With COVID-19 continuing its onslaught in the U.S., the need to stay safe has never been more critical. Working on the frontlines and being primary movers of the economy, logistics personnel will have to make sure they are adequately protected from infection.
For truck drivers, one of the primary ways to safeguard themselves is by actively sanitizing their surroundings – including all the high-touch points on their trucks, like door handles and latches. But with technology becoming increasingly mainstream around trucking operations, there are solutions that enable truckers to reduce their overall touch-points to a minimum – drastically diminishing their possibility to contract the virus.
FreightWaves spoke with Chris Wolfe, the CEO of logistics solutions provider PowerFleet, to discuss the possible technologies that can be leveraged to keep the trucking community safe during these perilous times.
Wolfe started by explaining the real issue of touch-points, contending that apart from the vehicle itself, truckers make physical contact with things that have been handled by several other people.
“There’s something called a key exchange procedure, where you take the key from the vehicle to the office. This is a horrific touch point, as several people handle those keys. The keys are either put in a file or hung on a rack before the next person touches them. And in that key exchange, you could infect several people,” said Wolfe.
It is a similar story for paper checklists and driver inspection reports. Paper checklists, for instance, will ultimately be handed over to an administrator. The administrator will read through the document and file it if everything looks proper. The document is then accessed by different people, including the maintenance team. This long list of possible touch-points for a document makes it a hotbed for easy viral transmission.
By digitalizing these documents, companies not only save time and increase efficiency, but can also break the chain of transmission by helping their workforce avoid needless contact.
Wolfe said that PowerFleet also goes the extra distance and asks users if they have wiped down the equipment and if they have a COVID-19 procedure in place. This data can be accessed by the equipment’s next user, who can ascertain if it is sanitized before its operation. As far as the keys are concerned, Wolfe said PowerFleet’s platform could be used to access the vehicles, making the key management issue a non-issue.
Truckers usually walk around a truck to inspect it before they get in and start it. But by using technology sensors, truckers can check the truck from within the cab. For instance, tire sensors transmit the real-time status of tires to the cloud that can be accessed by the trucker on a tablet. Similarly, wireless door sensors and cameras can help truckers find if the trailer door is closed without leaving the cab.
“Even if you are sharing equipment, doing inspection reports digitally will get rid of probably 80% of direct human interaction. With the right kind of technology application, you can show up straight to work. You are assigned a truck before you get there, and it is texted or emailed to you,” said Wolfe.
In addition, radio technology like 3G or Bluetooth can help fleets identify everything that was near the equipment. “Based on signal strength, we can literally locate how close an object was to the equipment. We call this incident recreation. So if a forklift operator is diagnosed with COVID-19, we can roll back the clock to see every person or object that was near the operator at certain periods of time,” said Wolfe.
Though there are security and privacy issues associated with using this in an external environment, incident recreation can be done within a private network if the need arises.
For all its advantages, such technology will also be available at a price point, which Wolfe said would be easily recoupable within a year. “There is definitely a good return on investment. But obviously, the larger the fleet is, the faster you are going to get a return, as you get higher asset utilization because of the solution,” said Wolfe.