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AVOIDING ERROR IN THE BILL OF LADING LIFECYCLE

lading

AVOIDING ERROR IN THE BILL OF LADING LIFECYCLE

There is constant chatter surrounding gaps within the supply chain–from driver shortages to lack of technology adoption. While solutions to these problems may seem simple enough, many fail to realize the multiple moving parts of a supply chain that would need to adopt these solutions.

Just this year, the Port of Los Angeles became the first port in the Western Hemisphere to process 10 million container units in a 12-month period. “Over the past 12 months, port terminals have worked an average of 15 container ships each day, up from a pre-pandemic average of 10 ships a day, representing a significant increase in productivity,” the Port of L.A. reports. With America’s busiest port breaking records for annual volume, it sets a new standard for the industry.

With a new record of goods being shipped, this introduces a magnitude of opportunities for error. Perhaps one of the most common is in the bill of lading (BOL) lifecycle. A BOL serves as a contract between an original equipment manufacturer (OEM), the shipper and the carrier–acting as a legal document to protect all parties involved.

From the time an item is developed overseas to the time it takes to reach an end consumer, that product and BOL have switched hands multiple times. There’s the OEM, the carriers, port staff, freighter’s crew, other port’s employees, the carrier again, a potential distributor, more carriers and then finally the retail store, where the end consumer can purchase the product. With products being mass shipped and divided at ports or distribution centers, this leaves room for error when it comes to BOL accuracy.

Because of this, an electronic bill of lading tool (eBOL) can help create a valid, blockchain-like record of a product’s journey–from origination to end consumer–resulting in less human error, faster turnaround times and reduced inflation costs.

What can go wrong with the BOL? 

According to a recent study, the top challenges in supply chain management were recorded to be visibility (28%), fluctuating consumer demand (19.7%) and inventory management (13.2%). Consider the effects of COVID-19 this past year, and these areas have since then largely increased. In fact, the global e-commerce market is expected to total $4.89 trillion this year, and keep growing over the next five years. 

With rising demand, the BOL is essential in the supply chain lifecycle to ensure accuracy and transparency throughout. This means facilitating collaboration, standardization, digitization and automation across all supply chain parts.

With the BOL serving as proof that the shipper has given permission to haul goods, the traditional paper copy leaves room for human error. For example, during a pickup or delivery, the driver is recording the product, quantity, whether it’s cold storage or not and the final destination of a shipment. Next, the clerk would sign the paperwork and the driver would be on their way. After that, the BOL paperwork would need to be faxed in, but consider the driver’s route. A driver might be gone for a week or two (even more) before the BOLs would be able to be turned in. And it doesn’t stop there–once the driver’s packet of BOLs makes it back to headquarters, the office then needs to process them manually and store the physical copy for years for auditing purposes.

The long turnaround time simply sets companies back. Additionally, if a driver recorded the wrong product name or number, this could result in a product having to be returned, costing companies time and money.

How can an eBOL platform help?

An eBOL is not a new concept within the supply chain, but due to the amount of moving parts and interoperability challenges, it hasn’t reached wide-scale adoption. However, due to the visibility, inventory and growing capacity as well as safety challenges, companies are starting to include eBOL and digital pickup and deliveries as part of their supply chain digital transformation initiatives. An eBOL tool creates streamlined workflows for all supply chain parties, resulting in more efficient shipments and greater transparency. 

As discussed, traditional paper BOLs leave room for human error and improper documentation in addition to lengthy turnaround times. By eliminating paperwork and manual processes, an eBOL can instantly capture key information and significantly cut down on dwell times. In fact, companies who have used an eBOL tool saw a significant decrease in driver dwell times–from 66 minutes on average down to 23 minutes.

Going beyond paperwork, an eBOL tool has the ability to boost collaboration by supporting just-in-time manufacturing and replenishment planning. This provides visibility that allows logistics partners to make faster decisions in case freight needs to be re-routed to different plants, distribution centers and stores to meet customer demands. Overall, the entire supply chain becomes more agile. 

Additionally, given the current environment of COVID-19 cases spiking and taking into consideration the delta variant, eBOL tools are effective in reducing health and safety risks for drivers and yard workers by minimizing paper and physical interactions. Now that information can be accurately tracked and shared through a contactless option, this makes the process self-service for drivers and eliminates the need for in-person check-ins. 

What effect does an eBOL tool have on the end consumer? 

It all starts with capacity. Driver shortage is not a new concept in the supply chain and logistics industry. Currently, the supply chain is stressed with a heavy demand and not enough capacity due to driver shortages, which can drive up shipping costs that translate to the end consumer. 

However, if drivers across the supply chain spend less dwell time at facilities, that time can be spent making an additional stop. One more delivery added to a driver’s route could help create more capacity and stabilize shipping prices that has the potential to trickle down savings to consumer products.

In addition to strengthening supply chains, companies across the country are trying to find ways to keep inflation from rising. Using an eBOL tool turns those in-person interactions at facilities into quick, digital processes, streamlining the delivery and pickup process. By getting drivers in and out of facilities faster, companies can improve capacity challenges by enabling drivers to add another stop to their days, which will hopefully reduce shipping costs and benefit consumers in the long run. 

________________________________________________________________________

Brian Belcher is the COO and co-founder of Vector, a contactless pickup and delivery platform that ensures supply chain partners get the right load to the right place at the right time. Prior to Vector, Belcher led Customer Success at Addepar, a wealth management platform, which manages more than $2 trillion in client assets. Before joining Addepar, Belcher co-founded Computodos, a socially-minded supply chain solution that helps source, transport and distribute recycled computers to developing countries. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Santa Clara University. 

DOT inspections

What Fleet Managers Should Know About DOT Inspections

Operating a trucking company typically means covering a lot of variables, from vehicle depreciation and traffic jams to driver sick days, broken-down equipment, conflicts with business partners and everything in between.

One thing fleet managers definitely cannot afford to overlook in this list of responsibilities is the importance of DOT inspections. What do fleet managers need to know about DOT inspections, and how can they prepare for the next one before it arrives?

What Are DOT Inspections?

First, what are DOT inspections, and why are they so important?

State troopers or other enforcers, working under the authority of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) carry out surprise roadside inspections to ensure both truck and driver are in good working order.

The goal of these inspections is to keep truckers and other motor vehicle operators safe on the road. An inspector is tasked with determining whether a truck and its driver are following all of the applicable rules and regulations designed to prevent oversights and accidents.

The Six Levels of DOT Inspection

There are six levels of DOT inspection a truck and its operator may be subject to. Which one is carried out depends largely on the whims of the inspector. Drivers will never know what level of inspection to expect until they’re stopped, so it’s essential to be familiar with all six.

Level 1

Level 1 inspections are as comprehensive as they are commonly performed. There are 37 steps to complete for a Level 1 inspection, assessing both the driver and the vehicle as well as addressing the presence of any illegal cargo.

All of the truck’s systems will be inspected, from the brakes and electrical to the steering, seatbelts, and everything in between. The driver will also be assessed to determine whether they’re under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Level 2

Level 2 inspections are nearly as thorough as Level 1, though inspectors are not required to go underneath the vehicle to ascertain its condition. The driver assessment to look for the presence of drugs and alcohol remains the same, however.

Level 3

Level 3 DOT inspections focus solely on the driver. The inspector will review all pertinent paperwork, such as driver’s license, medical examiner’s certificates, and skill performance evaluations, to determine whether the driver is in compliance with all applicable FMCSA regulations.

As with the first two levels, the driver will also be assessed to determine if they are under the influence of alcohol or another controlled substance.

Level 4

Level 4 inspections are not as common as some of the others, since they’re used for one-time examinations. They’re useful for tracking violation trends or other data, and they often don’t take up a lot of time for either the driver or the inspector.

Level 5

Level 5 inspections are the same as Level 1 inspections with one major caveat: the truck is the only thing being inspected. The driver does not even have to be present for this level of inspection, which frees them up to perform other tasks while their vehicle is being inspected.

Level 6

Level 6 inspections are only necessary for vehicles tasked with hauling radioactive materials. The Enhanced NAS Inspection for Radioactive Shipments is the same as the standard Level 1 inspection, but it pays special attention to any radiological emissions.

Once the truck and driver have passed inspection, the truck is marked with a clearly visible nuclear symbol that is removed once the delivery reaches its destination.

Preparing Vehicles for a DOT Inspection

Getting ready for a DOT inspection is a two-fold proposition: it involves preparing both the vehicle and the driver. First, let’s take a closer look at getting fleet vehicles ready for inspections.

By far the easiest way to pass a DOT inspection is to be prepared. This can entail but is not limited to keeping the vehicle in tip-top shape, keeping it clean, and ensuring all required and recommended maintenance is carried out in a timely manner. Understand the systems that will be inspected and address any problems promptly.

Fleet managers may wish to seek out a DOT Inspection Certification as well. While this will not prevent an inspection from occurring if there is an obvious violation to address, it can help streamline the process a little bit in some situations.

Keeping the vehicle clean may not be a requirement for DOT inspections, but it can ensure the inspector is focusing on the details of the inspection rather than becoming vexed because of the state of the truck.

Preparing Drivers for a DOT Inspection

Drivers are the other part of the equation when it comes to successfully preparing for a DOT inspection.

Driver inspections tend to require a lot of paperwork. Inspectors will go over everything from the driver’s commercial licensing, to their medical card, waivers, daily logs, and hours of service. They will also assess the drivers to see if they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and will verify any HAZMAT requirements.

Start by ensuring all of the driver’s paperwork is up to date. Then keep a copy of all the necessary paperwork in a folder in the cab — as well as backups located elsewhere in case something happens to the originals. A lot of this information, such as the daily logs and hours of service, can sometimes be accessed digitally, depending on how the fleet is set up. Fleets that haven’t switched to digital data collection for hours of service and daily logs may wish to consider doing so to speed up the inspection process.

Make sure your drivers are always polite and professional when dealing with inspectors. It’s always a good idea to treat these individuals with professional courtesy, even and perhaps especially if they’re flagging a violation.

Don’t Fail an Inspection by Lacking Preparation

DOT inspections might be a hassle, but they are an unavoidable part of operating a trucking fleet. The easiest way to fail one of these inspections is to go into them entirely unprepared. As long as the fleet is operating properly, all violations are addressed as quickly as possible, and drivers and fleet managers are working to keep themselves and other drivers safe, then passing these inspections with flying colors should be easy.

They say that failing to plan is planning to fail, and that is a rule to live by when it comes to preparing for DOT inspections.

trucking

Promoting Healthy Lifestyle Choices in the Trucking Industry

Most discussions on trucker safety focus on driving habits and other vehicle-related actions. While these factors are undoubtedly critical to ensuring truck drivers stay safe, the industry should also consider some less obvious issues. Driver health receives less attention, and that should change.

More than 50% of truck drivers are obese, compared to 26.7% of all U.S. adults. Similarly, diabetes is 50% more common in truckers than in the general population, and 54% of truckers smoke, compared to just 21% overall. These health issues can put drivers at greater risk of disease, increase their medical bills, hinder their quality of life and even endanger their lives.


 

Many of these health trends result from the industry’s long hours, little flexibility and limited options. Consequently, the trucking industry must change to promote healthier lifestyles. Here’s how it can do so.

1. Provide Health Information Resources

The first way the industry can fight unhealthy lifestyle choices is with information. Many drivers may be unaware of how to make healthier choices, and there are limited resources available to teach them. Truckers report that 70% of trucking companies and 81% of truck stops have no health promotion programs.

Studies suggest that providing more information could help promote healthier lifestyles. While 96% of American adults want their food choices to deliver health benefits, only 45% can accurately name the ones that can. Health coaching programs can help address that latter figure, providing a way forward for truckers.

Trucking companies and truck stops should offer resources to teach truckers how to improve their eating, exercise and other health habits. Information alone won’t solve the sector’s health issues, but it provides a starting point. Without it, becoming healthier is far more challenging.

2. Make Schedules More Flexible

One of the reasons so many truckers face health issues is because of their schedules. Since truckers work long hours, they may not have the time to exercise regularly. Even though it’s possible to work out in 10 minutes, drivers may be too tired after a long day on the road.

More flexible schedules would help give drivers the time they need to become more physically active. When that’s not possible, another solution is to send them on the road in pairs. While one drives, the other can relax or sleep, helping them feel less tired when they stop and encouraging more physical activity.

Having drivers travel in pairs will also boost trucker health by improving their sleep schedules. Sleep deficiency can increase the risk of obesity, heart disease, stroke and more. Truck drivers can prevent these risks by taking more time for shuteye.

3. Offer Access to Exercise Programs as a Benefit

Another obstacle drivers face in trying to live healthier is a lack of access to necessary resources. Truckers may not know of any available exercise programs or how to get started, and even if they do, they may be expensive. Trucking companies can encourage exercise by providing these programs as a job benefit.

Drivers who stay with the company for a given amount of time could get a free gym membership as a perk. More truckers may be willing to try programs they don’t need to pay for. Offering these benefits company-wide can also provide a social reason for going, as truckers will be in the gym with peers and co-workers.

Trucking companies can try to make these options more enticing by offering various options. For example, boxing can burn up to 800 calories in an hour and may interest drivers more than an ordinary gym. Providing fun ways to exercise like this may encourage more participation.

4. Reward Healthy Behavior

Similarly, trucking companies can encourage healthier lifestyle choices by rewarding them. A sense of competition, or even just the thought of a prize, can convince drivers who may not otherwise be interested in health programs. Companies can create a tier system where drivers who meet different goals receive increasing awards.

For example, a company could offer monetary bonuses, days off or gift cards for completing different weight loss tiers. These programs don’t have to last year-round, but holding them regularly can encourage ongoing healthier choices. After living this way for a month or two, drivers may want to adopt those behaviors permanently.

While these initiatives can create a spirit of competition, companies shouldn’t lean into the competitive side too much. Rewards should be based on completing goals, not outperforming others. Otherwise, these programs could have the opposite effect than intended, discouraging some employees from participating.

5. Promote Convenient Care Clinics

There are more than 40,000 medical providers that conduct Department of Transportation and CDL medical exams. Many of these locations are also convenient care clinics, which can be a useful health resource for drivers. Trucking companies should promote them so drivers know where they can find information about their health.

Convenient care clinics can assess truckers’ health, provide any needed care and help them develop a roadmap for healthier living. Having easy, affordable access to this care can significantly affect driver health, but they have to know about them first.

Trucking companies should inform new hires about these clinics and continue to promote them through newsletters, emails and signage. The more companies talk about them, the more likely drivers are to check them out.

6. Work With Truck Stops to Improve Offerings

Truck stops play a critical role in the health and lifestyle of truckers. Since drivers spend much of their downtime at these locations, that’s where they make many crucial health choices. They’re also notoriously insufficient when it comes to healthy offerings, so trucking companies should work with them to improve.

One study found that not one surveyed stop offered exercise facilities, and 81% didn’t even have a walking path. Most also only had a few healthy food offerings, with 25% lacking them entirely. If these areas had more options, trucker health would likely improve.

Trucking companies can see if they can partner with these stops to offer better choices. Funding exercise facilities or healthier food options will go a long way.

Trucker Health Must Improve

Healthier truckers will spend less on medical bills, have a higher quality of life and live longer. While health may be a matter of personal choices, trucking companies can help improve the safety of their employees by promoting better options.

As it currently stands, the trucking industry faces something of a health crisis. If more companies follow these steps, they can make the profession an altogether healthier one.

truckers

Let’s Hear It for Truckers.

Given the industry’s shortage of truckers, and the mess that has created along the supply chain, mid-September’s National Truck Driver Appreciation Week took on added meaning this year.

Palmetto, Florida’s Port Manatee treated more than 200 truckers to lunches and jam-packed goody bags on Sept. 17, the final day of the weeklong celebration.

“Port Manatee is truly blessed to be served by these devoted professional drivers,” said Reggie Bellamy, chairman of the Manatee County Port Authority. “Especially in these challenging times, truckers have gone above and beyond in demonstrating their commitment to keeping the supply chain running smoothly.

A. Duie Pyle, a premier provider of asset and non-asset-based supply chain solutions, on Sept. 13 recognized 25 of its less-than-truckload (LTL) drivers for achieving the Million Mile Safe Driver milestone in 2020. Overall, the West Chester, Pennsylvania-based company has had 171 One Million Mile Drivers, 23 Two Million Mile Drivers, and two Three Million Mile Drivers.

“These drivers are true professionals,” said Pete Dannecker, Pyle’s VP of Risk and Integrated Resources, “and I congratulate them for their dedication to safe driving in the congested Northeastern metropolitan region in which A. Duie Pyle operates.”

Free grub, goody bags and safety recognition are nice, but one thing that is usually better appreciated is cold hard cash. That’s what Mark-it Express, an intermodal trucking and freight brokerage company headquartered in Lemont, Illinois, provided to its Land of Lincoln truckers effective Aug. 2 of this year.

“In appreciation for their loyalty, commitment and value the team,” the company announced Mark-it Express drivers in Illinois are now receiving $27 an hour without the Hazardous Materials endorsement and $30 an hour with the endorsement. Mark-it drivers at the Detroit and Kansas City terminals also got pay bumps. “We have been saying over and over that we appreciate our drivers and see how hard you are working,” said Mark-it President Tony Apa.

“Thank you all again–we wouldn’t be here without you.”

Preventive Maintenance

How Fleet Managers Can Simplify Preventive Maintenance

Preventive maintenance is essential for keeping a fleet on the road. By using a maintenance schedule and regularly inspecting essential vehicle components, fleet managers can extend the lifespan of their fleet vehicles and reduce unplanned downtime.

While preventive maintenance prevents costly repairs in the future, it can be both time-consuming and difficult to schedule in-the-moment. For managers, knowing how to streamline this maintenance approach will make it easier to avoid disruptions without making inspections or repairs less effective.

1. Digitize Paperwork and Scheduling

Administrative work can be one of the most time-consuming portions of preventive maintenance. Every inspection or repair generates paperwork that must be logged and stored properly to create effective records of maintenance.

Digital solutions can make storing, accessing, and analyzing this information much simpler. Support staff and mechanics can generate templates for common repairs using information from previous work, streamlining the process of documenting maintenance.

Once all information about the fleet is properly stored in the system, managers and technicians will be able to see at a glance all fleet vehicles and upcoming repairs, plus an overview of the business’s maintenance backlog. Having this information stored in one location will make it easier to track the movement of the fleet and forecast maintenance needs.

This technology can also simplify scheduling and planned downtime. By integrating a fleet management system with the scheduling system, fleet managers can more easily catch potential schedule conflicts and better plan maintenance-related downtime to minimize disruption.

2. Train Drivers

Effective maintenance practices can go to waste if drivers don’t know how their behavior can preserve fleet vehicles.

Harsh driving, for example, isn’t just dangerous. It can also have a real impact on vehicle health. Harsh braking can wear out brakes and trigger a vehicle’s automated braking system, potentially causing it to fail earlier. Harsh acceleration can reduce a vehicle’s fuel efficiency. Idling is bad for the environment, can be in violation of local anti-idling ordinances, and may result in an under-lubricated engine, which can cause a wide range of problems in any vehicle.

Training fleet vehicle operators to drive in a way that minimizes these behaviors can reduce a business’s need for maintenance. For example, drivers should know how to cut down on their fuel use and facts about fuel efficiency, like the fact that idling uses more gas than shutting off and restarting an engine. They should also know how to avoid harsh braking and acceleration, as well as the impact these behaviors can have on their vehicle.

Often, vehicle telematics systems and tools like electronic logging devices (ELDs) include features that help managers monitor for harsh driving, idling, and other unwanted driver behaviors.

A dashcam, for example, connected to certain ELDs can monitor for distracted driving, hard braking, reckless turning, and speeding. Most telematics systems can detect idling and automatically alert drivers and managers.

3. Maintain Part and Equipment Inventory

Keeping a part and equipment inventory that’s up-to-date will streamline maintenance. Most preventive maintenance involves the same few common replacement parts — like a new oil filter, new battery, or new belt. If a fleet is mostly made up of the same types of vehicles, managers can keep the right spare parts on hand to reduce repair time and maintenance costs.

With a regularly updated inventory record, the maintenance team will be able to instantly see if they have those parts in stock and plan maintenance without having to manually check part storage. This can make it easier for a business to further streamline preventive maintenance.

This inventory system can also assist technicians and managers in culling obsolete or expired stock. These items will take up storage space, clutter workspaces and can make finding the right part more difficult.

Digital inventory solutions can make this process easier. Barcoding essential items and equipment, for example, will allow mechanics or support staff to quickly perform inventory counts and update equipment status in an inventory tracking system.

4. Perform Regular Tire Pressure Checks

Prioritizing certain maintenance tasks can prevent repairs and simplify checks down the road. Regularly checking tire pressure is probably one of the most important ones — tire pressure affects a massive range of vehicle characteristics, including handling, rate of tire wear, rate of suspension wear, and fuel economy. All of these factors can influence driver safety — handling or suspension issues can pose serious risks to drivers — and may require premature maintenance or fuel stops.

Changing air temperature can also raise or lower tire pressure, meaning tire pressure will change over time, even without a leak. Regular air pressure checks prevent underinflated tires and the risks they can come with.

Automatic tire inflation systems, which bundle together gauges and inflators, can make the process of regularly checking and filling tires more convenient if a business’s fleet management team currently relies on separate devices.

In addition to regular tire pressure checks, fleet managers can also use digital solutions to track tire pressure across the fleet. Modern vehicles often have tire pressure sensors that monitor the current pressure in each tire. A telematics system with a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) can help fleet managers and other staff access this data remotely and provide alerts when tire pressure for any fleet vehicle falls below a certain level.

5. Review Maintenance Data

A regular review of maintenance data will take time, but it’s the best way to spot recurring bottlenecks and process issues at a business.

For example, it’s not unusual for maintenance practices to generate process waste — like the waste generated when a poorly performed repair leads to additional work on a vehicle down the line. Identifying and removing the conditions that caused the poor repair will prevent these mistakes in the future.

Making maintenance records easy to store and access can help make this review a little simpler. If fleet managers know where all essential maintenance data is, they and their team won’t have to spend as much time prepping for the review.

The Right Practices Can Streamline Preventive Maintenance

Preventive maintenance is the gold standard for vehicle upkeep, but it can be both costly and time-consuming. Finding ways to streamline maintenance without sacrificing repair quality will help any fleet manager make their preventive maintenance strategy more efficient.

Digital maintenance and fleet management solutions are often useful in streamlining maintenance operations. Driver training and prioritizing specific types of maintenance — like tire pressure checks — will also be helpful.

IoT

A Quick Guide On How IoT Is Revolutionizing The Fleet Management Industry

Fleet management has been radically transformed by innovations such as smart devices and sensors in the digital age. The IoT-enabled future of the supply chain industry looks promising as more companies across the globe are embracing the technology.

Research predicts the revenue of the global IoT fleet management market will reach an estimated US$15,500 million by 2024. This is not surprising at all because the sector has achieved great strides by being tech-forward.

Key benefits of IoT in fleet management

Real-time vehicle monitoring

The use of IoT in fleet management allows efficient monitoring of the vehicles and associated assets. The two-way communication system records crucial data. It facilitates remote monitoring, allowing operators to track vehicle conditions and ensure driver safety through predictive maintenance and timely delivery of goods in proper condition.

Risk mitigation

Automation through IoT-driven sensors and smart transport systems helps mitigate risks. The system keeps you informed in real-time about any required changes in routes due to traffic congestions or adverse weather conditions.


 

Remote data management

With an IoT-driven solution, fleet operators have access to vehicle performance data that helps them make informed decisions quickly. Endpoints can be handled remotely, and real-time data is easily accessible over the cloud.

Impeccable customer service

Fleet management centers can integrate smart solutions with their existing ERP systems to optimize performance across all aspects of the business. It helps them drive superior customer experience through higher on-time delivery rates and reduced defect rates.

Cost optimization

The IoT technology helps freight and transportation businesses work more efficiently. Automation eliminates the need for time-consuming operations, and connected devices provide seamless connectivity. Tracking shipments in real-time helps logistics companies optimize costs without compromising customer service and driver safety.

Smart reporting

IoT-powered devices such as the digital tachograph make fleet management reporting intelligent. It records complete data concerning a vehicle’s utilization and shares it in real-time via connected devices. The data helps fleet operators track the vehicle’s health and alerts them regarding upcoming maintenance requirements.

Six ways IoT has revolutionized fleet management

Environment-friendly operations

IoT solutions offer a great way to reduce carbon footprint through effective fleet management. These intuitive technologies monitor driver performance and fuel utilization per mile. You can use the data to align your efforts with your green fleet strategy.

It can be used to improve driver behavior through training and adopting route optimization techniques. Vehicle condition tracking allows the identification of service requirements in advance. You can regularly monitor all your vehicles and maintain them in a good condition.

Not only does IoT technology help reduce environmental pollution from idle vehicles, but it also saves money on wear-and-tear repair costs by helping drivers avoid speeding or idling their cars unnecessarily. It reduces the overall impact of your business on the environment.

Preventive maintenance

Vehicles equipped with IoT sensors collect data from endpoints and send automated signals. This feature can generate early warnings or alerts for monitoring crucial parts of a vehicle such as tires, breaks, and so on.

Based on the information collected, fleet managers can identify parts that need maintenance or must be replaced. You can set alerts for low battery, low levels of coolant, changes in tire pressure, fluctuations in temperature, or defective engine.

The preventive fleet management services help vehicles perform optimally. You can change crucial parts such as tires in advance and re-stock spare parts to avoid accidents and ensure all vehicles run safely at all times.

Engine performance

Remote Engine Monitoring & Diagnostics has been a catalyst to improved fleet performance and optimization. Fleet managers can use it to monitor and analyze the critical engine parameters remotely.

The concept uses diagnostics fault codes to understand what may be wrong with a vehicle. In-vehicle data acquisitions provide comprehensive information on how the vehicle performs or if any problems need attention off the road.

In addition, integrated field engineer optimization means less downtime by sending engineers where they are needed most.

Fleet operators can also use IoT for spare part management. Ensure your inventory is stocked as per upcoming requirements so your vehicles would not proceed on the next trip without necessary repairs.

Improved fuel efficiency

The fuel efficiency of a supply chain vehicle is mainly dependent on the driver and vehicle condition. Poor driving behavior such as idling or unnecessary acceleration and deceleration consumes excessive fuel.

It also leads to wear and tear of crucial components such as tires, brake discs, and so on. The performance of improperly handled vehicles depreciates over time, resulting in higher fuel consumption. Using IoT technology allows you to track vehicle performance data in real-time.

You can analyze data such as average speed to identify erratic patterns in driving behavior. It also provides details related to the condition of parts of vehicles. Improved fuel efficiency saves costs for the company and reduces the adverse impact on the environment.

Commendable automation

IoT-driven connected devices can be used to automate procedures and revolutionize fleet management. Fleet managers can automate many processes, such as route planning and maintenance checks.

Different IoT sensors and GPS-enabled smart systems installed on the vehicle send automatic notifications upon detecting a vehicle breakdown or when weather conditions are fluctuating. It reduces human intervention in maintenance checks and saves time.

Automatic rerouting informs drivers in real-time and helps in saving costs while meeting delivery timelines. Route optimization ensures your fleet takes the best possible route to reach the destination on the expected delivery date without increasing fuel spends.

Higher visibility

IoT collects data from different sensors and stores vast amounts of data. It helps companies use these insights to fulfill various objectives such as fleet performance, compliance with laws, driver behavior, idling, or speeding.

IoT enables cargo cars to keep perishable items and food products fresh. Their network of embedded temperature control devices throughout the cargo chain.

The visibility offered by them helps you ensure food items stay at an optimal safe storage level for consumption or transport.

They work by checking on whether items inside the vehicle’s cabin are outside the specified temperature range. The fleet operator is notified directly from within its internal environment-controlled compartment of the fleet.

Technology requirements for fleet management

Fleet managers should equip their vehicles with the latest IoT-enabled devices and wireless technology. Using high-quality sensors enables accurate recording of data at the endpoints.

For precise data collection, you must select a suitable variety or group of sensors depending upon the requirement of your vehicle and products.

You can pick from temperature, pressure, light, humidity, and proximity sensors. OEMs and telematics service providers must adhere to compatibility standards when developing IoT solutions to ensure precise data sensing.

When deploying IoT devices, you must ensure they perform across all networks, including 2G, 3G, or 4G LTE networks. Explore connection options across diverse networks like Wi-Fi and BLE for a cost-effective approach.

You can also experiment with advanced technologies such as Augmented Reality, Blockchain, and Cognitive Recognition to optimize your fleet management strategy.

You may also need custom software and cloud storage for storing and analyzing data. These must enable remote monitoring and controlling of all connected devices.

All IoT equipment used in your vehicle must conform to safety standards to ensure compliance with road safety rules and driving standards of all regions covered throughout the journey.

The combined impact of telematics and IoT

Telematics has fueled a revolution in the logistics industry by making fleet management more efficient.

-The use of technology to track the location and condition of vehicles means that drivers are less likely to get lost, miss deliveries, or run out of gas while driving.

-Modernized fleet management offers fuel efficiency.

-Driver monitoring ensures lesser accidents and penalties owing to poor driving practices.

-Improved safety for both drivers behind the wheel as well as workers on or near highways.

-Decrease in operational costs as fleets will last longer.

-It is now easier to keep track of shipments at all times through connected devices. The GPS tracking software allows fleet managers to monitor their shipments in real-time. You can follow the map and select the best route for on-time delivery.

-One can study valuable data related to vehicle maintenance or fuel management for project cost calculation and optimization.

Over to you

Imagine a world where you can know the location of your fleet within moments and track it in real-time. With IoT, companies save time and costs by decreasing wait times for inspections and conducting proactive maintenance of their vehicles.

They can provide better customer service by ensuring each customer can track their order and minimize delayed delivery instances. They control your fleet and can reduce accidents or delays caused due to miscommunication between departments.

IoT is making the adoption of these changes easier than ever for companies. They are equipped to strategize better and increase productivity by automating routine tasks.

Therefore, integrating information technology improves the performance of your fleet business manifolds. It assures improvement in efficiency and compliance with road security standards.

trucking

WHY DO WE HAVE A TRUCKING SHORTAGE?

The truck driver shortage presents an ongoing challenge for the logistics industry.  However, many people understandably wonder why it’s still a problem. 

One often-cited challenge is that there are not enough new drivers entering the workforce as veterans retire. A recent study confirmed that there were more than 14 million truck driver job postings between 2019 and 2020. That tremendous amount details the extent of the issue and suggests it will take time to address.

The research also concluded that nearly 57 percent of all truck drivers are older than 45. Then, almost a quarter (23 percent) are in the 55+ age bracket. 

A paragraph in the study explained, “The workforce composition suggests that young workers are not being recruited at rates that will replace current workers as they exit the market due to age or disability. This issue is further compounded by a relative dearth of younger workers overall compared to the abundance of baby boomers.”

Finding Women to Fill the Driver Shortage

Some trucking companies have dealt with the issue by ramping up their efforts to recruit women, a historically underrepresented group in the sector. One excellent way to do that is to focus on safety. 

Ellen Voie, the CEO of the Women in Trucking Association, says that the females who speak to her about the industry often cite safety as their top priority. However, maintaining safe working conditions and environments benefits everyone. 

She clarified that safety doesn’t only mean addressing one aspect: “That [safety] includes the maintenance of the equipment, the perception of when a driver should or should not drive in inclement weather or in areas of civil unrest, and how safe the loading dock is for drivers. Is it well lit, secure or in a dangerous neighborhood? Those are all aspects of a carrier’s safety culture.”

Canada’s Skelton Truck Lines found that recruiting women became easier when more females filled leadership roles in the company. It currently has nine female department managers. It’s notable that more than 30 percent of its drivers are women. The company also offers team freight so that women could do runs with their spouses. 

Efforts to recruit more women in the industry won’t account for all the aging workforce issues. However, they help, while making trucking a more gender-balanced industry. 

Industry Turnover Rates Exacerbate the Driver Shortage

Some people who get trained and licensed as truckers ultimately discover that they don’t want to make long-term careers out of the endeavor. However, some recent changes in the industry aim to provide more flexibility, which could reduce turnover rates.

More specifically, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) published new rules that went into effect at the end of September 2020. 

One of them is that drivers must take 30-minute breaks after driving for at least eight hours. There is no requirement that they are consecutive hours, and drivers can count periods when they are on-duty but not driving while calculating the eight hours. There is also an updated definition of what constitutes adverse driving conditions.

Pay Tops the List of What Keeps Drivers Committed

A 2021 study about truck driver retention showed some gender-based differences in what makes a person stick with the career and particular companies. However, the top concern for both men and women was that the company provided them with enough pay or settlement. 

Having a work/life balance was also more important for women, the study showed, as females ranked it as their third priority, and men chose it as their seventh. 

Carriers Mention Retention as a Pressing Concern

Another survey, this one published in October 2020, showed that trucking carriers brought up retention as their second most urgent problem. However, of the more than 1,000 drivers who responded, compensation was one of their primary concerns. 

Paying drivers more could be a vital step in making them feel that companies value them and their service. Moreover, it is ideal if compensation goes up according to a person’s experience level and reliability. Then, truckers should be more willing to stay in the career rather than looking for opportunities they perceive as more attractive. 

Another study indicated that 50 percent of drivers polled saw their current wages as uncompetitive. On top of that, many found that companies did not offer career paths for them. Data from that research also found that half of respondents did not feel safe on the road. If drivers struggle with feeling unsafe and realizing that they could earn more in other jobs, many will see what other possibilities exist. 

Obstacles Persist in Getting New Drivers Road-Ready

Getting more people interested in entering the trucking sector doesn’t solve the driver shortage. Industry leaders expect that COVID-19 restrictions could cause persistent backlogs that prevent new drivers from getting on the roads as efficiently as they otherwise might. 

For example, many Department of Motor Vehicles facilities delayed certain services during COVID-19 lockdowns and enforced social distancing rules that limited the number of people a location could serve in a given day. That affects all people who drive vehicles, including those who need to get their commercial licenses to operate trucks for the first time. 

Relatedly, some driver training centers had to close or hold smaller classes to abide by the applicable COVID-19 restrictions. Some people who were eager to get the necessary education may have found that they had to wait longer than anticipated to meet that goal. 

Drug Testing Crackdowns May Make Potential Drivers Wary

Another recent development related to the truck driver shortage is that the FMCSA’s Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse took effect in 2020. It has already kept thousands of drivers from staying on the roads. 

New rules require all trucking companies to register in a database and conduct yearly queries on each driver. During 2020, the Clearinghouse system caught more than 56,000 violations, although just over 1,200 were alcohol-related. Marijuana was by far the most common drug found among drivers’ substance usage. Some people familiar with the matter attribute that statistic to the growing number of states that have legalized it.

When speaking about the 2021 driver shortage outlook, analyst Avery Vise noted that the Clearinghouse has “culled another 40,000 or so drivers directly from the market, and probably thousands more have exited because they think they might not pass a drug test.”

Other parties who specialize in driver recruiting noticed a decrease in new applicants. The tighter regulations for drug testing were not likely the sole reason for that trend. However, it could prove an important factor. For example, a person who uses legal drugs recreationally during their off-time might worry about getting called for a surprise drug test and not passing it because of their recent usage. 

That’s one example of how stricter regulations could worsen the driver shortage. If a trucker tests positive for marijuana, that does not necessarily mean they were smoking it while on duty. A person who keeps their legal drug use out of their work may ultimately decide that trucking is not an ideal industry after all due to the drug testing aspect. If they worry about their downtime choices affecting their careers, people may investigate other work opportunities. 

A Multifaceted Issue That Needs Strategic Solutions

This overview emphasizes that the industry could not target only one area to end the truck driver shortage. It’s an ongoing challenge that COVID-19 and other recent events negatively affected. 

However, one excellent starting point is for trucking company representatives to research the top things that their current drivers like and dislike about their jobs. That way, it’s easier to determine what to address first. If most people say that they enjoy their schedules but don’t get paid enough for what they do, that’s valuable information that could shape positive changes. 

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Emily Newton is an industrial journalist. As Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized, she regularly covers how technology is changing the industry. Learn more at revolutionized.com.

truckers

DESPITE MANY CHALLENGES, TRUCKERS ARE KEEPING THE SUPPLY CHAIN MOVING. HERE IS HOW.

Of all the lessons learned from the pandemic, the critical role of supply chain workers remains among the most significant. Simply put, without the people keeping things moving, the supply chain suffers. Truckers are among supply chain workers who represent industry resilience, ensuring deliveries and shipments are fulfilled before, during and after COVID-19. 

However, protecting truck drivers has become less of a thought and more of a formality in the new normal. We looked to Avi Geller, CEO and founder of Maven Machines, to give us an idea of exactly how truck drivers are handling the new logistics climate and what companies can do to further protect, support and retain their workers. 

“The pandemic has had a substantial impact on the trucking industry, requiring fleets to accelerate digital transformation efforts like the widespread adoption of data and AI-based technologies,” Geller said. “Increased demand since 2020, coupled with an ongoing driver shortage, has forced fleets to reevaluate processes, plans and current levels of efficiency. Route optimization and planning technology can automatically provide managers with the best possible plans by considering variables such as traffic, road quality and weather. As route optimization tech becomes more advanced, driver preferences and proficiencies can also be taken into account as variables in machine learning algorithms.”

Geller goes on to explain that in 2021, the stakes are higher than ever before. Companies no longer have room for error when it comes to compliance and transport conditions. And with the surge of demand in pharmaceutical transportation for the COVID vaccine, the transportation sector is under even more pressure to quickly deliver vaccines at accurate temperatures while keeping employees safe. Utilizing technology solutions to keep up with demand and meet shipment requirements will be a significant game-changer for many. 

“Companies must ensure that their drivers adhere to compliance mandates and delivery timelines,” Geller observes. “For instance, COVID-19 vaccines require super cold storage temperatures. Drivers carrying vaccines must follow the appropriate shipping protocols and reach their destinations on time to prevent costly disruptions to the super cold supply chain. More than ever, drivers are relying on fleet management software to increase productivity and using route optimization and workflow technologies to their advantage.”

If retaining drivers was not already an issue, recruiting qualified drivers continues to be a pain point for the trucking industry. And with COVID-19 now in the mix, fleet managers are seeing more of their drivers leaving and a shortage of talent to quickly replace them.

“The trucking industry’s largest challenge today is the shortage of qualified drivers,” Geller says. “We cannot afford to lose drivers, but more are leaving the field than we are able to replace. We need to continue to find ways to revitalize the driver workforce and encourage people to join the profession. The pandemic has only highlighted our dependency on these employees, who are some of the economy’s most essential workers.”

Geller reiterates the importance of providing drivers with an experience that stands out from competing sectors, including providing accommodative tech solutions to minimize redundancies and maintain driver safety as a priority instead of an afterthought.  

“To stop the driver attrition and attract more drivers, fleets must prioritize the driver experience—and the right technology can help them do so,” he says. “Route optimization, ELD, and fleet workflow software foster a safer, more productive work environment by providing drivers with the fastest routes, automating the most tedious tasks, ensuring compliance, and presenting stop-based forms and step-by-step workflows that help them progress smoothly through their assigned trips and ETAs. By better positioning drivers for success, fleets can improve driver satisfaction and give drivers opportunities to be rewarded with pay increases and safety bonuses, which could lead to increased driver recruitment and retainment.

Streamlining operations and communications in the new normal is simply not an option for companies that want to last. The phases of adaptation are behind us.”

Those companies that are left standing in 2021 must continue to advocate for workers while providing a competitive edge for customers through the effective use of technology and automation. Geller’s company, Maven Machines, puts drivers first with their specialized and tailored solutions that optimize operations starting at dispatch all the way through.

“Maven Machines provides fleets with solutions that increase efficiency and elevate their drivers’ work experiences,” he says. “Our solutions for dispatch, route planning, workflow, ELD and fleet management software facilitate driver and trip management while also meeting each fleet’s unique set of operational needs. By eliminating outdated legacy solutions and processes, we are helping to increase fleet success, including driver performance.”

Among the applications tailored specifically for drivers are large, color-coded buttons, alerts, document imaging tools and other utilities that drivers can rely on for communications. Geller states that this technology provides a safe, reliable way for drivers to focus on driving and still manage communications expectations.

“A streamlined messaging system for drivers to communicate with managers, along with other smart features and intuitive user interfaces, keeps drivers safe, on task and satisfied. The driver experience is important, and we’re proud to support drivers with our software.”

For every company, the customer comes first (after the workers, of course). It is important to ensure your solutions portfolio is flexible, adding to the customer experience instead of further complicating it. Maven Machine’s adaptable solution provides solutions for different customer requirements.

“Different customers require different processes, so our flexible Maven Workflow solution takes that into account and provides drivers with the right workflow for their stops and trips,” Geller says. “It is a game-changer in terms of driver productivity. Our dispatch and route optimization software provide drivers with the fastest and safest routes so that they can make more on-time pickups and deliveries. With Maven ELD, drivers use a simple mobile HOS app that allows for faster log editing, helps them reduce HOS violations, and ensures FMCSA compliance.”

In conclusion, providing a safe, reliable, and pleasant experience for drivers and customers is not a new concept. Some would argue that it has always been a priority while others claim it took the pandemic to bring back the saying that when you take care of the workers, they take care of business. 

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Avi Geller is the founder and CEO of Maven Machines. Since 2014, he has led Maven’s growth as an IoT platform that serves the transportation industry through real-time, mobile cloud enterprise software. Avi originally hails from Palo Alto, California, but he started Maven in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, due to the city’s impressive innovation and technology resources. Prior to founding Maven, he held international positions with SAP and contributed to the growth of several successful software companies and startups. Avi has an engineering degree from MIT and an MBA from Northwestern University.

application

Tenstreet Market Index: What To Do When App Volumes Plummet

A healthy interest in the driver market always ranks high on a carrier’s list. But given the tough conditions, the industry has experienced over the last year, this interest has shifted to a furrowed concern. With application volumes dropping every week and more trucks sitting vacant, the desperation for drivers means carriers are likely paying more for less in an attempt to avoid the same fate other carriers and small businesses have suffered.

What’s Causing the Drop?

It’s a combination of several factors. Clearinghouse eliminations, retirements, and early exits would have affected the industry in 2020-21 anyway. But COVID introduced unprecedented factors to the market for which it couldn’t have prepared – notably drivers who are waiting to reenter the market (possibly until vaccination numbers rise or until they can get vaccinated) and the stimulus checks that keep them comfortable while they do so.

The number one thing to remember is that you’re not alone. This is not a carrier- or service-specific shortcoming, it’s a broad drop in application volume that has impacted the entire industry. While that may bring you little comfort, there is something you can do to prepare for when drivers return.

First, let’s review the data.

Weekly Driver Activity – Last 53 Weeks

Typically, application rates tend to be high at the beginning of the year and during late spring/early summer. They gradually drop off until the holiday season, when the drop in the volume of applications tends to be most pronounced (see late November and December). Another case of seasonality explains the dip in February 2021 when the country was locked down by storms.

From the first two charts below, you can see evidence of an additional market element. While driver job-seeking activity is still significantly below pre-pandemic levels, the stimulus has managed to drop the floor out from under the situation.

This is made clearer in the second chart, in which we’ve zoomed in on the last 5 weeks. Note the last 2-3 weeks in March where the number of applications fell drastically. March 2021 still places application volume 10 or 15 points below where we were in March 2020.

Weekly Driver Activity – Last 5 Weeks

Application Activity Index

This index is derived from Tenstreet clients who have had a consistent IntelliApp volume for the past 25 months. We assigned January 2019 a value of 100 for comparison. This gives us an easy way to see rate of application activity change over the last two years while removing the impact of growth in the number of carriers using the platform. As you can see, carriers as a whole have seen a huge decline over the past year in general.

Cost Per Lead, Cost Per Full Application

As mentioned above, carriers are paying more for leads and full apps than they did just a year ago due to the more intensified driver shortage, and are likely finding that the more specific their search, the shorter their results fall. Nevertheless, cost per full application has risen +30% over the past year.

Hiring Cycle Compared to Hire Rate

This chart shows a solid inverse relationship between the number of days in your cycle and the chance that a driver will make it to a hired status. Put simply, the longer your hiring process, the more opportunities there are for drivers to drop out.

With carriers having to work harder for every candidate, it’s more important than ever that they be able to glide through your hiring process smoothly. As past data has shown, the more serious the candidate, the more carriers they are typically interacting with – so finding and eliminating any rough patches will pay dividends when the pendulum swings and application volume improves.

This process need not be overwhelming, and we can help. Start by walking through your process as a driver and making note of any bottlenecks and hiccups. Replace them with time-saving solutions, like automation and integrations. Remember, drivers will be coming out of their own slumber and will not hesitate to move swiftly on to the next carrier if they encounter any reason to think they’re in store for more hard times.

Engagement and Early Onboarding

In addition to automation and integrations, engagement in early onboarding is another way you can improve your hiring cycle to improve your chances of getting that driver in a truck. The below chart shows carriers who engage drivers with text messaging, digital forms, and digital training modules within less than a day have a 40% greater chance of getting that driver all the way to hire.

Time and drivers aren’t the only things you’ll save. The more you can move online, the more money you save on hotels, meals, and recruiter onboarding time. Carriers who onboard online experienced an immediate 20%-40% in savings when they free their onboarding processes from expensive and unnecessary activities.

Tenstreet Can Help

Just as you’re not alone in this drop-in application volume, you’re not alone in improving your hiring process. Let us help your business see a new level of success. Many of our account managers and advisors have worked for carriers like yours in the past and know how to help.

Give us a call at 877-219-9283 or email us at sales@tenstreet.com and let us help you put new strategies in place for the next surge of drivers who come your way. It’s only a matter of time.

This article originally appeared here. Republished with permission.

truck drivers

Coronavirus Reminds America that Truck Drivers are Essential Every Day

Life on the road feels a little more lonely these days. Just ask Harold Simmons.

A truck driver for LS Wilson Trucking out of Utah, Simmons is afraid to go home because he doesn’t want to risk bringing the coronavirus with him. His wife has had pneumonia, and he wants to protect her.

At truck stops, he is eating alone more often because of social distancing practices in force at restaurants. No more small talk with a driver sitting next to him at the counter.

So it was a nice change of pace when he recently pulled into a rest area off the highway, and a group of strangers were in the parking lot handing out free food to truck drivers. “People, in general, are showing us their appreciation,” Simmons said. “Even shippers and receivers are finally treating us like human beings again.”

In our newfound appreciation for essential workers in the global pandemic, it’s heartening to see the support for our truck drivers. Social media is filled with posts marked with the #ThankATrucker hashtag.

Truck drivers have always been essential employees, hauling freight across the country, away from their families and the comforts of home. They have been easy to ignore because they toil behind the scenes. Most Americans never interact with them, unlike our doctors, nurses, pharmacists, supermarket cashiers and restaurant delivery drivers.

But what’s left of our economy would not be standing without the tireless dedication of professional drivers. They are the essential link in our supply chain. Despite health risks, they are hauling consumer goods to ensure retailers can keep their shelves stocked. They are delivering personal protective equipment and other supplies to hospitals when they often don’t have their own PPE. They are driving into hot zones when others are fleeing.

Truckers are providing critical services even when their own economic well being is at risk. In the early days of the crisis, freight volumes rose as supermarkets restocked their shelves and other essential businesses built inventory to protect against supply chain disruption. However, as shelter in place orders have expanded to cover most of the population, industrial production has contracted, and freight volume has declined sharply.

The reduction in freight volume has squeezed revenues for trucking companies. One widely followed financial measure is the dry van spot rate, which is the amount of money a driver is paid per mile to haul freight within about a day of the shipment. This rate has fallen 20% since the end of March, according to DAT Solutions. There’s no clear sign when rates might rebound, as some states have extended stay-at-home orders until the end of May.

Trucking companies say they are concerned about having enough revenue in the coming months to meet their two biggest sources of fixed costs: insurance and loan or lease payments for trucks and trailers.

This is a big concern because many trucking companies are small businesses, just like the florist or the neighborhood restaurant or the hair salon. Most drivers work in fleets that contain 20 or fewer trucks, according to the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.

OOIDA has been lobbying Congress and the Trump Administration to do more for the trucking industry during the pandemic, including providing PPE and testing to truck drivers and targeted economic and regulatory relief for trucking companies.

“They’re facing a real economic crisis to be able to continue to operate, not to mention the fact that they actually are on the front line in the battle against coronavirus,” Todd Spencer, president and chief executive officer of OOIDA, recently said on CNBC.

Preserving our nation’s trucking capacity is critical to our economic recovery post-COVID-19. It is essential that when industrial production rebounds, trucking capacity is not constrained. We cannot allow America’s trucking companies to fail or we jeopardize the broader recovery.

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Daniel Burrows is the founder and CEO of XStream Trucking, a design and engineering company for connected hardware for the long-haul trucking industry.