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Long-Haul Learning

Driver training should be a never-ending process, and most fleets fully understand and acknowledge that notion.

September 2007, TruckingInfo.com - Feature

by Jim Beach, Technology Editor - Also by this author

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"If you train drivers well and frequently, you should expect reduced accidents and losses," says Bruce Weiss, executive vice president of Instructional Technologies Inc., which provides driver-training materials for the trucking industry. For long-haul fleets, the problem has been getting that training to drivers who spend weeks at a time on the road.

Carriers have addressed this issue by making training available to drivers when they were at a terminal or other company location through kiosks or computer-based training systems. Installed at terminals, or in some cases, truckstops, these systems allow drivers to either watch a safety video or take training lessons. Using web-based programs, truckers can access the training from their laptops or any other computer with an Internet connection.

For instance, drivers at U.S. Xpress can access training materials at their terminals or they can receive the videos via a web portal using their notebook computers. In 2005, U.S. Xpress began installing the DriverTech TruckPC on-board computing and communications system in its fleet. The units installed at U.S. Xpress come preloaded with training videos. The company is exploring the potential of the system to deliver additional training-related materials as well as other content to their drivers.

At Smithway Motor Express, Ft. Dodge, Iowa, James Hendrix, simulator instructor and director of online training, says his company has seen a drop in accidents since they have been using online training coupled with their simulator training. Drivers are assigned a course each quarter, which they can take over the Internet from their own computer or at a computer at one of Smithway's terminals. Hendrix says driver response has been excellent, despite some early misgivings. "A number of drivers will take courses beyond the ones they have been assigned to take."

The company assigns some courses based on seasonal factors, such as winter driving. Other courses may be assigned as part of remedial efforts following an accident or incident.

"If somebody has had some trouble, we'll bring them in here to Ft. Dodge and assign courses based on the incident," Hendrix says. That is followed by time in the company's simulator and then more online courses.

According to GeoLogic CEO John Lewis, his Virginia-based company is working on delivering training materials to drivers in the cab over the firm's new driver display units, which became available earlier this year. "Online training has been taking place for some time in fleet centers, but not in the cab," Lewis said in an interview earlier this year.

Current communications technologies make delivering that content possible. Brian McLaughlin, vice president of market and product planning with PeopleNet Communications in Minneapolis, says a high-bandwidth network and quality display allows training videos or other content to be delivered directly to the onboard communications system.

RyderSafetyServices.com is an e-commerce site operated by Ryder Systems that re-sells Instructional Technologies Inc.'s TREAD-1 and PRO-TREAD products. Scott Gates, general manager of Ryder Fleet Products, says online driver training applications are becoming more popular.

"Fleets sign up their drivers, you'll find owner-operators, you'll find many different types of companies that sign up for this online training," Gates says. "Our largest customer right now is Ryder's Supply Chain division drivers. You'll see companies that want to train all of their drivers. You'll see companies that just want to try a few lessons. Owner-operators take the courses because they are required to have training as well. As they have Internet access, they can get the training."

Training available at RyderSafetyServices.com include courses on backing and docking, speed management, defensive driving, hours of service, driver wellness, driver qualifications, log books, fuel management, space management, visual search, accident procedures, fatigue management, night driving, winter driving, pre-trip inspections, skid control and communications.

Institutional Technologies introduced its TREAD-1 product in 2000. It included Macintosh computers pre-loaded with ITI's training programs and installed at a fleet's terminals. The computers connected to ITI's database via telephone or T1 line. Drivers enter an ID number and take a lesson. The results are uploaded to the company's database. A fleet's safety manager can log into the system to review results.

Drivers may have to take a lesson following an incident like a speeding ticket or minor accident. Or they may be require to take a winter driving course in September, before the harsh weather sets in. The most successful companies are those that require consistent and on-going training, Weiss says. He says one carrier he works with requires every driver to take two courses per quarter. "It's like joining a gym; if you join a gym to lose weight, you have to go to the gym and work out to get results."

As for those drivers that don't think they need re-training, Weiss refers to the mandatory training the airlines require of their personnel.

Smith System of Arlington, Texas has been offering driver training since 1952. The company's online truck driving courses include "The 5 Keys to Safe Driving," which covers such topics as the reasons for traffic accidents, proper following distances, avoiding rear-end collisions and other topics. Drivers complete the course and a 20-question test. Results are stored in a database that fleet management can access at anytime.

In terms of driver training, a truck's mobile communications system can do more than just deliver a training video or lessons. Tied into the onboard computer, safety managers can also track risky driving behaviors such as frequent speeding, hard stops or excessive G-forces. Using this information, safety managers can target these drivers for extra remedial training.

For instance, when the on-board recorder shows a driver has been driving at excessive speeds a number of times, his fleet manager could require him to take a course on speed management. If the on-board recorder shows a number of hard-braking incidents, the driver might be required to take a lesson on space management.

"In the past, the re-education would be after an accident," Weiss says. "Now, a manager can remediate before an incident, based on the information the onboard computer relays back to fleet headquarters."

Regular driver training and refresher courses help fleets reduce accidents and liability exposure, and current technologies means the training drivers need is never very far away – available in the cab or over the Internet.

MACK INTRODUCES MULTI-FUNCTION NAVIGATIONAL RADIO

The Navion R5000 navigational radio, available as an option on Mack Pinnacle and Granite Series trucks, integrates up to six separate functions, including safety-related devices, vehicle information and entertainment.

The navigational radio fits into a standard in-dash radio slot and features a 7-inch color LCD screen and large controls designed for easy use.

The unit features AM/FM/weather band radio, CD, digital audio inputs for MP3 players, iPods and USB memory devices and a satellite radio controller, with a 200-watt four-channel amplifier.

The unit also displays data from wireless tire-pressure sensors, providing warnings when tire pressure is off and real-time pressure readings for any tire on the truck or trailer. The unit will also display images from remote vision and blind-spot camera systems.

The R5000 is preloaded with street maps for North America and can provide both spoken and visual directions. The unit integrates with the truck's onboard systems to display vehicle performance data, trip information, fuel consumption and other information.

For more information, go to www.mack.com.

MCLEOD SOFTWARE TAKES TOP MARKETING HONORS

McLeod Software recently received four 2007 Communication Awards from the Transportation Sales & Marketing Association (TSMA) and two 2007 Compass Awards from the Transportation Marketing & Communications Association (TMCA).

"McLeod Software is honored to have received these prestigious awards," said Caroline Lyle, director of marketing for McLeod. "We strive to be on the cutting edge in every area of our business, not just our software, so it is an honor to be recognized for our marketing efforts by these respected awards programs."

McLeod's offerings include enterprise management software products including LoadMaster, PowerBroker and LoadMaster Document Imaging.

For more information, go to www.mcleodsoftware.com

ALK INTRODUCES PC*MILER WEB SERVICES

PC*MILER Web Services is a hosted application that provides map data and functionality regardless of a customer's IT infrastructure. ALK says virtually any other platform or operating system is compatible, including UNIX, Java, Perl and others.

The service addresses issues with sharing data across different computer platforms. It allows different applications from different sources to communicate, eliminating time-consuming and costly custom programming.

Access is provided to PC*MILER Web Services through four feature option levels, giving users the flexibility to gain access to the features of choice – Lite, Standard, Premium and Enterprise. The Lite option offers core PC*MILER functionality. The other three full-featured levels provide additional capabilities; for example, street-level routing, truck-specific toll costs and mapping.

ALK also announced an updated PC*MILER|Tolls 21. This update includes Canadian toll data and now integrates the tolls application with PC*MILER 21. The package contains the latest truck-specific costs from toll roads, bridges, tunnels and border crossings across North America. It includes information from 25 toll programs.

PC*MILER|Tolls 21 users will receive quarterly updates to keep all truck-specific toll data current.

For more information, visit www.alk.com.

SKYBITZ RECEIVES UL 913 COMPLIANCE

SkyBitz, a provider of trailer tracking technology was recently awarded the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) 913 Intrinsically Safe Apparatus and Associated Apparatus Compliance for its signature GLS 210 trailer tracking hardware.

This certification is the highest qualification necessary to track dangerous shipments that have ignitable concentrations of flammable gases, vapors or liquids over road, rail or barge.

In addition to the UL 913 compliance, SkyBitz also holds the Department of Defense (DoD) Hazards of Electromagnetic Radiation to Ordnance (HERO) certification for transporting DoD munitions and ordnance. The HERO certification acknowledges that the SkyBitz hardware has been stringently tested and proven safe around electrically initiated devices (EIDs).

In other news, SkyBitz said that Averitt Express had selected the company's GLS-based trailer tracking technology for the fleet's 4,000 trailers.

For additional information, visit www.skybitz.com.

TRIPMASTER PARENT MERGES WITH MATRIX VEHICLE TRACKING

Control Instruments has signed an agreement to merge its fleet management interests with Matrix Vehicle Tracking Limited. This includes CI OmniBridge, CI OmniBridge's U.S.-based business Tripmaster Corp. as well as the recently acquired Datatrak and Siemens VDO Fleet Telematics businesses in the U.K.

CI OmniBridge is focused primarily on commercial vehicle fleet management and Matrix on consumer vehicle tracking and personal safety. The merged entity will enjoy a combined base of in excess of 165,000 subscribers, a global installed base of over 450,000 vehicles and a distribution network in more than 40 countries worldwide.

For more information, go to www.tripmaster.com.

PEOPLENET AND MAGTEC ANNOUNCE PARTNERSHIP

PeopleNet mobile communication systems will be compatible with Magtec Products truck security systems under an agreement announced by the two companies in July. The companies will integrate Magtec's M5K system with PeopleNet's g3 onboard computing and mobile communication system so PeopleNet customers can access Magtec functions through their PeopleNet web page interface.

MAGTEC authentication helps prevent truck theft, even when the driver leaves a truck running. Magtec's M5K system requires drivers to enter a personal authentication code on a numerical keypad prior to moving the vehicle. The system knows when a truck is left idling and will require the driver to re-enter the code before it will move.

M5K enables managers to set idling time limits, something increasingly mandated by various local and regional governments. Managers can also disable the system for set periods of time to accommodate vehicle maintenance and repairs.

Authentication codes, idling times, disablement and other system parameters can be changed remotely, over the air, without input from the driver. After integration, PeopleNet customers who use MAGTEC will be able to make those changes from their web-based PeopleNet screen on any Internet-connected computer.

For more information, go to www.magtecproducts.com or www.peoplenetonline.com.

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