It’s about 450 miles between Fort Worth, Texas and Abilene, Kansas – 450 miles of highway running through the very heartland of America. In the late 19th century, cowboys drove cattle along this route as they followed the fabled Chisholm Trail. Now it is long-haul truckers who ride the road in their 18 wheelers.
Yesterday’s cowboys and today’s truckers have a lot in common. Both seem to appreciate the independence and solitude of the open road.
But the road has changed.
These days, life behind the wheel of a big rig is becoming more and more data-driven. And even the venerable truck stop is going high-tech.
“The Internet of Trucks”
Information technology has changed the driving experience for all of us. The ubiquitous GPS has made the roadmap a collector’s item, while onboard sensors monitor everything from tire pressure to other cars lurking in our blind spots.
But for trucks and truckers, this technology has shifted into overdrive. As one industry analyst notes, “Increasingly, the truck is a node in an always expanding Internet of Things.”
Truck-specific navigation systems, for example, now provide real-time information on routing and road conditions – such as the best driving lanes to use at a particular intersection or congested areas that are best avoided by truckers altogether.
Meanwhile, onboard sensors can constantly track and share data such as fuel consumption and engine performance with fleet management systems back at dispatch. With two-way communication, this data improves driver efficiency and promotes safety. Electronic logging devices (ELDs), for instance, can monitor a trucker’s driving time to help ensure compliance with federal hours-of-service regulations.
Truck Stop Technology
Roadside truck stops, like Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores, are going high-tech too.
Love’s is a family-owned operation with over 330 locations and 200 Love’s Truck Tire Care centers across 40 states – including about a dozen along the Fort Worth to Abilene run.
Love’s has added systems at many of its locations that let truckers pay at the diesel bay using radio frequency (RFID) technology. An electronic signal from an RFID tag placed on the truck’s windshield turns the fuel pump on and off and completes the payment transaction with little driver interaction. It also provides more accurate payment tracking information.
And that’s only one example.
Presenting at the 2014 Best Practices for Oil and Gas Conference in Houston, Love’s shared an impressive list of information technology the company is now using to better serve its customers. This includes mobile apps, in-memory computing, cloud solutions, and even the use of rapid deployment methodology to get the software implemented quickly.
“We now have a mobile app that helps our tire care technicians provide better roadside service,” Mike McCane, Love’s Director of Data and Development Services, told the audience. “In addition to tracking response times, it lets our techs take pictures and even obtain customer signatures while out on the road.”
This app is integrated with a new customer interaction center built on SAP CRM powered by SAP HANA.
Love’s customer relationship management (CRM) system – which is also integrated with the company’s customer loyalty system – allows service reps to build a complete customer history. “We can tell what issues a trucker typically has and measure how well we respond to their requests,” explained Justin Long, Director of IT Business Service Delivery at Love’s.
The interaction center gives customers a single point of contact with the company – a big advantage to busy truckers. “In the past, a customer could be rerouted several times in the course of a service call,” noted Long.
And everybody knows that truckers don’t like detours. Just ask one of those modern-day cowboys (or cowgirls) rolling down the highway between Fort Worth and Abilene.
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