Unitrans and Orchid cultivate driver efficiency

Historically, keeping close tabs on driver behaviour while they were out on the road was a somewhat imperfect science. Fortunately, today’s leading truck fleets can rely on information and communications technology (ICT) to assist in ensuring cargo arrives at its destination safely and efficiently. One such fleet is Unitrans Fuel & Chemical, a blue-chip organisation that optimises fleet productivity using best-of-breed fleet management systems and services from Orchid Telematics.

Transporting hazardous materials by truck is a particularly risky business, which is why the so-called “Dangerous Goods” industry is governed by strict codes of conduct, regulated by both government and industry. The fact that trucks are “mobile business units” means that logistics managers have to adopt technology platforms that deliver accurate data on both driver and vehicle performance, in real-time.

Comprehensive control
According to Sonja Stockenstroom, regional manager (KZN), Unitrans Fuel & Chemical, “Our truck tractors and bulk trailers travel across South Africa and cross-border into southern Africa, transporting bulk fuel and chemicals as well as various bulk and packed gasses. Just over 55% of our fleet uses the Orchid Telematics fleet management system from Global Telematics and has done so for several years with impressive results.”

Richard van Rooyen, technical services director at Global Telematics SA, explains the Orchid technology architecture: “Orchid uses GPRS as its primary carrier, which is very cost effective for the management of fleet data. When out of GPRS coverage, only critical data is transmitted via SMS to minimise cost, providing an effective solution. Data that is not transmitted via SMS is logged on-board the unit for transmission as soon as GPRS connectivity is re-established.”

“The Orchid DX250 immediately highlights problem areas with regards to poor vehicle utilisation, particularly those untoward driving habits that cause accidents and lead to excessive fuel consumption, vehicle maintenance costs and downtime,” says Stockenstroom.

Equipped with user-friendly reporting functionality, Orchid offers a comprehensive suite of reports that define driver behaviour and give fleet managers a useful tool with which to coach drivers.

“The Orchid Driver Scorecard represents a summary of the driver’s driving pattern, while a debriefing report enables fleet controllers to review particular trips with the driver, immediately,” Van Rooyen explains. “The scorecard rates each individual parameter and determines an overall rating, differentiating performance through colour coding Red, Orange and Green. These are easy to understand and management need only pay attention to those drivers in Red. Drivers themselves understand the need to advance from Red to Green. Graphical dashboards provide management with daily and monthly indicators of fleet and driver performance.”

Targeted training
The information transmitted via Orchid from truck to depot, provides Unitrans fleet managers with critical real-time intelligence on how drivers are piloting their vehicles, allowing them to pinpoint where coaching is required.

“The Orchid system reports on vehicle speed, harsh braking, excessive idling, over-revving, entry into no-go zones, driving hours, kilometres travelled per vehicle per day, out-of-hours driving, panic alarms, power cuts, and more,” says Stockenstroom. “The latest driver reports are used at every driver debriefing session. Excessive key performance areas are monitored daily and these trends are sent to the driver trainer to correct behaviour where required. Personal Orchid scores form part of a HSSE award that our drivers can qualify for.”

Apart from monitoring and recording critical vehicle and driver performance parameters, “with Orchid, companies can achieve substantial savings in fuel costs by managing fleet utilisation, route optimisation and driver training. Orchid integrates with the vehicle’s CANbus or onboard computer, delivering pinpoint accurate data and reports that provide effective training tools to improve the driving skill and safety awareness of drivers. Introducing a rewards programme that re-enforces the desired driving pattern can have huge benefits for fleet operators,” says Van Rooyen.

Reduced risk
With safety a top priority in any fleet (and particularly in Dangerous Goods transport), “the Orchid solution has a configurable impact sensor. This sensor, when activated, stores certain information that can be utilised to determine events leading up to a point of impact. This is commonly referred to as the ‘black box’ functionality and is used extensively in the analysis of driving data immediately before the impact,” adds Van Rooyen.

Unitrans Fuel & Chemical uses the Orchid DX250 dashboard at driver debriefing and training sessions as well as with accident reconstruction procedures. “Together with DriveCam (an in-vehicle video event recorder), Orchid is able to prove what really happened in an accident involving one of our vehicles. More importantly, it gives us the ability to communicate effectively with our drivers, providing them with targeted skills development; helping them become better at their work. It’s like having a permanent driver trainer in each vehicle,” concludes Stockenstroom.

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