Trucking technology executives talked about strategies, gamification, analytics and more during the ALK Transportation Technology Summit, held May 4-7 in Princeton, N.J.

A panel discussion on how fleet chief information officers view technology included Tom Benusa, CIO, Transport America; John Pappe, vice president technology, Roehl Transport, and John Reed, CIO, AIM NationaLease. William Cassidy, senior editor for Journal of Commerce, acted as moderator.

Benusa said Transport America is focused on drivers and is ready to launch a mobile app to keep their drivers connected. Predictive analytics is another new venture for the company. “We have a lot of data, we’ve had it for some time,” he said, and now the company is working with a third party to make the best use of that data.

While a company’s CIO may have a positive view of technologies, their bosses – the company’s CEO, for instance – are looking for efficiency and how to keep drivers in trucks, Reed said.

Pappe noted that Roehl takes a very technological approach to its operation and is looking at becoming a “technology company that does transportation,” with a fully staffed IT team in place. A key focus is on mobile technologies. “We think of everything from a mobile-first perspective.”

He added that the company puts a lot of effort into developing apps that replicate everything in the cab and allow drivers to bring their own devices, with about an 80% adoption rate. The mobile app automates all of the drivers’ paperwork and gives them an easy way to reach fleet management – “drivers have a way to reach out.”

Roehl also looks at gamification of its apps – a way of showing drivers how they are performing against their peers and other benchmarks.

Reed noted that AIM Nationalease also takes a gamification approach with a mobile app that allows drivers to compare their performance.

Benusa said while Transport America also uses a mobile strategy, it is a “challenge to keep it beefy enough to keep drivers happy. Younger drivers come up with a screen in their hand and they ask, ‘why can’t we do that on our phone?’”

Technology can make the job more attractive for younger drivers, but Benusa said the industry will have to do a better job of promoting it as a reason to drive for a company.

Reed added that today’s drivers want features such as a wireless Internet hot spot, video and satellite TV. “They want all of that as well as a nice truck.”

From an analytics perspective, Benusa said that while Transport America has been bringing in a lot of different data, “you have to decide how to use it.” One hard-braking incident may not be something you need to talk to the driver about.

The tremendous amount of data and in some cases video brings up some legal issues, Pappe said. “What is the appropriate amount of time to hold on to all the data” fleets collect?

Benusa agreed, noting that accumulating the data changes how you do things. “Having all of that data may put you in a positions you don’t want to be in – it’s a double-edged sword.”

Commenting on an announcement of the first street-legal autonomous commercial vehicle introduced by Daimler on May 6, Reed said he felt such vehicles might be allowed on certain corridors, but that the accident with such a vehicle could create problems.

Pappe, while acknowledging that autonomous vehicles are some of the “most exciting technologies out there,” he felt it would be some time before it could be fully implemented.