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April 26, 2010 2:00 PM, EDT

Fleets Increase Interest in Technology to Help Them to Comply With CSA

By Daniel P. Bearth, Senior Features Writer

This story appears in the April 26 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

CINCINNATI — Concern about driver safety compliance is pushing the purchase of new technology to help fleet managers to see and respond to data on driver performance, manufacturers of the equipment said.

Vendors at the National Private Truck Council annual conference here said they are experiencing overwhelming demand for onboard communications devices and data analysis in response to new federal driver safety initiatives.

“We can’t keep up with the calls,” said Brian McLaughlin, chief operating officer of PeopleNet, which is based in Minnetonka, Minn.

McLaughlin said PeopleNet will offer a bundle of new applications, including speed and engine fault code monitoring, for its basic electronic onboard recorder to help fleets comply with CSA 2010, a new safety scoring system that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration intends to begin implementing this year. 

FMCSA also has proposed a rule that would require motor carriers with the poorest safety records to install onboard recorders to track the time drivers spend behind the wheel.

The ability to monitor driver performance will be a key to avoiding fines under the CSA 2010 safety regimen, McLaughlin said.

“Safety now is the impetus for the purchase of onboard technology,” he said.

PeopleNet also announced that it would cooperate with Maptuit Corp., Burlington, Mass., to provide drivers with better access to dispatch and routing data and with Advantage PressurePro, Harrisonville, Mo., to make it easier for fleet managers to see data on tire pressure by incorporating the data into its onboard computing system.

“Fleet managers want to know more about what drivers are doing,” said Charles Mohn, product marketing manager for Xata Corp. in Eden Prairie, Minn.

One new measure of driver performance is a program that compares a driver’s speed with posted speed limits across the country. SpeedGauge Inc. of San Francisco developed the program and has licensed it to a number of firms, including Xata, that provide onboard communications services.

Robert Reid, executive vice president of SpeedGauge Inc., said one large fleet dropped its speeding incidents by 40% within six months after the data became available. Another fleet reported a significant drop in maintenance costs as drivers slowed down.

Norman Ellis, vice president of sales, services and marketing for Qualcomm Enterprise Services,
San Diego, said the ability to integrate data from several sources will help fleet managers identify problems with specific drivers and take steps to prevent safety violations.

“Getting reams of data does not do any good,” Ellis said. “A driver manager needs to focus on the 5% of drivers that are a problem and not the whole fleet.”

Qualcomm also is working on parameters for a new in-motion user interface for its in-cab communications devices.

Ellis said research indicates that drivers might benefit by seeing simplified directions or data on hours of service rather than a blank screen when the truck is moving.

Qualcomm also announced that it was taking steps to integrate data from its onboard communications systems with transportation management software from CAMS Software Corp., New Westminster, British Columbia.

“This capability is very powerful for private fleet customers and enables them to better manage their drivers and streamline operations,” CAMS Software President Brian Taylor said in a statement.

Officials at Internet Truckstop, New Plymouth, Idaho, said they have received several hundred orders for a new mobile phone application called uDrove that allows drivers to keep a driver log, track mileage for tax purposes and record fuel and business expenses. The phone also can be used to record vehicle inspection results and digital images of invoices or damages to the vehicle or cargo.