Navigation systems in their earliest days were more like a second opinion from the passenger seat rather than expert turn-by-turn guidance. “In the beginning, people would follow our directions but still take control of the event — take full responsibility for getting to where they were going,” recalls Luke Wachtel, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Maptuit. “Now,” he notes, “people have become so used to following navigation system directions exactly that we have to provide much more detail and be much more precise. For instance, we have to note roundabouts and roads with more than one name for different sections. The fact that drivers are following our directions to the letter has forced us to become more accurate.”
Early navigation systems suffered from out-of-date and inadequate databases that did not, at least initially, take into account critical truck-specific details, such as bridge and overpass heights or weight and hazardous material restrictions. Trouble was almost easier to find than the destination.
“There were incidents,” Wachtel says. “In the old days, the only promise I could make to customers was that I wouldn't make that mistake again. The data was just so bad. Things have really changed.”
“In the trucking space, initially some drivers adopted consumer-based GPS systems, but they did not have any trucking-specific information [which was a huge problem],” observes Dan Titus, vice president of business development for ALK Technologies, founded in 1979. “Now drivers really rely on trucking-specific navigation systems for day-to-day use. Our solution has evolved to provide the driver with good information to make the job of driving a whole lot safer, easier and less stressful.”
BETTER AND BETTER
Increasingly, for many navigation system suppliers, that evolutionary process has come to mean integration, greatly enhanced functionality and the ability to customize navigation systems to meet special requirements. “We have a large number of integration partners who connect our navigation solution to their communications and fleet management solution,” says Titus, including Qualcomm, PeopleNet and Xata. “Qualcomm recently asked us to customize our system to integrate with their safety solution, which we did.”
Rand McNally and Navistar also recently announced an agreement to make Rand McNally's IntelliRoute TND Truck GPS units available as an in-dash option in certain Class 6-8 vehicles beginning in January of 2012. According to Navistar, the in-dash units will include several customized screens as well as a listing of International Truck dealers and locations.
Maptuit can likewise tick off a long list of integration partners and an expanding list of system functions. The new “Yard Shaper” function, for example, is unique to partner PeopleNet, says Wachtel. “Yard Shaper will show the driver, right on the map, which entrance to take at a given facility,” he says. “Fleets can also associate notes with this feature and those notes can be spoken to the driver.
“Shippers are grading carriers based upon their on-time delivery,” he adds. “[That means] how successful you are depends in part on the quality of your customer database, including address files [and related particulars]. Now fleets can clean that data and enhance it with ‘road modifiers’ that provide specific information about a given location. We are now beginning to mine all our different databases, from more than 400 customers, to create a comprehensive truck database of locations.
CLOSING THE LOOP
There is also a compliance product that will measure how far out of route a driver is and send an e-mail [to the fleet manager],” Wachtel continues. “Out-of-route is not just about theft of high-value cargo anymore, it is about not wasting time and fuel. Fleets also use out-of-route miles as another way to help evaluate drivers.”
Today, if there is a navigation problem or error, feedback from the driver goes immediately to Maptuit and its integration partner as well as to the fleet, and that is important since things are constantly changing out on the nation's highways. This feedback loop is something Wachtel calls ‘connected navigation.’
“We get paid per truck, per month,” he notes. “That is the reason for connected navigation. Feedback really comes to us; [helping drivers get to where they are going safely and on-time] is a community concept.”
According to a recent study by ABI Research, use of navigation systems globally will increase from three million in 2010 to 7.5 million in 2015, including navigation systems on mobile devices. “The market will see more deployment of mobile devices in the truck,” predicts Titus. “And we think navigation is a ‘killer application.’ We are expecting to see huge growth in the short term, [much of it driven by the pending EOBR mandate and by CSA].”
FINDING A NAV SYSTEM
For fleets that have yet to explore the benefits of onboard navigation systems, there have never been more options — with a wider range of pricing and functionality — from which to choose. Here are some key questions to ask if you are ready to begin shopping:
On what device(s) are you expecting to run your navigation system? On dash-mounted communication systems? Laptops? iPhones or iPads? Smartphones?
Do you plan to integrate navigation with other back-office or fleet management systems?
What additional functionality would be useful to your drivers and your business? Think about things like estimated time of arrival, out-of-route notification for driver managers, and right-to-the-dock directions, for instance.
Do you need the ability to customize your navigation system? How?
Are you also buying new trucks? If so, a proprietary navigation system supplied and installed by your truck OEM may be an option to consider.
Where to go for navigation systems
Lost when it comes to looking for the right navigation system for your fleet? Here are some suppliers offering truck-specific solutions:
Cobra Electronics: www.cobra.com
Navteq: (supplier of transportation data for navigation systems): www.navteq.com
Rand McNally: www.randmcnally.com
Siemens VDO: www.siemens.com
Tom Tom: www.tomtom.com