Meritor WABCO39s Stephen Hampson

Meritor WABCO's Stephen Hampson.

Trucking, technology, and transformation

Speakers say the industry will continue to be reshaped by telematics, safety systems.

The trucking industry is expected to undergo significant and continued “transformation” due to ongoing incorporation of more active safety technologies, such as collision mitigation, and factory-installed telematics systems, according to a panel discussion at the 2015 Commercial Vehicle Outlook Conference last week in Dallas, TX.

Stephen Hampson, president and GM of Meritor WABCO, and Chris Hines, executive VP for Zonar Systems, both argued that various technologies will not only continue to make the industry safer – reducing crashes and helping identify bad driving habits – but also help boost fleet profitability as well, particularly via increased vehicle uptime.

“We’re witnessing an evolution of safety systems that integrate multiple technologies such as lane departure warning (LDW), electronic stability control (ESC), telematics and data/video capture devices,” Hampson said.

“We’re also now starting to share data through vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) technology as well,” he added. “All of that will help improve vehicle and driver performance, not only to reduce crashes but to pave the way for semi-autonomous and fully autonomous vehicles as well.”

Reducing the severity of crashes – if not eliminating them altogether – is what will help fleets achieve payback from their safety system investments, Hampson stressed.

For example, he pointed to the projected benefits from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) impending ESC mandate for tractor-trailers.

Assuming that all existing 5-axle tractor-trailers operating on U.S. roads get fitted with ESC, the expected annual safety benefit is 4,659 fewer crashes, 126 fewer fatalities, and 5,909 fewer injuries, all while saving $1.5 billion a year in crash-related expenses.

Hampson also noted that the rapid changes occurring to newer safety technologies, such as Meritor WABCO’s OnGuard collision mitigation system, should further reduce accidents.

For instance, Hampson said Meritor’s current OnGuard package is estimated to reduce crash risk by 24% in tractor-trailers and 22% in straight trucks. Yet the next generation of the system is expected to reduce that risk by 44% and 43%, respectively, with future improvements expected to lower such risk by 57% and 55%, respectively, not far down the road.

Hampson noted that reducing such crash risk is part of the fleet’s payback calculations for such technology; calculations that include fuel efficiency gains, higher productivity, and resale value.

Yet achieving not only rapid payback but “ongoing” savings is integral to the future design path not only for safety technologies but telematics as well, argued Zonar’s Hines.

“Back in 1980, a truck cost $30,000 and truckers got around $1.50 per mile to haul freight,” he said. “Today, trucks cost $130,000, yet fleets still get around $1.50 a mile to haul freight. So technology is what’s going to allow trucking to be hypercompetitive in the freight market yet still make money.”

He believes technology and telematics still have “a lot of legs” in terms of the savings and profits they can deliver to trucking companies across a broad spectrum of services: onboard navigation, electronic logs, electronic vehicle inspection reports (EVIR), driver entertainment, remote diagnostics and especially more vehicle uptime.

“The key drivers of technology in this industry going forward are uptime, safety compliance, fuel efficiency, and operational savings,” Hines said. “Technology used to be ‘one size fits all’ when it came to addressing those drivers. Now it can be customized to more precisely fit the needs of carriers large or small.”

He also believes factory-installed telematics by truck manufacturers is going to make it easier for all fleets, regardless of size, to gain benefits.

“Of the fleets that are wired with telematics, they are only really using 20% of what’s available to them,” Hines said. “There’s a lot of potential out there that is as of yet untapped.”

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