then ask how they can provide more value to you.

Digital Dollars trucking data value

Your data’s value to drivers

Every conversation with every fleet about running trucks eventually turns to the continued battle to recruit and retain drivers. Today’s people management conversation revolves around buzzy words like emotional intelligence. It basically boils down to empathy, encouragement and working with the drivers rather than against them. The equipment you spec plays a large role in that conversation—from sleeper cab creature comforts and reward trucks to the latest in video telematics.

“There’s a realization that driving is more complex than we give it credit for.”

Kevin Aries, Verizon Connect

Yes, the in-cab video recording technology is turning what was a divisive driver topic into an advantage, according to Kevin Aries, head of global product success at Verizon Connect, which recently rolled out Integrated Video, an outward-facing dash camera that works with the Verizon Connect Reveal platform. Again, the advantage in improving driver management comes with visibility cameras provide.

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“Before video, I don’t think businesses truly realized that they were blind beyond the standard harsh driving and GPS tracking reports,” Aries said. “Providing video visibility into those events adds a layer that allows fleets to have a contextual conversation with their drivers.”

Think about it: You get a report that a driver has had 10 harsh braking incidents in a week. And that’s all you’d get from a black or white spreadsheet or dashboard. This could lead to a “What’s going on?” driver conversation that is wrought with emotional reactions, incomplete data and unreliable recollections. With video showing what happened in front of the truck, you could see that two of those incidents were traffic congestion related, two were weather related and three saved equipment and possibly lives. That’s a much different conversation.

“There’s a realization that driving is more complex than we give it credit for,” Aries said. “Harsh braking reports are one dimensional. Drivers are reacting to a lot of different things they face on the road. Video can focus the conversation from correcting driver behavior to building a culture of safety within a fleet.”

That starts with transparency with your drivers. If you’re looking to spec in-cab video, Aries recommends bringing your driver managers and the drivers themselves into the conversation as early as is practical.

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“Transparency continues to be a key,” he said. “The needed level of transparency has increased with video adoption. Drivers are going to ask more complex questions like: What are you seeing? Where are you storing the video? How long are you storing it? How are you going to use it? How long are you storing the data for? How are you going to use this? Those are all reasonable questions. It’s up to the fleet to demonstrate not only the value and benefits of this solution, but also mechanics of the technology—how it works and how they’ll be interacting with it.”

Working with your in-cab video supplier is key to not only answering the questions but getting all the value you can out of your chosen solution and bringing your drivers along on that ROI journey.

Your data’s value to you

Calling it “your” data is a bit of a misnomer. Data ownership is defined by End User License Agreements (EULAs). Chances are that you don’t own the data, but you do have rights to it. Those are also defined by EULAs, which you need to be providing to your legal counsel and ensuring that your providers are using the data you generate in a way that meets your data rights and privacy expectations. Even if data seems confusing and nebulous, the market sees value in the data you’re generating. It’s a smart move to recognize that. The question is: How are you going to get more value out of it?

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