The drive for efficiency in the transportation sector has never been more achievable than it is today, thanks to the rise of data gathered from in-vehicle sensors and GPS navigation and tracking systems. Understanding and reacting to this data in real-time is where opportunity lies, particularly for fleet management.

Data Analytics

The interpretation and analysis of data informs fleet logistics practices and can lead to significant operational efficiencies. The consulting group Accenture estimates that an analytics-informed fleet operations strategy can help to, on average, reduce fleet size by more than 15 percent, reduce maintenance costs by more than 10 percent and achieve fuel savings of more than 8 percent.

As a Canadian business looking to expand distribution, it seems obviously beneficial to start with the United States. The U.S. has over 283 million more citizens than Canada’s 35.2 million, making for abundant opportunity to increase profits and amplify your company’s growth after launching your product there. 

Canada ships an incredible amount of goods to the U.S. each year and in 2013 exports to the U.S. amounted to an incredible $332.1 billion. According to The Office of the United States Trade Representative, that’s a 77 percent increase since 2003. In a 2013 statement, Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada (FATDC) pointed out that the recovering economy in the United States helped to boost the overall demand for Canadian products, marking the fourth consecutive year that saw a significant increase of Canadian exports to the United States.

As the power and potential of new technological tools becomes increasingly evident, more companies are making a concerted effort to use those tools to enhance their supply chain processes.

When utilized correctly, the right technologies can streamline processes, introduce significant new efficiencies, and ultimately bolster the bottom line. An effective transportation technology system should have the capability to track large amounts of targeted data – from freight and fleet status and movements to carbon emission reductions – in order to provide both a high level overview of where supply chain resources are being spent, and a detailed breakdown of granular data that can help avoid or address specific pain points.

As most transport organizations know, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) will soon publish its final directive for the use of electronic logging devices, also known as the ELD mandate. Basically, an ELD is an electronic version of the paper logbook many over-the-road truck drivers currently use to record a driver’s record of duty status (RODS) and compliance with hours of service (HOS) requirements. Once the mandate is finalized, motor carrier fleets will have until 2017 to install certified ELDs. Fleets already using electronic logging technology of some kind will have until late 2019 to ensure all new specifications are incorporated into their existing technology solutions.

America is a transportation nation. Infrastructure is the foundation that connects businesses, communities, and people, driving our economy and our quality of life. Investments in infrastructure are essential to support healthy, vibrant communities and are critical to economic growth, employment, and global competiveness. America’s transportation infrastructure, therefore, is key to binding us together as a nation. As President Dwight Eisenhower observed, without the unifying force of transportation, “we would be a mere alliance of many separate parts.”

      Our transportation infrastructure is one of our most critical national assets. However, we are a nation at a crossroads. Today, our infrastructure systems are failing to keep pace with current and expanding needs, investment in infrastructure is faltering, and nearly half of all Americans lack access to transit services.

In order to increase their competitive advantage today, transportation and logistics providers must successfully address the diverse demands of a constantly-changing environment. For example, customers are demanding faster turnarounds, shorter lead times and up-to-the-minute order and shipment information. Yet despite significant increases in operational costs, especially labor, customers still expect unprecedented levels of flexibility and responsiveness. Clearly, the balance of power is tilted in favor of the customers, forcing transportation and logistics providers to continue to attempt to do more with less.

All of this adds up to a scenario where maximizing customer satisfaction and loyalty must be at the top of your list of business goals. One way to achieve these objectives is to focus on pursuing the “perfect order.”

As companies have begun to make more supply chain and purchasing activity digital, the data formats used to share that digital information have multiplied in kind. The advent of multiple format options brings flexibility and the power of choice, but it can also lead to additional cost, even in today’s world of transform engines and configurable system connectors.

To control the inevitable data format explosion, companies should strive to standardize their data formats by understanding the effort required to maintain integration of these various data feed formats, the feasibility of standardizing formats across various partners, and how standardization can be accomplished.

One way to take the railroad industry into the future is to look to its past. More specifically, to make use of the knowledge base of all those employees near retirement, or already retired, who can help train the next generation to be leaders in the industry.

With advances in technology, it’s easy to write off the older generation in favor of Millennials for whom computers and automated systems are just a part of life. But that’s a mistake. Technology can improve transportation, but only if it’s used as a tool to enhance productivity and not as a substitute for basic operating knowledge.

Let’s take the case of a trip I made recently with one of my company’s consultants who had 21 years of operating experience as an executive with a major rail carrier. Conditions appeared optimal for travel, yet trains were sitting for long periods of time for no apparent reason. The cause, according to experienced workers we talked to in the region? Dispatchers were making decisions from 1,000 miles away via video display, and many of them did not have direct everyday, in-field experience with the territories they were controlling. These dispatchers had the technology to make long-distance decisions, but not the field knowledge base to make optimal decisions.

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