In the first installation of our series, we examined some of the advantages of real time data collection and processing that are made possible by IoT and are applicable to a wide range of industries. If you missed that article, you can read it here. In this installation, we will be taking a more in depth look at some of the unique benefits of real time data collection in the transportation industry.
Watching the Herd
One of the simplest and most useful forms of real time data tracking is location tracking. Knowing exactly where every vehicle in your fleet is, at any given time, can be extremely useful information. A significant portion of productivity is wasted in many companies, simply because the fleet isn’t in communication with the warehouse. With real time GPS tracking, warehouse crews can know ahead of time when trucks are going to arrive, and use that information to prepare to load and unload vehicles without any unnecessary downtime.
Drivers can also be monitored to make sure that they’re following company guidelines, and not traveling at potentially dangerous speeds or driving for unsafe amounts of time. Having a detailed record of the truck’s location can also protect against false liability claims, and be used as a valuable training aid.
Keeping it Cool
Cold chain transportation in particular carries a lot of risks. Products must be kept in an often very narrow temperature range, and if cooling fails for any reason you can potentially loose millions of dollars worth of product. Worse yet, depending on the nature of the failure, drivers might not even discover a failure has occurred until it’s far too late.
This is a great use case for real time data collection. Sensors inside the truck can monitor product temperature and cooling system status in real time, and relay that information to central servers. If a product’s temperature should fall outside of normal range, management can be automatically and immediately notified, allowing them to take steps to insure the product is preserved - scheduling emergency repairs, rerouting to a nearby refrigerated warehouse, or transferring the cargo to another refrigerated truck. The immediate nature of real time data means that the information can be acted upon right away - and product saved before it’s too late.
Asleep at the Wheel
Idle time is a huge waste of resources. Even the most conservative estimates put the cost of idle time at $20 billion annually in gas costs alone. That doesn’t even factor in all the other costs of idling, such as residue buildup from incompletely combusted diesel, or mechanical wear on engine parts. And, with increasing political pressure to reduce carbon emissions, it’s likely that the transportation industry will be soon facing even stricter requirements and penalties for excessive greenhouse gas production.
Using real time IoT data collection, trucks that are idling excessively can be identified, and corrective action taken, immediately - even while trucks are deployed. This has a lot of benefits, not only in terms of gas and maintenance costs, but also in vehicle reliability. Emissions system faults, often contributed to by excessive idling, are one of the leading causes of breakdown - especially in newer model heavy vehicles. Fewer breakdowns means more reliable service, and that’s a big advantage to have.
Protecting the Goods
Real time data can also do a lot to secure your fleet. Knowing the location of all your vehicles is a good start, but it doesn’t end there. Real time data logging systems can detect changes in vehicle weight, unauthorized attempts to access cargo, and even sudden changes in speed that might indicate an accident. These logging systems can interface with other components of a fleet IoT system - for example, locks can be automatically locked and unlocked when a truck leaves or arrives at a designated loading bay, and potential accidents can be immediately reported to management for investigation.
All this helps keep liability down, and product loss minimal. And loss prevention is a serious concern, considering that cargo theft is responsible for an estimated $30 billion in losses annually in the USA alone, and that number is on the rise. While cargo theives have traditionally focused on high value goods like pharmaceuticals and consumer electronics, the FBI reports that the trend is shifting, with many gangs opting for soft targets such as high value foods and beverages. Once stolen, those products are often totally unrecoverable due to lack of serial numbers or heightened security protocols.
IoT solutions are ideal for preventing these types of thefts, as many useful security features can be integrated into the truck itself instead of the product. In addition, real time monitoring data can be incredibly useful in helping local law enforcement locate and apprehend attempted thieves, facilitating a more permanent solution to the problem.
Real time data can be useful in nearly every aspect of industry, and there’s no way we could cover all the benefits and potential applications within the transportation industry in just one article. If you haven’t read it yet, check out the first installment of our series on real time data - most of the information is also applicable to transportation companies. Stay tuned for part III of our series on real time data, which will focus on applications of real time data in the manufacturing industry.