As a truck driver, I keep hearing more and more about the importance of getting “Last Mile Delivery” right. Also called the final mile delivery, Last Mile Delivery is the last destination of a shipment’s cycle in the supply chain.
This destination can be a local store, Wal-Mart or thanks to the e-commerce boom – can even be the customer’s home. With the recent (and continuous) rise in demand for e-commerce, last mile delivery presents both opportunities and hurdles for logistics, transportation businesses, and truck drivers..
While big rig drivers like us don’t typically, deliver to the end user or customer, I see a day coming soon where we might want to embrace this change, especially if we want to fend off the coming tide of automation.
So in order to get my readership up-to-speed, I wanted to discussing some of those latest opportunities and trends in Last Mile…
Made specifically with medium or large logistics outfits, but also applicable to companies in the Service and Towing field, Fleet Management Software (FMS) is almost a requirement in today’s trucking world in order to stay competitive. FMS helps logistics and shipping companies to maximize their fleet utilization through proactive tracking, routing and data reporting.
We looked back at some of the software available just 5 years ago and, suffice to say, newer FMS solutions in 2016 are truly exceptional thanks in part to better available technology and a healthy, competitive market. In this post, we’ll review 5 of the latest popular solutions employed today by top trucking and logistics companies.
Networkfleet is one of the more widespread fleet management software programs in use today. Thanks to Verizon’s vast network of satellites and wireless towers as a foundation to their patented telematics solution, it enables companies as close to real-time control over their fleets as anything else on the market today. While the dashboard interface is somewhat confusing it does cover all the functional needs with mileage monitoring, fuel use, emergency or down-time indicators and any diagnostics codes. Their maintenance scheduling application is interactive and does alert driver of the date and time of any maintenance check-up which is not found in most other applications.
Not known exactly for their customer care, we do take issue with Verizon’s lack of 24/7 technical support
A great solution for those on a budget, Prophesy Dispatch has been around since 2006 and costs about between $80 and $90 / month depending on a “Broker” or “Broker and Carrier” status (c. 2016). In that time they’ve developed a loyal base of customer thanks to an “everything’s there” application, including regulations management. While again, support is lacking to business hours, we’ve found that they do respond consistently with 24 hours and do have solid online training program in place for new users.
In addition to quick real-time monitoring of truck status, we found the dashboard to be highly intuitive. Any duplicate date seemed to carry over to other transactions(which is sorely needed in overseas transactions where duplicate documents are a miserable requirement), making BOL documentation a breeze. Overall a great value solution for both domestic and international truckload carriers, freight brokers, and also LTL carriers. Click here for the Prophesy Dispatch software costs and payment schedule.
Used in the trucked industry since the 2001, Quartix Fleet Tracking is a US specific web-based logistics tracking product that utilizes patented GPS tracking devices and telematics. Weighing only 2 ounces, the device is installed by Quartix and is used for routing optimization and fleet tracking and is sufficiently robust for long term use – they claim to have “redundancy” built into their servers and databases to limit downtime . Unfortunately, the software does not have, nor plans to have integrated dispatch capabilities, but for around $20 per month plus installation, what more can you ask for a real-time tracking software.Any fuel indicators tracking are based on logs or averages input by the management team or by the drivers and are not live.
Overall a great product for peanuts per month. Unfortunately for a the modular, fully integrated solution that most larger logistics companies would want, the lack of long term functionality will be a concern.
Telogis is a company that provides a software solution for managing your entire fleet of vehicles that goes far beyond simple GPS tracking. It is a web-based solution, one that can be scaled very easily to accommodate the growth of your business. It is also designed to integrate with any type of business, and can help with dispatching and also payroll. Regular maintenance of vehicles is also incorporated into the software, making sure that your fleet is always updated and repairs are made when necessary.
A common complaint of the service is the downtime experienced with the GPS tracking units. While Telogis will replace units free of charge, any downtime can costs much more than simply installation costs.
RTA is a small software company that offers a complete Fleet Management solution at a great price. As a scalable application RTA functions well with large organizations, and offers a suite of applications that can help you maintain high production and safety levels. It includes asset management, work order management, and can also help you manage your inventory. It is designed to help companies reduce overall liability, improve efficiency, and help reduce the cost of fuel usage.
Built on an older platform there are minor issues with redundancy in entry and it does not offer a dispatch module. However, the training is top-notch and the customer support is solid. As of 2016 they are on release 7.0 and are consistently updating their product to match customer requests.
All of these software solutions, whether they are on your computers at your place of business, or if they are utilized online, can help you run your business much more efficiently. They all come with a multitude of different options, all of which are designed to help you manage your fleet of vehicles while they are on the road, and also schedule regular maintenance so that you are never surprised by intermittent breakdowns which could cost your company money. Visit each of these websites to find out which one will actually work best for your business. The key to making sure that your fleet of vehicles is operating at optimal levels, and that your business is generating the most revenue, is to always use state-of-the-art fleet management software programs.
One of the big development pursuits in the tech field recently has been that of the “Driver-less” car. Many big tech companies and startups alike are envisioning a day where driver interactions with their vehicles are limited or non-existent. Most of the press around this technology has been about personal use, but it should come as no surprise that similar applications are being developed in the transportation and logistics industry as well. It’s no stretch to say that the ability to use automated trucks could completely revolutionize the shipping and logistics industries.
This could come at a heavy price for those working in the trucking industries that have based their life around driving and being on the road. In this post we’ll look into the possibilities of automating the transportation industry by using driverless trucks and just what does such a future look like.
Driver-less Trucks – The Race to Innovate
In any given year over 3 million commercial trucks carry nearly 10 Billion Tons of cargo in the United States alone. What if computers – which never get tired, distracted or drowsy – could operate these vehicles to shoulder some or all of the work so that their human counterparts could be better rested and utilized when they actually do need to drive the rig.In addition to better labor utilization, these driver-less vehicles are expected to have better fuel efficiency, maintenance and safety.
To this end, companies like Daimler, Nissan, Freightliner and Caterpillar are busy working on truck prototypes that don’t need a human to operate them. While they refer to the newer technology as “Driver Assist” these cars all rely upon computers, a number of different sensors, and sophisticated GPS systems that are not readily available to the public. Each of these companies is racing to be the first with a fully compliant working truck. As of 2016, there are a bevy of companies that have preliminary approvals to drive on US Highway, like Freightliner (see below), which has the tentative approval to operate these driverless trucks on the roads in Nevada, so long as a real-life human being is in the driver’s seat.
Assessing a Driverless Truck World
At first, driver-assist trucks will be priced, making it unlikely that smallerlogistics companies will be investing in them without some serious research. The current estimated prices could pay an entire fleet for several years, and don’t include the possible price of replacements if something were to go wrong. Replacements are a real possibility, when no-one knows if these new vehicles will even last, tests currently don’t go back more than a decade, and the wear and tear that transportation style travel would cause has not been evaluated. This means that most companies wouldn’t be likely to invest at first.
However, big name companies who run standard routes, are looking to get their times down, and who can get everything they need done with just a few vehicles will likely invest in these from the start. These will be the companies that take on the risks, that can mix automation in with normal routes, and that will do internal studies on the actual efficiency of these trucks. These companies will essentially open the door for others to make their own decisions in an informed manner.
Once these vehicles have been available for a few years, we feel the industry will likely shift, with more and more companies going towards partial automation, and human labor focusing on other parts of the shipping process. This change over will likely be gradual, and will open up a number of new mechanical and technology related positions within transportation companies.
Going Driverless – Rules and Regs
While the development of driverless trucks is well underway, current State and Federal laws and regulations have a long way to go before wide spread use on the road is possible. The NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) currently maintains five distinct classifications of autonomous vehicles:
Level 0 – No-Automation: Driver maintains complete control of the car or truck at all times
Level 1 – Function-specific Automation: Controls like brake-assist, kick in to aid the driver when sensing an emergency.
Level 2 – Combined Function Automation: This classification involves the full-automation of primary controls like steering and throttling, while giving control back to the driver at any time. Newer cars with “Lane Centering” technology enabled will automatically adjust steering to maintain the car in the center of the lane. The driver can easily take control of the functionality by simply using the steering wheel
Level 3 – Limited Driving Automation: At this level, a driver may grant full operational control to the vehicle under specific driving conditions (think normal highway driving), however under complicated driving scenarios like merging and city driving, the driver is expected to take over
Level 4 – Self-Driving Automation: A Level 4 classified vehicle will be one that will perform all driving automation with the expected input of destination from a driver or outside human entity. A driver can take control of the vehicle, but is not expected to during the course of the trip
Level 5 – Full Driving Automation, No Driver: This classification refers to a completely autonomous vehicle that is designed with no option for human interaction
Overall, driver-less trucks are the future, but, at least for now, they aren’t the doom and gloom bringer of the end of driver-based trucking that most people are worried about. More than likely, the technology will be used to assist drivers putting less stress on human workers, opening up new jobs, and ensuring better metrics, efficiency and lower costs.