Mar 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By David A Kolman
More and More carriers, as part of their operating strategies, are using technology to help them drive down expenses. They are employing technology to generate consistent and reliable data for better managing of fuel cost; labor; equipment performance, maintenance and repair costs; and safety, which helps achieve improvements to the bottom line.
In general, five key areas should be addressed when optimizing temperature-controlled fleet operations: asset management and utilization, customer service, alerts, remote operations, and remote management. So says Tom Flies, senior vice president, product management, of XATA Corporation, an Eden Prairie, Minnesota business that specializes in on-demand fleet software to improve overall transportation operations.
Asset management and utilization allow continual monitoring of the status of refrigerated trailer fleets, Flies says. By monitoring and reporting on temperature status of refrigerated loads, this data can be relayed to customers to provide proof that their goods have been handled correctly.
Alerts provide the ability to notify individuals when the refrigeration system is not operating to normal standards, which could result in damage to the goods being transported.
Reefer monitoring devices, he goes on, can be used to remotely operate a reefer unit, allowing the starting, stopping, and setting of temperature levels, saving fleets from having unnecessary operation of reefer units, as well as saving on labor to manually start the units. And with these devices, data such as fault codes or maintenance requirements can be remotely managed, removing the need to have someone physically monitor the status of the reefer unit.
An integral element for accomplishing all this is automatic onboard recording devices (AOBRD), says Flies. They are also being used to improve operational productivity and fuel efficiency, for proactive vehicle maintenance, to provide feedback on driver and vehicle performance, to help with compliance and fuel tax reporting, and more.
“It's interesting these devices, originally designed for the express purpose of electronically capturing driver records of duty status, have been effectively used to save millions of dollars operationally,” he notes. “But when you think of all the separate elements of data that need to be gathered and synthesized to electronically capture a driver's log, as well as the technological advances in truck engines, such as the ECM (electronic control module), it's easier to understand how this is possible.”
AOBRDs come in two key types: tethered and untethered. When operating in a tethered environment, the onboard recording device operates as a standalone reefer management system, interacting directly with the reefer unit. In an untethered environment, the onboard recording device can work together with the reefer unit via an interface with a third-party reefer monitoring provider.
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