Jan 1, 2006 12:00 PM
Fuel prices rising by as much as 20% a year have spurred an increase in fuel theft, and waste, from commercial vehicles. This employee-related crime is now costing the United States trucking industry $2.1 billion a year, according to Jeff Schaengold of RF Commerce LLC.
The rate of fuel theft is accelerating as climbing fuel prices tempt more employees to steal fuel. Fuel waste also is a pronounced concern as transportation companies struggle to find a cost-effective answer to curb what is threatening their bottom line.
Latest figures from the American Trucking Associations (ATA) indicate that the US trucking industry will face a $72 billion fuel cost for 2005 — a $20 billion increase over 2004. In the past few months, fleets have reported these rising gas prices are crimping quarterly profits. “It's no wonder that coupled with rising cases of employee fuel theft because of overall rises in petroleum, the public sector is suffering as well,” said Schaengold.
Taxpayers foot the bill when public funds are used to compensate for misuse of state-purchased fuel — a double blow for the economy. But both government authorities and private firms are taking simple, affordable steps to stop the waste and theft of trucking fuel with cutting-edge RFID (radio frequency identification) technology to combat this problem.
When using RFID to monitor rolling assets such as trucks and company vehicles, fuel theft dramatically decreases. This saves the company, the taxpayer, and the US economy billions of dollars of resources and revenue.
“The greater the consumption of all grades of fuel in the United States, the higher the fuel pump price to consumer, the higher home heating oil will be this winter, and the rate of inflation in 2006,” said Schaengold.
Because RFID tracking is geared to monitor and communicate activities of trucks and operators, trucking companies can tailor each RFID product to suit their needs, without unnecessarily going over their current budgets.
Recent industry reports have shown an increased use of RFID in monitoring truck activity in construction and mining operations to ensure that loads are accounted accurately. This is occurring on refrigerated containers and trailers to monitor temperature and humidity, and RFID is also used in yard management systems to locate assets.
“The same sensor-based technology used in refineries and chemical facilities to measure and monitor flow of liquids is applied to monitoring truck fuel consumption,” said Schaengold. “RFID coupled with GPS provides real-time tracking of the truck movements as well as idle time when the engine consumes fuel instead of shutting down.”
RFID allows a fuel tank cap to be matched with an authorized fuel pump. If the operator opens the fuel cap and he is not within the proximity of an authorized fuel pump, the RFID transponder unit logs the event. The trucking company, through reporting and messaging, receives a record of the event and can challenge the operator's activity.
RFID-associated fuel pumps match drivers and trucks through closed-circuit TV images with the truck RFID transponder. Much like EZ-Pass, if the truck doesn't match the transponder, the trucking company is alerted.
Traffic jams waste fuel at high rates with no mobility value. RFID can route drivers away from congestion, saving both time and fuel costs. According to Schaengold, “RFID presents practical, manageable, and affordable solutions for the trucking industry because it works, and for a new technology, it's refreshingly based on solid, defined methods of tracking principles.”
Without RFID, fuel usage waste and theft is hard to manage and hard to prove. Not only does RFID offer a precise and trackable method, but it also offers a strong deterrent for fuel theft and unnecessary waste, while savings far outweigh the costs.
Management of truck operators requires quantification and real-time visibility. Managers need to know they can locate their drivers at any time, and find out what they are doing, precisely and efficiently. RFID does that, in a cost-effective and non-obstructive method that doesn't drain valuable company resources.
RFID enables tracking and monitoring of all types of trucking. It is more efficient than bar-code tracking, since RFID requires no manual scanning and no line of sight.
Because RFID works seamlessly within the trucking industry, and creates a mutually beneficial working environment, the savings and enhanced efficiency more than cover the cost of acquisition. With such a costly activity as fuel waste and theft reduced, RFID's cost-saving results will give companies the edge over trucking competitors and competing transportation modes.
The higher the price of fuel, the more value technology to reduce fuel consumption gains in importance. Again, the cost of fuel falls not only on private companies and the public sector, but also the consumers. Fuel is heading towards $3 a gallon, so trucking fuel costs — aside from those incurred through theft — are rising at double digits. Yet “RFID makes the task of fuel, operator, and rolling stock monitoring entirely manageable, without the need for companies to hire extra staff,” said Schaengold.
US trucking companies are using RFID with considerable results. RFID-enabled smart cards at the fuel pump are making fuel dispensing easier and quicker. It is estimated that by year 2007, companies not using RFID will lose up to $4 billion due to fuel waste and theft, if the adoption of RFID is not accelerated in 2005 and 2006.
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