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Recently, American Trucking Association Chief Economist Bob Costello warned the trucking industry could be short by 50,000 drivers by the end of 2017, noting that if the trend continues, the industry will need to attract almost 900,000 new drivers within the next 10 years. A driver shortage is just the beginning of snowplow and other fleet worries in 2018. Fuel economy, volatile weather, and the overall condition of snowplows and trucks can all create headaches for both the drivers and their administrators.
The good news is telematics technology is being introduced that can not only help fleet managers save time, money, and trained drivers, but also deliver a significant return on investment. Below are four crucial areas a telematics solution can help snowplow businesses in 2018.
ATA’s research arm, the American Transportation Research Institute, recently updated its demographic data on drivers and found some 57% of drivers are 45 or older. Only 4.4% are 20-24 years old, noted Rebecca Brewster, president and COO of ATRI. These and other alarming stats mean fleet managers need to be looking to technology on the market to help new drivers get up and running quickly. One area that is showing promise is routing technology.
With routing technology, usually built into the telematics unit and administered by a backend portal, new and temporary drivers are instantly routed back to the point of deviation if they miss a turn or skip a street. With a high-need service like snowplows, a missed street or business driveway does not only lead to calls from agitated residents and business owners, but also unsafe driving conditions. By using a routing solution, snowplows can be sure they never miss a single, snowy road.
Fleets know only too well that bad weather can hamper everything from the movement of plows, to schedules, to the safety of drivers. One of the most intriguing areas of innovation can be found when plow companies use their telematics device to monitor deteriorating road conditions, hail and other weather hazards.
Routing technology can keep drivers on their planned routes, ensuring that all major and arterial streets are plowed to prevent snowy, icy, and slushy pavement from forming. In addition, Fleets can notify administrators in real time about abandoned vehicles, stuck cars, and/or other incidents that can occur when storms are more severe than originally expected. And finally, if a storm is growing more quickly and stronger than expected, administrators can use a telematics routing device to push additional or modified routes remotely, making sure all roads and driveways are covered and drivers are safe.
Frost & Sullivan reports that telematics devices are enabling fleets to reduce fuel costs by as much as 25%, with a 30% reduction in idle time. As a result many companies in the fleet space are looking to telematics for new and innovative ways to save money on fuel. For instance, the United Parcel Service (UPS), plans delivery routes with no left turns. Why? The company has learned that idling while waiting to turn left wastes fuel. While this may be difficult for every fleet company to implement, there are several ways plow companies can use telematics to reduce fuel costs. One easy way to save on fuel is to avoid sending drivers back out to the streets for a missed road. A feature in many solutions can direct the drivers back to the point they deviated from and re-route them back to the missed road.
On the back end, administrators can monitor each vehicle’s route completion status to ensure that routes are completed efficiently and can also pre-emptively re-route around known obstacles to optimize fuel use.
Perhaps one of the most daunting challenges for plow companies is a dreaded salt shortage. Who can forget the 2014 season where reduced salt led to thousands of complaints spanning the nation? While no one predicts a salt shortage this year, driving more efficiently with fleet navigation does allows drivers to distribute salt more effectively, reducing waste and increasing drive time.
If you currently have a routing solution in-house, it may be time to see if you’re using the technology to effectively reach each of the pain points I’ve outlined above. If you don’t currently have a telematics solution with routing technology, there’s no time like the present to get one installed in order to make 2018 your best season yet.