Leveraging technology

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With change comes opportunity - and for those of us who can adapt, there are benefits to be gained.” -Ron Konezny, CEO, PeopleNet


If there was any single overarching theme to be gleaned from PeopleNet‘s 6th annual User Conference this week in Naples FL, it‘s that the right technology used in the right manner can help fleets boost productivity and profits - without necessarily adding capacity.


“The reason that our conference theme is ‘Pushing the Performance Limits‘ is that while many our customers are seeing good top line growth, their profits are getting squeezed,” said Ron Konezny, PeopleNet‘s CEO. “That‘s where technology can play a role, because by leveraging technology, you can gain efficiencies to help you cut costs and so increase profitability.”


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(Ron Konezny, PeopleNet's CEO.)


It all boils down to increasing the return on investment (ROI) from technology at higher levels and at a faster pace, he stressed.


Brian McLaughlin, PeopleNet‘s COO, said that focus on ROI across a number of areas - from using electronic driver logs, better route planning for fuel savings, and back office integration to reduce paperwork and speed up information flow - can reap big rewards for fleets across the trucking spectrum, be they private carriers, for-hire operators, you name it.


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(That's Brian McLaughlin on the left, with Harry Haney of Kraft Foods, who also is the immediate past chairman of the National Private Truck Council.)


“That‘s why we‘re focused on what we call ‘innovation around the edges‘ in back office systems and in-vehicle applications to help fleets reduce costs and improve efficiencies throughout their operation, not just the truck side,” he explained. “We also don‘t want our customers to be limited to just what we can do. That‘s why we‘ve partnered with so many other companies [McLeod Software, etc.] and why we have an ‘open architecture that even allows customers to write their own customized applications.”


That‘s one reason behind PeopleNet‘s “MPG Guarantee Program,” initiated back in April as a way to help fleets improve miles-per-gallon fuel performance - back up with a money-back guarantee.


“The cost of fuel is the most critical issue fleets face today. The efficient purchase and use of that fuel is an urgent challenge,” noted Rick Ochsendorf, PeopleNet‘s vice president of operations. “For most fleets, it means the difference between profit and loss. For some it‘s a matter of survival.”


Ochsendorf said the MPG Guarantee Program evolved from more than 13 years of PeopleNet experience with customer fleets that adopted technology to improve operating and business performance, with the goal to increase fleet mpg from 5% to 10% - an improvement that could save millions of dollars. What PeopleNet guarantees is that the mpg benefit will exceed cost of the program within one year or all fees will be refunded.


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(Rick Ochsendorf, helping to lead a discussion about fuel efficiency tactics at PeopleNet's 6th annual User's Conference.)


“This involves much more than simply changing driver habits, though that‘s certainly a part of it,” Ochsendorf said, noting that it includes in-depth analysis of fuel purchasing, maintenance, driver habits, operating efficiency and equipment specs. It goes on to establish measurement benchmarks and a custom, fleet-specific plan to improve mpg to carry the program forward well beyond that first year.


“We‘ll spend substantial time with the fleet and look at all the elements that can contribute to the goal,” Ochsendorf pointed out.


It‘s all about tapping into the burgeoning technological resources out there today to gain better information and “business intelligence” so fleets can make better decisions, added Craig Dillon, PeopleNet‘s new chief technology officer.


“The availability of data is going to continue to increase,” he said. “There‘s this incredibly data-rich environment within the commercial truck and that‘s going to drive the evolution of data-driven business tools for fleets, allowing them to get real-time ‘glimpses‘ of everything from vehicle fuel economy, on-time delivery, and driver performance so they can make better decisions.”


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(Craig Dillon joined PeopleNet as CTO this past January.)


For example, Dillon said using technology to tap into everything from fuel economy data to driver performance metrics would allow fleets to better align drivers and routes, while also fine-tuning maintenance based on the operational data coming from the truck, rather than keeping the entire fleet on one fixed schedule.


“There‘s going to be a lot more capability where technology is concerned in the coming months and years,” he noted. “Fleets just need to determine where that capability can best help their specific operations.”

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