FILE : NEW TECHNOLOGIES
GeoposItioning : tracking trucks
The truck is a vital link in the freight transportation supply chain. Thank to electronics, managing routes and container movement is on its way to new heights of efficiency.
At Robert Group, trips by empty trucks to the Port of Montreal are a bygone reality, and it makes a difference! Every year, 6,000 to 6,500 trucks from this partner of the Port of Montreal visit its berths.
Every morning, when drivers get into one of Robert Group’s 1,300 trucks, they check the waybill on the onboard computer. A container to pick up at the port and take to its final destination? It’s a given that the waybill also includes an empty container to take to its storage yard and bring back to the port. Robert Group has a 1 km by 1.6 km site where it can accommodate containers, destuff them and store the cargo in a distribution centre.
“Every container that has to be picked up or brought to the port is the subject of a work order that is entered into our planning system. The various routes are cross-tabulated, and that’s how we practically eliminate empty truck trips,” explained Manon l’Espérance, project manager in the IT strategy and performance department at Robert Group. At this pace, the efficiency of the transportation service is maximized.
The geolocation electronic management system enables clients to track the course their cargo is taking in real time on the company’s website, by entering their reference number. They know what time their cargo arrived in port, was loaded onto the truck, headed out, etc. All trucks are equipped with satellite communication tools and BlackBerry devices.
Located on Montreal’s south shore, the company is a pioneer that has equipped its trucks with an electronic tracking system since the mid-90s. No surprise, then, that it is about to upgrade its electronic management system following the recent completion of a six-month pilot project that proved to be very conclusive.
The new onboard computer will be more powerful. It will be able to send the driver the shortest routes, factoring in traffic and road repairs. The new computer will make it possible to use electronic signatures and print documents. In addition, the truck behaviour analysis system can tell the drive in real time what manoeuvres to correct. For example, it will show them how to change speed to save as much fuel as possible.
With the new computers, drivers will be able to take photos of the cargo. For example, if a client refuses goods because they are poorly stacked, the driver can take a photo and email it to customer service, which will contact the client on the spot to solve the problem while the truck is still there.
“Our objectives are to maintain a very high level of security, maximize fuel efficiency, reduce our environmental footprint, minimize trips and make them as profitable as possible,” summed up Manon L’Espérance.
All stakeholders in the supply chain win by being able to count on a reliable transportation service. It means they can promise shippers and consignees a firm transit time between the port and the final destination. At Robert Group, this theme is first and foremost, and it reflects the company’s commitment to exceed the expectations of its partner-clients.
At the Port of Vancouver, new technologies are among the tools that are maximizing the efficiency of container truck trips.
Container-dedicated facilities there are on track to achieve 80% capacity, the point at which efficiency tends to drop off because of a higher likelihood of congestion. “We had to maximize our management system of the 15,000 trucks at the port each week. To do that, we had to develop an overview,” explained Yoss Leclerc, captain and director of security operations at the Port of Vancouver.
Yoss Leclerc, capitaine et directeur des opérations et de la sécurité du Port de Vancouver.
Traditionally, terminal operators do their own planning, each independently. An overview would make it possible to harmonize and streamline the truck trips planned at each terminal. The ultimate goal is to eliminate empty truck trips and reduce wait times, delays and congestion as much as possible.
With this in mind, last year the Port of Vancouver launched a pilot project in which 300 trucks were equipped with GPS. The project was convincing and will be taken further, with 1,000 other trucks getting GPS-equipped in April 2013. This GPS is the basis for harmonizing operations at the different terminals.
a unifying get-together
Marine carriers, terminal operators, trucking companies and the Vancouver Port Authority sat down at the same table to sketch out this common information platform. At first, the terminal operators were not too keen on the idea, being accustomed to working on their own. But they quickly realized what an advantage it would be if dockside truck trips were better coordinated.
Through GPS, all truck trips on port authority territory are reported in detail. This provides a database that makes it possible to measure trips and identify problems quickly, accurately and specifically. “The big advantage of new technologies is that they let us measure factual data and, because of that, understand the source of problems,” said Leclerc. “As long as we can’t measure, we don’t know what we’re dealing with; we’re stuck with rumours and hearsay. We can’t solve a problem.”
Here’s an example of a simple solution thanks to tight data collection: terminal operators have set up a buffer zone to accommodate trucks whose terminal access is a problem due to an administrative or other issue. Formerly, these trucks either blocked the wait line at the terminal entrance or were sent to the end of the line once their problem was solved. The new buffer zone eliminated a cause of waiting that everyone found frustrating. In short, it only makes people happy!
“Our ultimate goal is to institute a model of sustainability, accountability, transparency and, above all, collaboration,” concluded Leclerc.