Category Archives: Routing

More miles. More risk. Why better routing is a safety thing.

truck-driver-safetyYou don’t need to be told that the more time you spend on the road, the more likely you are to be involved in an accident. Even if you’re the most careful truck driver out there you unfortunately need to share it with a lot of unsafe drivers (you possibly have other words to describe them).

Unfortunately, as a professional driver you need to be on the road. You know well the saying that if the ‘wheels aren’t turning, you’re not earning’ but to avoid becoming a statistic there are some ways to mitigate the risks.

Safer trucks have helped but records show that truck occupant fatalities have increased from 0.16 per million miles in 2009 to 0.21 in 2014. Increased traffic on the roads have no doubt contributed to the increase.

While safe, defensive driving helps there are some clever ways to use new tech to make each trip safer – by making it shorter.

Driving less miles is better for everyone

When you’ve been driving the same route for a long time you probably think you already know the best route but when you’re driving an 80,000lb 18-wheeler you generally have a few more challenges finding the best route compared to the average motorist.

And when you run a fleet of trucks, across different routes with different pickup and delivery requirements you can easily be driving more miles than you have to. Aside from the reduced risk that come from minimizing mileage there are other benefits:

  • Reduced fuel spend – With average economy for a large truck around the 6 mpg mark it make sense to curtail your gas bill where you can.
  • Less wear and tear on the truck – You most likely paid over a quarter million for the truck and trailer; make sure you get your money’s worth.
  • Improved profitability for each job – If you’re driving more efficiently between jobs then you’re getting a better return – and spending less time doing it.

So what’s involved in finding the best route for every job? Here’s how a little bit of tech wizardry can help.

Finding the best route for big trucks

As you know, if you’re driving a big rig there are some restrictions on what routes you can take. Some municipalities may restrict vehicles over a certain weight or size. If you’re carrying hazardous materials there’ll also be roads you can’t take. Then there are the practical concerns such as having sufficient room to maneuver or crossing lines of traffic. The problem doesn’t stop just because you’ve arrived at the street address, in fact it can be significantly tougher as you navigate your truck through a tight parking lot or distribution yard.

This is when you realize that relying on something designed for consumers just isn’t suitable for commercial drivers. You need a fully featured commercial navigation solution that can consider all route restrictions to find the best one.

  • Legal routes – Route using only roads that are legal for the specific size, weight and load type of your truck.
  • Driver feedback – Routes updated frequently with feedback from over 150,000 professional drivers.
  • Right-side routing – Avoid having to cross lanes of traffic by making sure your destination is always on the same side as you’re traveling in.
  • Multiple-stop optimizationOptimize your delivery route based on the stops you need to make (see also customer time-windows).
  • Customer time-windows – If deliveries can only be made during a specific time window, you can specify this in the routing software.
  • Avoiding left turns or U-turns – Choose if you prefer to avoid making certain maneuvers, useful for areas with high congestion.
  • Traffic congestion – Avoid certain roads during periods of high traffic.
  • Road closures or detours – Update routing quickly to accommodate temporary road or lane closures.
  • Unique route hazards (blind corners, hidden exits etc.) – Add spoken notes that the navigation device can read out when approaching unique hazards along the way.
  • Narrow roads or low bridges/canopies – Using the dimensions of your vehicle, you can make sure that you avoid any structures your truck won’t get through.

Even when you’ve been driving for years it’s hard to figure out the optimum route when you need to factor in so many variables. Even just working out the best route when you have multiple stops soon gets into the millions of possibilities.

Safety starts with better routing

It’s not just reducing the number of miles (and thus your exposure to the risk of being in an accident) that better routing offers you – it’s also about helping you stay calm, confident and in control all the way to the final destination.

A Senior VP of Safety & Security at Schneider National has been quoted as saying that ‘a lost driver makes bad decisions and routes themselves into trouble.’ With reliable, accurate turn-by-turn navigation guiding you from start to finish, you can make sure there’s one less dangerous driver on the road.

Using location intelligence for better truck driver scheduling

Joe runs a delivery business for a beverage company. He has 12 drivers. He pays his drivers based on the number of cases they deliver, which varies between seasons. Between them they have 1000 cases to deliver in the low season, rising to 3000 during the peak months.

Joe has a problem. How does he keep all his drivers occupied evenly year round, while keeping operating costs to a minimum?

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Why GPS is so important when disaster hits

In light of several natural disasters that have happened around the world recently, it was timely that LA firefighters staged a high-rise emergency response drill, one of the largest ever conducted in California.

The Los Angeles Fire Department and disaster-planning firm Massey Enterprises spent a year preparing for the drill, which involved nearly 100 people. It took place at the Century Plaza Tower North and a fake earthquake had started fake fires on the 33rd floor of the building. The mission was on safely rescuing the occupants on that floor, since studies have shown that often fatalities result from people being trapped in tall buildings, unable to escape the flames.

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Why avoiding left turns is saving fleets money

no-left-turn-fuel-savingsHow could something as seemingly innocuous as a left turn be costing fleets money? And how can fleets make significant savings by avoiding left turns and making this simple for drivers?

For many of us a left turn may be a routine, forgettable affair. But if you drive a CMV, particularly a large, articulated truck, you’ll be all too familiar with the headache induced by a torturous left turn in busy traffic.

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5 Most Dangerous Truck Driver Jobs

truck-driving-iraq

Truck driving in Iraq is hot work

Truck drivers don’t always have it easy. It’s not all idle chat on the CB and mountains of fried eggs at every truck stop. Often the job is hard work and both physically and mentally challenging. Long days, congested traffic, rude motorists and the constant stress of keeping you and your 30,000 lbs of metal and cargo out of harm’s way can make for a rough day at the office.

But like any job some truck driver jobs are tougher than the rest. Here are five that can make a truck driver sweat just reading about them.

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Seasonal road restrictions for truck weights

Truck drivers face a confusing array of road restrictions that they need to be aware of to avoid penalties, fines or even losing their licence. Road restrictions can be anything from weight or height limits to hazardous materials or seasonal weight restrictions.

We’ve discussed before how truck drivers can make their life a lot easier (and less chance of getting on the wrong side of the law) by using a GPS system that can follow relevant road restrictions.

But how about considering a specific example of a road restriction, such as seasonal weight limits?

Seasonal weights make for complex road restrictions

Many states, such as Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota, have implemented seasonal weight restrictions to minimize damage to highways. The basic reason behind this is due to the dramatic temperature fluctuations that occur in these states at certain times of the year thus affecting the road’s strength to support heavy vehicles.

For example, during the period from December 1 to May 1 of every year, state highways in Wisconsin withstand an extreme range of moisture and temperature conditions from -30 degrees Fahrenheit to +70 degrees Fahrenheit. This makes them far more vulnerable to cracking or potholing from heavy vehicles.

From the chart below you can see that there are different times of the year and different areas where weight restrictions are enforced. This is just one example of road restrictions but emphasizes how important it is for drivers to try and automate these route limitations as much as possible.

You can learn more about how a truck GPS can be set to observe road restrictions and route a heavy commercial vehicle in safe and legal way.

Seasonal weights mean making thorough pre-trip checks

Of course it impacts on more than just navigation since, in some instances, it’s not sufficient to just re-route the truck due to a lack of alternative roads. The load will just need to be redistributed to make sure it complies with the relevant weight restrictions.

An overloaded truck is not just a safety hazard; it can mean heavy fines (no pun intended) and even loss of licence. This is not good for the driver or the firm.

How can fleet managers make sure their drivers are thoroughly checking their vehicles before embarking on a journey?

One method that has been very successful is using a feature found in Telogis Mobile™ that requires drivers complete a pre-trip inspection report and confirm it via their on-board GPS device (or PND).

Setup a vehicle safety checklist in Telogis Mobile to check for things like DOT compliance as well as other requirements such as seasonal weighting before starting on a journey.

Having the checklist makes sure that vehicles are safe and legal, covering a range of pre-trip inspections including FMCSA requirements such as brake lines, lighting, suspension, and many other categories.

Keeping the load to a minimum

Driving can be a taxing job so it’s best for everyone when much of the compliance workload can be kept to a minimum with smart GPS tracking software that not only navigates around road restrictions but keeps drivers and vehicles safe with built-in pre and post-trip inspection reports.

Truck route GPS

When it comes to GPS for truckers, one feature is probably a whole lot more important than the rest – truck routes. Knowing that their portable GPS unit can navigate their vehicle safely and legally along designated truck routes gives drivers great peace of mind.

What are some aspects of an advanced GPS that provides reliable truck routes?

  • Weight restrictions – Trucks are often a lot heavier than normal vehicles and are thus blocked from using certain routes, to avoid damaging the roads or disturbing a quiet zone. Trucks that ignore these restrictions run the risk of fines, loss of licence or even their truck (not to mention vigilante action from residents!).
  • Height restrictions – Watch out for bridges. This is a far more common problem than you might think. In one report, 1,400 bridge collisions were recorded in the New York State alone over a 15 year period. It seems they were mostly attributed (81%) to truckers using non-commercial or outdated GPS systems that failed to advise them of overpasses that were not high enough for their vehicle. It’s probably timely to reiterate the number one rule of using GPS navigation and that’s ‘never switch off your brain’!
  • No U turns – Due to the size of your vehicle and the volume of traffic, U turns may present a safety hazard for certain vehicles.
  • Hazardous material – Hazmat restrictions are particularly critical when it comes to safe and legal trucking. Restrictions may include such things as making sure trucks avoid driving near waterways if carrying toxic waste. Trucking companies can face huge fines if hazmat restrictions are ignored or violated.

Obviously navigating a larger vehicle presents a lot more challenges for the driver than your average automobile. It’s no wonder then that road restrictions and finding a reliable GPS that can follow the right truck route are so important to drivers and fleet managers. So how can drivers make sure they are using the right tools to keep them out of trouble and on the right side of the law, and their bosses?

It starts with knowing what gear is out there and what it should be able to do. To make sure you’re GPS is complying with truck road restrictions, review a few things you need to look for in a PND that’s suitable for larger vehicles and trucks.

Smart routing with custom map layers

Aside from a state’s road restrictions that may legally require a driver to take a certain route because of the size, weight or cargo of the truck, there are also some situations where it may be advantageous to route a truck along a particular path, or to a specific destination to the meter.

What are some situations where custom map data can provide superior GPS routing?

One example may be a supply chain where trucks have specific loading or unloading zones. Imagine a truck driver making a drop-off to a large warehouse that accepts hundreds of deliveries every day? They may have several delivery points and a truck driver may have to waste time finding out from staff where exactly to deliver. Using a custom map overlaid on a driver’s GPS device (or PND) routing can direct a truck straight to the specific drop-off point saving time, improving customer service and helping drivers be more productive and less stressed. That’s what we call in the business, a win-win situation.

If you’re a fleet manager who wants the best for his fleet and his customers then we’d have to put a plug in for Telogis Fleet. It’s a comprehensive GPS fleet tracking solution that is preferred by some of the largest fleets in America. They may not be the cheapest but they’re the best, and in the long run that’s always the smart choice.

Is your fleet optimized? The 3-point checklist

To optimize something means to make as effective, perfect or useful as possible. There are plenty of things we can optimize. We can optimize our workout at the gym, developing a routine that maximizes whatever time we have there. We can optimize our waiting time, always keeping some activity with us that we can do when we’re forced to wait. In a lot of software programs you will find an option to optimize, which will make adjustments to the data to make sure it is running as effectively and efficiently as possible.

But what about your driving? Or the driving of your employees? Have you optimized that?

Most trucks these days are equipped with GPS but is it being used to its full potential?
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Truckers using GPS to avoid fuel mix-ups

When a driver is required to get from A to B it sounds straightforward. But as most truck drivers know it’s not always that simple.

A to B might include stops at C and D along the way. Destination B might not be clearly defined or the exact arrival location might not be fully known. And when it’s critical that a driver arrives at the correct destination, it becomes even more important that the route a vehicle takes is clearly marked and mapped out.

The challenges of delivering fuel and fertilizer

One example of critical delivery is Redfern Farm Services, a Canadian crop business that services local farms with fertilizer and fuel needs. There are a couple of reasons that knowing exactly where a delivery is to be made and what the delivery is to avoid problems.

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How can truckers deal with road restrictions?

oversized-load-road-restrictionsAll roads are not always an option for trucks. Some roads have may have weight restrictions. Some may pass under bridges or other objects thus creating height restrictions. Others may be too narrow or too busy at certain times of the day and restrict larger vehicles from using them.

For truck drivers using GPS they need to make sure their navigation system knows about these restrictions and can route them accordingly.

Unfortunately a truck driver can’t blame his GPS for getting ticketed on a restricted road.

So how does a GPS system route to a destination taking relevant restrictions into account? There are a few factors involved to make this happen:

  • The PND needs be programmed to store road restrictions as well as receive updates (for new or changed restrictions). In most cases this requires the device to be able to store and display custom map layers. It also helps if the device is connected to a GPRS data service that can feed updated road restrictions.
  • The PND needs to know the truck’s attributes (e.g. current weight, height, width, length and cargo) so it knows which road restrictions apply. The device’s software should be able to allow the driver to enter this information in directly.
  • Whether the driver is able to make left-hand turn, U-turns or use toll-ways (while these parameters may not strictly be road restrictions, a truck driver may prefer to avoid having to make certain maneuvers or pay toll fees. For example, PNDs running Telogis Mobile allows some of these settings to be made on a per-user basis.

How does a GPS device know what roads are restricted?

One way that a GPS device can know about road restrictions is by allowing a custom map overlay to be loaded on to the device.

Custom map data, or GIS layers, are visual geospatial databases that contain information relating to points on a map. They generally follow a standard format, such as raster or vector.

This overlay is used, along with the truck’s attributes, to determine if a particular road can be used or not. If it is restricted, the routing program will find an alternative route to take that complies with all the relevant restrictions.

What are the benefits of using a GPS device with road restrictions?

Primarily the advantage of using a GPS device that includes road restrictions is that it improves the safety levels of both the driver and the general public. To keep commercial trucks off certain roads is vital, particularly if a hazmat load is being transported or the truck’s size poses a danger to other road users.

Because a GPS device is correctly routing based on road restrictions, drivers are also less distracted, allowing them to concentrate on the road ahead and driving safely.

Improving safety has other benefits, such as reducing the liability risk your fleet faces should anything go wrong. If a truck is on a road that it shouldn’t be and there’s an accident, insurance may not pay out.

There are financial benefits as well, such as avoiding infringements for taking restricted roads and taking inefficient routes when a driver realizes they’re unable to turn into a street.

With a GPS device keeping an eye on the road restrictions, it means drivers can do what they do best and drive with their eyes on the road.