Washington Report: Hours Rule Remains In Effect Pending Another Court Decision

Our man in Washington reports on wireless and trucking, FMCSA wireless roadside inspections, and hours of service rules

January 2008, - Feature

by Oliver Patton, Former Washington Editor - Also by this author

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Wireless Will Shape Trucking's future, Says GE's Salvo

Some might find FMCSA's wireless roadside inspection idea a little too advanced or intrusive for comfort but the message from one big thinker is that telemetry is in its infancy and will shape the future of the industry.

The information age is ending and is being replaced by the "systems age," a wireless world in which machines, like tractors and trailers, have a brain that can make decisions based on local conditions and communicate with each other as part of a global network, says Joseph Salvo of General Electric.

Salvo, who has a Ph.D. in molecular biophysics and biochemistry, is the director of the GE Telematics Center of Excellence and manager of the GE Pervasive Decisioning Systems Laboratory.

His team's research is focused on building a reliable and inexpensive system for gathering a lot of local data - everything from truck tire air pressure to how much freight is in a trailer - analyzing it on the spot according to management's instructions, and then sending the information where it needs to go for action or a decision. GE's VeriWise Asset Intelligence system is the product of that research.

Salvo said we are on the cusp of an explosion in the amount of data available to managers. "Every object that can be labeled will be," he said, and the Internet, which now supports 4.3 billion addresses, will move to a new protocol that supports 3.4 undecillion addresses (that's from nine zeroes to 38 zeroes).

Of course, as every fleet manager knows, data is worse than useless if you cannot make sense of it.

The solution, Salvo said, is "swarm intelligence" - decision systems that store, sort, validate and manage the data. With telemetry, and other technological developments, it is possible to decentralize decision-making by equipping the machine with the processing power to discern what's important, and communicate just that.

"Have objects make decisions rather than people having to review them," Salvo said. "Human consciousness evolved because it gave us the ability to predict the future. Machines can do likewise - they will have a simple consciousness and a limited ability to learn."

He used GE's VeriWise system as an example: a "brain" installed in the front wall of a trailer is linked to a satellite or cellular positioning or geofencing system for tracking, to remote devices such as inventory handhelds and RFID transponders, and by wire to onboard sensors. The onboard sensors detect motion and "wake up" the brain, report if the door is ajar, report on hook/drop and battery status, and with ultrasound keep track of how much cargo is in the trailer. GE is working on additional sensors to add to the VeriWise system: tire pressure, cargo damage, brake condition, and reefer status.

The brain can be programmed to evaluate this flow of data and process what is needed for a specific management purpose, ranging for example from better use of the trailer to improved billing to loss prevention. Only "actionable" information is transmitted from the trailer. A number of fleets - H& W Trucking, J.B. Hunt Transportation, Knight Transportation and Wal-Mart, for example - are using the system.

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