Staying up to speed in technology crucial to success, TMC panelists say

Jonathan Willis

September 20, 2017

TMC Technology Section
Panelists discuss the importance and challenges of implementing new technology during Wednesday’s TMC tech session in Orlando.

Deryk Powell said the topic of implementing new technology in fleets is something that does not get enough attention throughout the industry.

“But it’s super important,” Powell, president of Velociti, told a crowd gathered Wednesday morning at the ATA’s Technology & Maintenance Council annual meeting in Orlando.

“When we started in this business in the 1990s, it was just an in-cab system. Today, with ELD and other technologies, there have been a number of emerging technologies that have really changed the industry.”

Technology is now important maintaining communications between the shop and warehouse and the fleet, he says.

“We feed the rest of the economy,” he added. “Every day, I am amazed there’s some new way of leveraging technology. If you implement the technology and use it correctly, it will pay for itself.”

Peter Savage, Clarke Power Services director of fleet solutions, says the first thing that needs to be considered is “what do you want from it.”

He made comparisons between various companies over the years who failed to adapt to new technologies and to those who swept in and revolutionized their fields.

“Today, it’s changing every aspect of our lives,” Savage says.

Pointing to Uber and Lyft who now compete with taxi services and the advent of home delivered grocery companies, which had $145 million in sales in 2015 and is expected to reach $35-$50 billion by 2020, as models that are changing because of technology.

“You have to be willing to change and tweak as technology adapts, because it will continue to evolve and we do not know how each truck will react,” he says.

The technology needed varies from company to company so it’s important to look into what vendors can offer, what are your needs and which can meet you in the middle.

Colin Crowley, YRC freight manager of equipment processes and training, says his company wanted to make sure that drivers were safe and looked into implementing in-cab technology first.

“You have to have enough people and the right people engaged in the project,” he says.

“Everyone has to do their share of the work and communicate well so that everyone can compare challenges and see where help is needed.”

Once the right technology is chosen, some of the staff’s roles will change.

He added that back office management is crucial after new technology is implemented due to the amount of data that is available.

“You have to look at how you will maintain the system once it’s in place,” he says. “You need to look at whether or not you need to add staff, shuffle staff, work with an outside source, there’s a number of things to consider.”

Crowley says having a structured deployment plan and firm timeline are essential.

Bill Brown, Southeastern Freight Lines manager of fleet telematics, says that “having a solid implementation strategy can be the key to unlocking technology’s promise.”

“There is no single ‘right’ approach,” he added. “Define the challenges and ask how it can be resolved.”

Brown says he wanted to see a holistic maintenance system where a tech could hook to a truck and diagnose all issues at once, rather than looking at each individual repair separately.

The technology requires many people working together and providing proper training to all involved.

The panelists agreed there are a few future technologies that are both exciting and “scary.”

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