IRTENZ Conference 2019 - Technology – helpful tools or a big stick?

Thursday, January 16, 2020

This month we feature the Panel Discussion from Day 1 of the 2019 IRTENZ conference. The discussion topic was ‘New Technology – What are we doing differently two years on?’

Chris Carr, director, Carr & Haslam, said the biggest change for them was in administration. Because the trucks now ‘talk’ to the office more than they did before, they only need three admin staff (excluding line managers and dispatchers) to run their back office. Carr & Haslam has been part of a trial process with Fuso, and through the change to a new Euro 6 engine, fuel economy had improved by 25%. A significant portion of this improvement was achieved through moving to automatic transmissions, which Carr said didn’t sit too comfortably with some people.

“We’ve had to change driver habits – because you’re a big hairy-arsed black singleted truck driver and a manual’s what you need – I’m sorry, that won’t wash any more these days. And you have to raise the skill levels to make that work.” Carr said lots of other things had contributed to safety, such as autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warnings, adaptive cruise control, and vehicle stability systems, but they all take a bit of learning and a bit of adjusting to.

“We’re putting cameras in the cabs so we can see what is happening with the drivers. Most drivers get it – some don’t – we use the cameras as a tool to protect the driver and nothing else. We’ve got driver monitoring systems and you can stop them braking so often, you can help them accelerate more smoothly; a whole series of little things that if you use them as tools, and not as a big stick, they’re really, really helpful.”

Photo: Chris Carr, director of Carr & Haslam, said cameras in trucks are a useful tool and shouldn’t be seen or used as a big stick.

James Smith, group transport manager Halls, said the two years between IRTENZ conferences had seen changes in technology used, largely driven by customer demand and regulatory intervention. He said when running a fleet that undertook multiple tasks, all trucks had to meet all customer requirements. Smith said technology has added significant cost to both the price of the unit coming on the road, and its ongoing operation. “Make sure every piece of technology you’re deploying has a purpose, that you actually understand why you’re putting it in, and then make it accountable for that purpose.

Fully understand both the initial and ongoing cost of the technology. $283 a month doesn’t sound like a lot, but when you’re running a fleet our size, that’s over a million a year, which is hitting your bottom line and it’s got to come from somewhere.” Smith said Halls was holding back on substantial investment in its fleet because of uncertainty as to where technology was going. “The problem is we’re in a rapidly changing space of technology. We’re also waiting for the HPMV proforma designs to settle down because we didn’t want to get caught building the wrong type of equipment.

There is going to be substantial investment in the fleet; we will potentially see the introduction of alternative powertrains, but they are most likely to be restricted to metro configurations.” Smith said he felt there needed to be a regulatory environment that would allow operators who were investing in new, leading-edge technology to test the technology in real world situations without the fear of overzealous regulatory intervention, because there would always be things that need adjusting for New Zealand’s environment.

Gareth Pert, general manager, Tranzliquid, said the information garnered from a GPS system is so data rich that it can be overwhelming, but it was important to understand it in order to determine how well a business was running. Pert said over the time they had been using GPS telemetry, there had been a steady decline in the average fleet speed, which could be attributed to a few things. “Probably the biggest one for us to be fair is traffic congestion, either travelling to Auckland or through Auckland, just service provider workloads and delays there, and hold-ups throughout the work day.

The tangible outcome for this is we require more people and more equipment to do the same amount of work than we would have historically, and there is a cost to that.” Pert said Tranzliquid also used a lot of GPS telemetry as an operator training tool. “When combined with the likes of a SAFED course, this results in real savings – mostly through fuel savings, but also in other intangible areas. However, purchasing a GPS system doesn’t provide the platform that will drive change in operator behaviour. It’s imperative that that platform to facilitate behaviour change is in the company culture.” Pert was sceptical of Level 5 autonomous vehicles arriving, but said in striving to get there, the safety functionality developed along the way would be incorporated into OEM equipment, which was good for the industry in general.

Photo: Tranzliquid has used GPS telemetry as an operator training tool, but it’s only a tool. Real change is about culture, said general manager Gareth Pert.

Ian Emmerson, managing director, Emmerson Transport, said about two years ago the company embarked on a project that mandated all jobs flow from the transport management system (TMS) to the truck PDA, but the greatest challenge they’ve faced in refining this progress was the culture of the people using the system. “One of the other influences is an aging driver workforce. Obviously the younger drivers are much more IT literate, but sometimes lack the commitment of the old.

Our internal culture has been on the continuous training and testing for understanding, along with demonstrations at staff meetings as well as toolbox talks to show the operators how important their input is. These applications are now being monitored by employee log-on and graphed by percentage successfully completed.” Emmerson said timely transfer of consignment details and delivery timing by leg or when delivered allows both status of freight movements and default reporting to customers when required.

An upside of this is the reduced likelihood of revenue leakage by jobs being under- or overcharged, or not charged at all. “A consideration is that we want the driver to be committed to delivering freight and not spending time accepting and completing jobs. This is an area where most IT suppliers don’t seem to have a lot of focus.”

TR Group, general manager, Brendon King said customers and suppliers don’t want to use a company’s system – they just want the data it contains. “You don’t want to log into multiple systems and have different capabilities and features, different looks and feels, you just want the data coming out of those multiple systems into a common system – your own – and be able to play with the data from there.” King said TR Group had built a customer portal called My TR, which enabled customers to access all their fleet information quickly and easily. My TR is soon to be joined by a TR app.

TR Group has some electric trucks on order that should be here by Christmas. “There’s a lot to learn – how long batteries last, how much maintenance will we spend on an EV versus a diesel, what will a used EV be worth, what will happen to the cost of EVs, what are the advantages and disadvantages of electric trucks. The real answers are that no one knows the real answers to these questions, particularly with regard to trucks.” TR Group owns driver training business Master Drive and last year purchased online learning specialist DT Training. King says the advantages of online learning are that people can repeat what modules they do not understand, and receive language and literacy help.

“TR’s online learning courses are produced in 103 languages and the questions and statements are given in audio as well as visual written format. There is a consistent delivery, time after time. “They tend to be more cost-effective and training can be delivered over time in line with the operator’s ability to learn.” TIL Group, said because the group has chosen to self-insure, they have to make their trucks safer, protecting both their drivers and the community. “We’ve made a commitment to AutoSense and have introduced that across the fleet. It’s not cheap, but if you take the type of rollovers we’re expecting to prevent [which can cost about $500,000], we think it will have a significant payback.” TIL Group has more than 20 warehouses across the country with about 245,000 pallets of storage, and Pearson said having a new, paperless warehouse management system was important to them. Over the past 12 months they have also been investing heavily in tablets.

Previously they had an old legacy transport management system, which while good, was antiquated. The old system couldn’t communicate with the tablets either, so the group has gone to a new system with in-cab technology, where they can upload and download information – including pickup and consignment notes. Pearson said revenue leakage in a large organisation could be substantial, and the new system will prevent this. TIL Logistics has agreed to investigate hydrogen fuel options with Hiringa Energy. “We’re pretty agnostic, in terms of what technology evolves as being the best motor or power in the future.

We’re not married to diesel, we’re not married to electric, and we’re not married to hydrogen, so we’re keeping our options very much open.” Pearson believes the internal combustion engine is going to be around for a while in terms of diesel powered trucks on linehaul, but thinks there will be a gradual migration to electric vehicles or hydrogen on metro applications.

Photo: TR Group’s Brendan King told the audience that now one actually knows what the total cost of ownership of EVs is.

Warwick Wilshier, managing director, Williams & Wilshier, said while all the technology they use has been helpful, a compliance audit by NZTA illustrated the downside. “They try to get you to selfincriminate and find faults in the way you’re managing your drivers.” Wilshier said during the audit he was asked what evidence the GPS data had provided of drivers offending.

Something the company had invested in as a safety feature to warn drivers when they moved from one speed zone into another was viewed as a way to prove offending. “What it’s made us do is put more effort into compliance management, around driving hours, around fatigue, around rest breaks, and that sort of thing. It’s quite a big issue, and it has shifted the responsibility to the operator, particularly managing that sort of thing, and we need to use all the technology we’ve got to make sure we’re compliant.

It’s a new world and like it or not, that’s the way it’s going to be.” As for electric vehicles, Wilshier was sceptical they’d be suitable for logging. “The good thing is in the past few years the logging industry’s moved as fast as we could invest in new equipment and technology. Within the next few years everything will be Euro 5 or Euro 6. I don’t know that we’ll ever have an environment for an EV truck in the logging industry, but at least we’ll have the most emission compliant vehicles we can have.”

John Woodrooffe – University of Michigan Emeritus, had been involved in a study to discover how technology influenced safety, looking at the operations of seven top fleets in the US. “I looked at the performance of the various technologies, consulted with the management, consulted with the safety people and also the drivers. “One of the things we’ve learned about improving safety culture within a fleet is that as long as the driver feels that the technology can help him and help with his progress – they appreciate that.

Whereas if it’s seen as a punitive reaction, then of course they resent it and they don’t like to use it.” Woodrooffe found that the more technology and the more involvement in driver coaching, the lower the crash rates were in these fleets. “Interestingly, there is a strong correlation between drivers who value the presence and benefits of forwardlooking and in-cab cameras with better fleet safety performance.

That’s a bit of a head-scratcher, but it’s probably the safety culture of those companies that install these systems is such that they’ve educated the drivers to understand how this benefits them in the long term.” Electronic logbooks have been instituted in the US and Canada and Woodrooffe said the feedback had been very good, from both the fleet owners and also the drivers. Drivers felt they could not be exploited or intimidated into working longer hours, and owners had better control over driver performance and that drivers were working at the permitted level of hours of service. If electronic logbooks were mandated in New Zealand, Woodrooffe said there would need to be a universal platform that all systems could be linked to.

Photo: From left: Dom Kalasih (IRTENZ president), Chris Carr (Carr & Haslam), James Smith (Halls Group), Gareth Pert (Tranzliquid), Ian Emmerson (Emmerson Transport), Brendan King (TR Group), Alan Pearson (TIL Group), John Woodrooffe (University of Michigan Emeritus), and Warwick Wilshier (Williams and Wilshier).