IoT makes trucking safer for drivers, before potentially replacing them
Current long-haul trucking inefficiencies
We have all stopped at a rest station during a road trip and parked in the small gaps between the 18-wheel trucks filled with sleeping drivers. Those drivers are often tasked to drive cross country to deliver an order. Because of the risks associated with driving for long periods of time in potentially dangerous conditions, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has enacted regulations limiting the number of hours a long-haul trucking driver can work:
- 11-hour daily driving limit and 14-hour work day.
- The maximum average work week for truck drivers is 70 hours, a decrease from the previous maximum of 82 hours.
- Truck drivers who reach the maximum 70 hours of driving within a week can resume if they rest for 34 consecutive hours, including at least two nights when their body clock demands sleep the most, from 1 to 5 a.m.
- Requires truck drivers to take a 30-minute break during the first eight hours of a shift.
According to Truckinfo.net, trucking employs around 8.9 million people, and the total value of goods delivered or routed by trucks in the U.S. alone is more than $1 trillion, if you include truck trade with Canada and Mexico. And drivers are increasingly hard to come by. The American Trucking Association reported in 2014 that the shortage of truck drivers – especially long-haul, who are often required to spend weeks away from home – was 38,000 drivers. And shipping a full truckload from L.A. to New York costs around $4,500 today, with labor representing 75% of that cost, according to TechCrunch.
IoT-based systems have the potential to provide solutions for the inefficiencies brought on by regulations and a diminishing workforce.
What can truck drivers do with IoT?
The long-haul trucking industry can implement IoT systems in a number of ways to make things easier for both drivers and their shipping companies. Trucks can now use reliable two-way communication between the driver and the dispatcher to reduce costs and delays, and give greater visibility to shippers and trucking companies.
Here are a number of other use cases that can transform the long-haul trucking industry, according to Samsung:
- Measure real-time fuel efficiency, and how drivers operate their vehicles – do they brake too late, or waste diesel on lead-foot starts?
- Cloud-based fleet management systems can recommend the optimal speed for a route and how to get the most mileage out of each gallon of fuel.
- GPS-equipped systems track driver routes, time spent loading and unloading and help manage hours of service compliance. User-generated input via smartphones and tablets can help truckers route around construction or congested areas.
- Load turnarounds can be faster with freight and locations that are tagged with RFID, NFC or Bluetooth low energy devices.
- Drivers can use tablets for electronic vehicle inspection reports, get basic troubleshooting and service instruction, stay up to date with training and use them for entertainment and communication in their off-duty hours.
- IoT data can populate a central dashboard that focuses on identifying spare capacity on particular routes or destination pairs and analytics could recommend suggestions for consolidating and optimizing the route.
- Mobile apps allow managers and drivers to access reporting and management tools via smartphones and tablets. Managers can stay in touch while they’re on the go, with emergency alerts and dashboard reporting to stay on top of trends.
- Electronic Logging Devices synchronizes with a vehicle engine to automatically record driving time, for easier, more accurate hours of service (HOS) recording.
Making driving a better experience, or not one at all
Instrumenting drivers with sensors that track each driver’s vital signs and forwarding that data to a cloud-based platform via a cellular network could be another approach to improving safety in the trucking industry.
“Think of truck drivers going on long journeys,” said Jason Lynch, Analog Devices’ director of IoT strategy, to IoT Journal. “Tracking each driver’s movements and vital signs could offer fleet managers some insight into that individual’s health or level of fatigue.”
Otto, an autonomous truck company recently purchased by Uber, wants to get rid of the driver altogether. It made a kit used to retrofit semi-trucks for autonomous operation. The company believes trucking to be a logical place for autonomous vehicles to take root, given the high cost of the vehicles—around $150,000 apiece, according to Wired. This makes the kit’s $30,000 price tag more palatable—and the proposition of being able to have a “driver” take a nap in the truck’s cab once his or her shift ends.
Last year, Daimler demonstrated an autonomously operated 18-wheeler that it predicts could be deployed commercially within a decade. Otto is the first company to offer a retrofitting solution to fleets that have already invested in late-model trucks.