Video: GPS Tracking Black Box installation

Hint: it is really easy!

In this video, we used our AX5 GPS tracking device. Learn more about our Black Box GPS devices

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Posted in DSi Mobile

100% real advice: Buy a new truck?

Trucking and Dealership Business Operations Advice BadgeDear Jim:
I own a trucking company and we have seven trucks. Business is doing okay and I’m thinking we could use another truck. Should I add another truck to my fleet?

Sincerely, Gettin’ Better Trucking.

Dear Gettin’ Better:

You’re not giving me much to go on here. The truth of the matter is only you can decide if it’s time to add another vehicle or not, and the answer is never simple. There are a lot of factors to consider but here are a few guidelines that might help.

  1. Make sure your sales funnel is strong and (relatively) predictable. Reconnect with your customers and get commitments for work through any busy AND slow seasons coming up. Remember that as you are soliciting new business that your competitors are knocking on your customer’s doors too.
  2. Make sure your assets are efficiently used now. Minimize out of route miles and one way trips. Maximize round trips A-to-B-to-C trips to get more work done in less time can improve fleet efficiency by 5 to 20% and may delay that need for a new truck.
  3. Know your costs. I mean, really know them. Are you buying because of an aging fleet that suffers chronic maintenance down-time? It could be time for a heavy duty overhaul to buy you another year or two on older vehicles.
  4. Take another look at your billing. Are you billing for idle time or is it built into your cost? What is it per driver? Per customer? Per jobsite? Know these answers and compute the resulting costs as part of our overall job costing. Have a chat with your dispatchers or customers to see what can be done to reduce idle time and more rolling time, allowing more work to get done with the same vehicles.
  5. Can your office handle another vehicle without additional cost? Analyze your back office processes for efficiency and capacity, and add those factors into your buying decision.
  6. Consider short-term leasing if you have a spike in business. Daily, weekly or monthly lease/rentals can be cost effective ways to handle a surge in business without huge financial commitment a new purchase can require. When you’re keeping that short term truck busy with no end in sight, then its probably time to buy.
  7. Consider double-shifting or split shifting trucks to maximize rolling time each day. Drop-and-hook solutions and very careful dispatch decisions can help with Hours of Service and scheduling requirements to ensure the best vehicle utilization.

Most importantly remember that these decisions should always be about value. Don’t put the cart before the horse. Make sure the decision brings value to your company and doesn’t tie you down with a payment that might be difficult to cover later.

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Posted in Business

Fleet Managers speak on challenges and what they’re doing about it in 2014

We asked fleet managers to define the top three challenges they are facing in 2014. These fleet managers work at companies ranging in size from small and specialized heavy haul trucking firms to large distributors of construction equipment with fleet sizes of 10 trucks and up. During our interviews, we didn’t provide a list to pick from, just a blank slate to get their ideas.

Challenges Ahead
The results were that fleet managers are focused on the same main challenges in their industry. Not only did they choose the same top three, but they choose the same order of ranking them too.

The top three challenges they reported are:

Driver Training and Retention
Fleet managers stressed driver retention and training as their top challenge. The driver population in general is aging and attracting new drivers to the industry has proven difficult. They are implementing plans to keep their drivers current on training, and refining work hours and compensation plans to retain existing drivers.

Regulation Compliance and Risk Management
DOT compliance and risk management is the next top priority for fleet managers. They are evaluating solutions for electronic log books and hours-of-service reporting, along with taking measures to improve and monitor their CSA scores. They recognize that the cost of non-compliance can be significant and not worth risking and audit from the DOT.

In order to reduce our risk, we need to start the planning process now.

Although the final ruling on the DOT mandate for electronic logs has not been issued, our customers realize they can’t wait. One fleet manager, Brian Melani of Thompson Machinery in Nashville, Tennessee, told us “we expect the process of DOT compliance for our fleet to take years. In order to reduce our risk, we need to start the planning process now.”

Managing aging fleets
The age of most fleets, and the cost of maintenance, is the other top challenge listed by fleet managers. The recession forced many companies to delay the purchase of new vehicles. Fleet managers are challenged with keeping these vehicles on the road. Using dispatching and scheduling software helps them optimize vehicle usage and plan for vehicle down time.

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Posted in Business

Adding technology to your trucking business

Technology in Business

Insights can come from odd places, when you least expect it. One of our usual lunch spots is the pho noodle restaurant two streets away from our office. We’d characterize it as a ‘hole in the wall’ back in the US, but since this is in Ho Chi Minh city, where our overseas programming office is based, the rickety stools and 1-ply tissues (that’s what they call ‘napkins’) seem perfectly normal.

No matter the size of your business, the nature, or the environment, technology has a place in it.

I noticed several months ago that they started using a computerized POS system which felt out of place next to their ancient stock pots and street vendor style mini kitchen. The machine sat on a cheap folding table with its touchscreen glowing and a stack of receipt rolls next to it ready for the lunch rush. I was surprised to see this piece of technology in their store. It was such a huge contrast compared to the rustic dinge in the shop. No matter the size of your business, the nature, or the environment, technology has a place in it.

But, technology has a bad rap for being a difficult thing to implement. There are so many products and services out there promising to make your life easier and make you more money. There’s also hesitation because using software sounds like you have to be really ‘computer-savvy’ and ROI sounds uncertain.

Where to begin
It’s important to remember that technology, like mobile smartphones or dispatching software, is ultimately a tool for businesses to use. To make sure that you get the most out of the tools, consider your major goals. Maybe you want to improve your cashflow, have a 100% on-time rating or get the Best Trucking Company of the year award with your regional transportation association. Whatever it may be, start with your goals.

How to get there
Next, break the goals down into tasks and then, only after that, is when you start considering what kind of technology tools to bring to the table. If you do it the other way around where you buy the software without a goal or plan, it is easy to lose focus and be overwhelmed by the variety of functions offered, causing frustration.

Example
In the case of a goal to achieve a 100% on-time rating, a good first step would be to improve communication between dispatcher and drivers. A load management app on a smartphone can alert your driver of new loads and display the locations on a map. This really saves time and reduces errors because the driver no longer has to call the dispatcher and find a slip of paper to jot down the address, potentially making a mistake.

Technology has a place in almost all businesses to help them grow and thrive. Even the family-run trucking company still that bookkeeps in a handwritten journal or the pho noodle restaurant with the crooked wall hangings. It all depends on what you’re trying to accomplish.

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Posted in Business

The Case for Professional Development for Dealers

3 common excuses and reasons to stop making them

Professional Development

In business, managers understand the idea of investing in equipment, inventory and tools because the input (cost) and return (revenue) can be easily measured to evaluate the ROI. Yet when asked what their most valuable asset is, businesses answer that it is People. The reasons why companies hesitate to invest in People via professional development for workers and managers are varied. Here are some common excuses… sound familiar?

1. We are too busy to take time away from the office

If you’re waiting for a lull in business so that your workers can take time away for a class, you hope it never comes because that means business is slowing down! They will always be busy. If you invest in their professional skills, they will be better equipped to handle challenges and be more productive and efficient to handle when it gets even busier.

In addition to seminars that are held in location that you have to travel to, you can look into webinars as well that offer the same degree of interactivity with the speaker yet can still be attended from your own office via web-conferencing.

2. I don’t want to make them more employable for someone else

If you don’t invest in them, they’re likely to leave anyway. Statistically speaking, 84% of employees say that they are more likely to stay with a company that invests in their professional development. While they’re employed with you, your company will benefit from the higher rate of productivity and quality of work. You’ll also establish your company as an employer of choice improving your quality of new hires.

3. The courses I’ve found seem generic and aren’t relevant to my industry/business

Programs, like leadership or teambuilding ones, that are open to multiple industries provide a good place for attendees to think outside the box when interacting with others from different industries. It becomes an eye-opening experience to hear about how other companies handle similar situations.

In cases where you’re looking for training specific to your industry, it is a good idea to check with associations within your industry, like AED (Associated Equipment Distributors) which just released their 2014 schedule. They offer classes geared towards dealerships and build skills to face the unique challenges of a dealer business. Also for more specific skill building, check with your dispatching and accounting software providers for webinars or sessions to refine your workflow processes and learn new skills.

One common thread in successful companies is People priority. This isn’t limited to taking care of employees through good pay, great benefits and health insurance. It should extend to bettering their professional skills too.

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Posted in Business

Poor driver behaviors that you should address – today

How to help these 3 types of drivers get back to A-game

Truck Driver

The transportation industry is part of the backbone our country, moving goods from factory to store or from jobsite to jobsite. The men and women behind this driving force (pun intended, ha) are the most important assets of a transportation company. Good drivers, who are safe, efficient and friendly, can bring a company success, but sometimes there is a driver who’s a bad apple that can drag the organization down.

Drivers who are thoroughly rotten, speedsters, lawbreakers and timesheet liars, are shown the door quickly. In most companies though, there are some apples that are just slightly bruised and if left to fester can contaminate the whole barrel. Often times managers just live with it, wanting to avoid conflict and thinking it is human nature after all and “that’s just how he is.”

Granted, you can’t give someone a personality brainwash, but if you encounter these drivers in your organization, it would be a good idea to address their behavior so they don’t spoil the bunch.

Mr. Above-it-all

He might be the owner’s uncle who’s been driving for 33 years and has a hard time, shall we say, learning new tricks. His habits have gone a little lax over the years (cough DVIRs) and seems to get crankier and quirkier by the day. At times he’s endearing and altogether reminds you of Si Robertson on Duck Dynasty.

The problem here is that when a family member or veteran employee who act like they’re above the rules and fail to uphold the company policies causes other drivers to think “well, if Uncle Kent can get away with it, it must not be very important.”

How to deal
Family members and veterans tend to have a vested interest in the success of the company but don’t understand how new policies or tools are being used to improve the organization as a whole. Thus, they shirk these new responsibilities. When adopting new processes, it would be a good idea to ask for their opinion and address their concerns. You might find that through his old trucker eyes, there are questions that hadn’t been considered. The added bonus is that he will feel involved in the process and be more likely to embrace change because he is part of it.

Mr. Long Way Around

For whatever reason, this driver never seems to make it to the destination on time, citing traffic, road conditions, personal preference and so forth. He might even slip these little lies through his teeth, not realizing that you could very well check Google Maps whenever he cries traffic. This driver might be paid based on miles, incentivizing him to expand his trip out of the way as much as possible.

How to deal
Every mile driven off-route costs money in fuel, time, and vehicle maintenance. It increases the chances for accidents which drive up insurance. When sitting down with a driver like this, it is best to have hard numbers and maps handy to show his current inefficient performance versus the more efficient route and that taking it would increase his take-home pay (through more job assignments or performance bonuses) Remember to check back with him in a few weeks and provide reinforcement for positive change.

Mr. Cell Phone

He who can’t put down the phone while behind the wheel is a danger to those around him and your company’s CSA score. Drivers like this might say that being on the phone isn’t a big deal since they’re comfortably cruising in a straight line at 50 mph. But whether he’s calling the dispatcher for better directions or chatting with his wife, it’s all the same. Distracted driving increases the chances of a preventable accident, period.

How to deal
If after several warnings, the driver still has trouble keeping with the policy, it might be a good idea to take a step back and analyze the situation. The driver might be in a situation where he relies on the phone to perform his work in which case management is sending mixed messages. If the driver is calling or being called frequently by the office for loads, you might want to consider an alternative of how to get the information to him, like via a dedicated in-cab data terminal where dispatchers can communicate load information and directions to drivers

While we’re on the subject, policies such as “Out of Sight, Out of Mind” where drivers are required to silence and place their phones in the glovebox before driving are simple to communicate to drivers to help decrease cell phone use. There are also smartphone apps such as Motorola Assist, that detect driving situations and automatically send a text to the caller.

Shunning the subject of less-than-great driver behavior to keep the peace doesn’t make the problem go away, instead it allows the behavior to spoil the organization. It can be daunting as a manager to broach the subject with employees, especially those that are nice and pleasant to be around, but if you approach it openly and honestly, and are willing to work with them, you will find that your workforce will come out better for it.

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Posted in Leadership

Testimonials

“The reporting tools that the system provides help assist our dispatchers and operations managers with business decisions, defects and root cause analysis.”

Bill Smith, Six Sigma Black Belt
Ohio CAT

“We had a successful Pilot and implementation, we are very happy with the results to date and the solution is doing everything we expected it would.”

Mark Olson, Six Sigma Black Belt
Ziegler CAT

“Just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate the service I receive day in and day out from Scott, Lisa, Brian and Son…Your team is doing an awesome job!”

Dennis Stapleton, Operations Manager
Empire CAT

“The 2009 DSI User Conference was the best exchange of practices, policies and metrics presented to the transportation community in recent years.”

Donnie Sample, Transportation Manager
Cleveland Brothers

“We were audited by the DOT this week and we absolutely wouldn’t have passed the audit without the help of the DSi software – Thank You!”

Jeff Shepoka. Transportation Manager
Nebraska Machinery Corp. (NMC)

“I wanted to thank you for putting Lisa ‘on the job’. We requested reports for management while she was on vacation. She not only worked over the weekend to get the report to me, she also called me on Monday to make sure I understood it. Thanks for all the extra effort!”

Ron Souza, Six Sigma Blackbelt
Quinn Company

“We had recently installed a GPS tracking system from DSi. Not too long afterward, one of our trucks was stolen. With the help of DSi we were able to pinpoint the vehicle location and recovered the vehicle less than a half hour after the theft.”

Richard Needham, Director of Operations
Cal Ply

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Posted in Business

It’s Here! Handy Guide to EOBR and electronic logging

Cover - Handy Guide to HOS electronic loggingWe’ve finished compiling the information for our Handy Guide.

Download it here!

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Posted in DSi Mobile

Handy Guide – Hours of Service EOBR electronic logging

Cover - Handy Guide to HOS electronic logging

We get a lot of questions about EOBR (electronic onboard recorder) and the upcoming regulation that mandates CMVs to have them. It is a huge expense for transportation companies and we want to do our best to educate the community to pick the right solution for their business.

This booklet pools together information that is relevant to electronic logging and is a gateway to other sites to learn more about EOBR and the regulations. In it, you’ll find:

  • Checklist for compliance
  • Benefits of electronic logging
  • FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions
  • Important Regulation Dates

Do you have any topics that you’d like to see added? Any other FAQs? Tweet to us or email us directly.

We will be posting the booklet in PDF format in the next few days!

Edit: You can download the booklet here!

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Posted in DSi Mobile

What makes an eLog solution DOT compliant?

As chatter about eLogs, EOBRs and impending regulation amps up, software developers are capitalizing on the chance to pump out $1.99 apps hoping to capture some of the market. What separates an app that you can download from the Google Play Store or iTunes App Store from a solution like Dispatching Solutions’? DOT compliance.

In order for an eLog solution to be compliant to DOT’s FMCSA regulation part 395.15, the software (and accompanying hardware) needs to be able to perform the following functions:

  1. Allow law enforcement to view your HOS logs during inspection
  2. Disallow updating statuses while the vehicle is in motion
  3. Be tamperproof and alert driver of device failures
  4. Connect to the truck’s engine for mileage data

Most of those are easy to tackle with software development. (We’ve taken extra steps to make #1, #2 and #3 easier on the driver, but more on that later.)
For an application to be compliant, mileage data has to be drawn from the engine’s computer via an EDR (engine data reader). The reason for this is because calculation of miles travelled via GPS location pings can be inaccurate due to the nature of satellites and GPS technology.

Engine Data Reader - required for DOT compliance
What is an EDR?
An EDR is a device that connects to your vehicle via the engine’s diagnostic port. For smaller trucks (Ford F-250 for example) it is an OBDII port. For larger vehicles (Freightliners) it is either a J1939 or J1703 port.

Reading engine data can become very complex due to the variety of makes and models. Especially when you start involve class 7 trucks and up, the protocols used are less standardized which means that it takes a team with specialized knowledge to accurately pull data from those types of trucks.

So, there you have it. The most important requirement to consider when selecting an eLog solution is making sure it connects to the truck’s engine for a true mileage reading.

For more information about eLog and mobile management solutions, feel free to send us an email or give us a call. We’re more than happy to answer them.

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Posted in DSi Mobile