Stakeholders in the trucking industry have big plans for using technology to improve the day-to-day experiences of small and midsize businesses, but fleet owners already have a variety of innovative trucking software tools at their fingertips. Instead of waiting out the cumbersome regulatory process at both the state and the federal level, enterprise owners can tap into immediate savings opportunities by introducing automated resources into their ongoing operations. While lawmakers make efforts to both improve highway infrastructure and create a more efficient regulatory framework for ground transportation businesses, managers must continue to prioritize ways to streamline their shipping schedules on a daily basis.
Illinois aims for smarter highways
That's not to say state and federal regulators don't have exciting ideas for the future of fleet management technology in the U.S. In fact, some states have taken steps to eliminate the regular occurrence of delay-causing traffic jams. For example, the Chicago Tribune reported that the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) is currently considering a pilot initiative to implement unique sensors and Bluetooth mechanisms on a stretch of Chicago-area highway known as the Edens Expressway. These tools would then be used to provide motorists with real-time traffic data and travel time estimates, as well as bus-on-shoulder service during rush hour periods. The organization also plans to install radar devices that recognize reckless drivers going the wrong way on the Interstate and alert drivers of the danger as it happens.
"We are trying to fix a lot of problems with very cost-efficient solutions that can be introduced relatively soon," Ann Schneider, secretary of IDOT, told the newspaper.
Perhaps the most pressing problem facing IDOT is the fact that the Chicago region continues to host one of the most dangerous and congested highway systems in the country. The Tribunereported that there were 1,000 traffic fatalities in Illinois during 2013. Frequent gridlocks during rush periods can also create new overhead costs for small and midsize trucking companies that can't afford to waste time and fuel by idling for hours during shipping assignments. IDOT claims these issues justify investing $45 million into the smart technology experiment on the Edens Expressway. If successful, the organization would roll out similar programs all across the state.
Stakeholders seek to influence future legislation
Federal agencies also have several ideas for improving transportation at the national level. Earlier this month, the Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee (MCSAC) met to discuss priorities for the coming year, according to Overdrive magazine. Congress is expected to come up with a new highway bill in the near future, and stakeholder organizations are hoping to see vast improvements to existing legislation. In particular, lawmakers are will most likely address the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's (FMCSA) Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program, which has received critical backlash from a variety of groups across the country. Many argue that the regulatory program is ineffective and unfair in both enforcing and promoting safety among heavy-duty trucks.
The online publication Truckinginfo reported on a variety of other initiatives fleet owners would like to see included in a future bill. Don Osterberg, senior vice president of safety, security and driver training at the trucking company Schneider National, told the the website that he'd like to see members of Congress eliminate an existing 12 percent excise tax on certain vehicle safety equipment. Osterberg argued that this extra cost serves a disincentive for complying with safety regulations, especially for firms that are already struggling to keep their spending as low as possible.
It's too soon to tell if any of these initiatives will be addressed once Congress gets around to passing a new law. However, businesses can benefit from technology such as equipment maintenance software in the mean time. Even if it costs money to purchase safety equipment, managers can experience big savings in other areas by streamlining the vehicle upkeep process. These tools make it possible to schedule maintenance electronically so that it becomes easier to comply with state and federal regulations.
Transportation software will also be a valuable resource for organizations that want to avoid many of the external factors that affect the ability to deliver products on time. While IDOT takes the steps to implement smart technology on Chicago-area highways, trucking companies across the U.S. can use advanced logistics software tools to save time and increase profits.