Back to the Future

May 1, 2010

Twenty Years After Making Satellite Technology an Industry Standard, the Nation’s Largest Truckload Carrier Takes Another Bold Step into the Future

Picture 7

Schneider National today announced that 25 percent of its fleet is now equipped with industry-leading driver in-cab technology, with the company on pace to convert all of its existing in-cab technology to a new system by this fall. The technology revamp delivers a variety of electronic tools to improve truck driver safety, productivity and e-mail connectivity.

Schneider is currently installing Qualcomm’s Mobile Computing Platform 200 Series (MCP 200) units in all company-owned and owner-operator tractors. MCP 200 was selected by Schneider following two years of evaluation and testing. The company began installing the new technology in October 2009 and currently has 3,000 company trucks with the new system.

Features of the new system include text-to-voice functionality (allowing drivers to hear messages and directions while driving, eliminating the need to stop and read messages and new work assignments); navigation (turn-by-turn directions that can be previewed pre-trip and via audio en-route, comparable to an automobile GPS system); Internet and personal e-mail account access; electronic logging and on-demand in-cab training (for specialized hauling requirements like bulk and chemical loads and ongoing, semi-annual training — eliminating the need for drivers to be routed to an operating center for training).

“This technology is comparable to a smart device,” said Rich Hardt, vice president of technical services at Schneider. “It truly changes the way our entire organization works and interfaces with drivers, how we share information on work assignments, customer delivery details, company news and even updates on pay and benefits. It’s designed to make all of us safer and more productive, which is good for drivers, customers and the motoring public.”

The device includes a color screen and slide-out keyboard, with many comparing it to a personal computer. Schneider officials quickly point out that unlike a common laptop computer, many of the unit’s features cannot be accessed when the truck is moving.

Schneider’s decision to move ahead with a fleetwide implementation was driven by the safety and productivity benefits that come with the new technology as well as quality of life improvements for drivers and owner-operators.

Electronic logging simplifies the job for drivers because it eliminates manual logging while continually providing updated hours of service (hours driven/hours available to drive, legally) information. The system alerts drivers when work hours are about to expire. Schneider drivers who have tested the electronic logging technology immediately recognized an impact on their daily productivity, saving on average 20 minutes a day when not required to fill out paper logs.

The new technology will also improve driver safety. Fewer accidents and decreased cargo claims occurred during the pilot as drivers drove with greater confidence because of the improved directional and navigational aspects of the GPS system. “Drivers can visually preview their trip on-screen, get a mental image of where they’re going, and then use the audio directions to navigate them in,” said Don Osterberg, senior vice president of safety and driver training for Schneider National. “The result is a driver who is more focused on the road and the conditions around them. The audio directions provided by the system eliminate distractions in the cab.”

Approximately 100 drivers helped Schneider pilot and test the technology. Because the new system is built off a previous Qualcomm platform, the transition for drivers is going smoothly. “It was a lot simpler than I expected. I am not a techy. It’s very intuitive. It does what you would expect it to do,” said Greg Mossholder, who’s driven for Schneider National for two years.
According to Mark Rourke, president of truckload services at Schneider, the company’s technology upgrade demonstrates Schneider’s willingness to invest in and grow its business. “Twenty years ago, Schneider revolutionized the industry by being the first to deploy satellite communications devices in trucks, allowing direct, in-cab communication between drivers and their leaders. It’s exciting to be on the front end of the next revolution,” Rourke said.