- Published: Saturday, 01 August 2009 08:00
- Written by CP Staff
On-board intelligent global positioning system (GPS) status devices are quickly becoming commonplace among fleet managers for truck dispatching and tracking. As Systech Inc. President John Rabchuk notes, To stay competitive and thrive in a tough economy, producers must maximize the efficiency of their trucks and plant operations.
The following is an overview of what many of the major technology companies are offering for mixer fleet management, including software to improve tracking and status recording, troubleshooting, scheduling, data configuration, and delivery efficiencies designed to help customers stay ahead of the curve.
The recently launched Plant Watcher sends immediate e-mail or cell phone text messages for out-of-tolerance concrete batches, authorized and nonauthorized mix design changes, and plant status alerts to users set up on the system. This allows interception of out-of-specification loads, so they never reach the job site, as well as immediate notification of a plant-down situation.
The system can create profiles for each batch plant to be monitored and provide different types of notifications to various users. It can also automatically escalate issues to senior management when required. New features for Version 18.104.22.168 include a new Plant Watcher Wizard, which guides users through the set-up process for sites, recipients and profiles; a new XML Export option, which can be sent to user's computer desktop or e-mailed to a recipient; and, an Enhanced Plant Performance Report that provides powerful analysis of a CommandBatch-enabled plant.
Keystone GPS suits construction materials producers that require an easy-to-use system that improves delivery efficiencies, enhances customer service, and helps add directly to the bottom line. Keystone can be integrated with any number of dispatch programs or function as a stand-alone system. Both versions enable customers to map vehicle location. Plants and trucks are color coded for easy identification.
The rugged, small, self-contained unit comes complete with an internal GPS receiver and cellular modem. GivenHansco supplies the necessary power cable and antennas for easy in-cab installation. Keystone operates over most any CDMA cellular network, providing flexibility in service options, low service pricing, and fast transaction processing.
The system updates vehicle location at user-defined intervals and relays vehicle number, heading, speed and location by longitude and latitude to a designated screen. The system can handle an unlimited number of vehicles. It helps limit speeding, thereby decreasing the number of accidents and, thus, workers' compensation claims and risk. Lower speed also optimizes fuel usage and increases miles per gallon.
Keystone manages customer expectations and provides proof of service/vehicle location, while helping resolve time-on-job billing disputes. The system also indicates the amount of time needed to complete a job, helps identify training and motivational opportunities, and eliminates side trips and non-job related stops. Automated job-time capture allows for more accurate billing.
In addition, Keystone features automatic status changes, driver clock-in/clock-out, optional start/end pour module, date/time stamp of every step, and vehicle location displayed on a map.
In ready mixed operations, frontline managers and professionals make decisions that impact profitability every hour, every day. The Clutch Analytics gives leaders the information they need in real time to make the decisions that will optimize customer service and business profitability.
The system includes such features as remote access to dispatch information, so managers can troubleshoot problems that crop up in daily business. Clutch enables field sales representatives, operations managers, and quality control staff to access critical business data on their cell phones.
Clutch also gives users custom alerts that offer real-time insight into issues that impact the business on a daily basis. Alerts include: late customer deliveries, slow-loading plants, excess startup times and shutdown times for drivers, and customers not adhering to schedule pour times.
Clutch Studio is an easy-to-use management and configuration tool that enables users to maintain distinct profiles within an organization for different customers who need to have unique access to various types of information. Clutch Analytics integrates with Clutch Concrete Truck Tracking or third-party GPS systems to provide current real-time information and live reports to make proactive decisions.
ROAD KING TECHNOLOGIES
In an effort to automate fleet operation, the company uses TRAC18 software in concert with a number of tools and techniques, including GPS positioning. The aim is to replace the costly repetitive human functions of reporting, recording and logging information by accomplishing it automatically and seamlessly.
Early in 2008, the company joined thousands of computer-based companies in what is known as Cloud Computing, and, as a result, TRAC18 is completely web-based. This offers unlimited possibilities for users to enjoy a secured connection in a multi-user environment without the inconvenience of maintaining software locally.
Drivers no longer have to call in every step of the delivery Û that is done for them automatically. The dispatcher does not have to manually move vehicles on the Dispatching Grid; that, too, is accomplished automatically. The driver no longer has to record the total quantity of water added to a batch, or receive six to eight calls per delivery and record every step of the operation. He also no longer has to handle calls from a frantic customer, wondering where the delivery is, because that customer can now log in and see it live on the Internet. The dispatcher can read productivity reports that are generated for him automatically, like Excessive Wait Times and Cubic Yards or Meters/Hour.
The company also reads and records water meters and logs total water added to each batch ticket. The program interfaces with Marcotte and other batching and dispatching systems; allows unlimited live GPS tracking via individualized custom web site, where individual trucks and/or all trucks can be seen at one time; reviews a trace route of each delivery ticket; monitors and records barrel rotation by direction and speed, as well as the hydraulic system oil pressure; and, monitors, records and broadcasts RPM, vehicle speed, unscheduled stops, plus other functions.
The cost of communications is fixed at $20 monthly per unit. Cumberland Ready Mix President Robert Brazeau reports that, among the company's three facilities, he saves as much as one to two trucks/plant/day. He explains that by using the system, he now is able to get a better handle on all his deliveries, with the result that he can take on more deliveries per day, as opposed to having to schedule them later in the week.
The company, along with CenApps Technologies (owners and developers of ScheduleCom), cites the ready mixed industry's first fully integrated, web-based driver management and scheduling system. Integra Driver Management is said to simplify the process of establishing drivers' daily schedule, publishing it, and managing driver hours. With complete integration to Systech's Integra Dispatch software module, the new management tool automatically calculates driver requirements for each day, based upon the actual order requirements, while also facilitating unassigned driver scheduling.
Additionally, Integra Driver Management includes an optional hours-of-service rule set that can be user defined to highlight or limit the number of hours each driver can be in service within a given time period. Via its integration with Integra Dispatch, this new module can keep a running total of the hours that each driver has logged through dispatch and apply the appropriate rule set to insure conformance with the local or federal hours-of-service rules.
The system generates voice messages for each driver as the schedule is created. Drivers access their message via an 800 phone number and their PIN. Operators know which drivers checked their message and when.
Integra Driver Management uses the driver, location, time card, ticket history and vehicle master information within Integra Dispatch, which eliminates data replication, automates the initial set-up, and ensures that the scheduling system is always current with all of the other modules. No long-term contracts are required. A low monthly usage fee is based on actual number of drivers scheduled. A manual mode also is available for utilizing the software without web-site integration for telephony purposes.
Vehicle-mounted computers now offer significantly more than position information. Geo-locations, in conjunction with on-board vehicle sensors, offer the ability to accurately understand what the vehicle is doing during an entire delivery cycle. Knowing this as it happens allows managers to better dispatch their fleets and identify under-utilized assets. With this improved business intelligence, more deliveries can be made by fewer vehicles in the same amount of time.
Trimble Navigation's TrimFleet solution provides a comprehensive automatic vehicle tracking platform. Producers can see a significant return on investment through the combination of vehicle locations, automated real-time status tracking (allowing the driver to focus on safety and quality delivery), two-way communications between driver and dispatcher, and seamless integration with most major dispatch systems (allowing the dispatcher to use a single system for most tasks).
The TrimFleet solution includes enhancements designed to help producers maximize their fleet productivity, including a patented option to record real-time localized weather information at the start of every pour, and the ability to identify the best route from nearby plants to a mapped order for optimal dispatching. Also, the dispatch system interface has been improved, allowing messaging, map order entry, and map vehicle lookup directly from within certain dispatch systems, including those from Systech and Command Alkon. On the hardware side, the company is introducing an enhanced solid-state Water-Add meter, featuring a built-in display option and no moving parts, which accommodates high water pressures and temperatures for operation in any environment. Another new offering is the Hydraulic Pressure sensor that records drum transmission pressure at intervals throughout the delivery to aid in concrete quality monitoring.