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June 2006 - The
Logging and Sawmilling Journal
Win/win for truckers, companies
The log truck monitoring system in place at Alberta-Pacific Forest Industries has proven to be beneficial for both the company and log haul contractors, and raised the bar in terms of professionalism.
By Tony Kryzanowski
Black boxes have not only been proven valuable for gathering accurate information on airplanes— they are now also serving a useful purpose as an information gathering tool in log trucks for forestry companies.
New technology that monitors driver and truck performance is helping companies improve safety, reduce the impact on the environment and save money, to boot. “Introducing our log truck monitoring system six years ago has definitely raised the bar in terms of the level of professionalism with our log haul operators,” says Greg Safar, woodlands operations business unit leader at Alberta-Pacific Forest Industries (Al-Pac).
Use of the monitoring equipment is mandatory on all of Al-Pac’s 67 full-time contracted log haul trucks. They are dispatched by Al-Pac on a regular basis and usually operate for 11 months a year, with each fleet owner or owner/operator offered a guaranteed contract for up to four years. Other seasonal log trucks contracted only during peak periods are not required to install the monitoring system.
This Global Positioning System (GPS) monitoring technology was originally called Traxis, and is now being marketed by QA Technologies in Saskatoon under the name AccutreQ. “We have a number of forest companies successfully using our AccutreQ system,” says Brock Eidem, QA Technologies general manager. “The companies range from log haulers to chip haulers, and range in size from 30 trucks to 300 trucks.”
A GPS receiving unit and data collection box equipped with a memory card is located in each truck. Once the operator completes his trip, he removes the card from the data collection unit and downloads it into a personal computer terminal located in Al-Pac’s dispatch building. The driver receives a trip report, including a list of infractions, if applicable, that might have occurred.
The system collects a wide variety of information, including truck speed, engine speed, wrapper check compliance, speeds traveled through sensitive areas such as towns, construction and school zones, locations where the operator applied his brakes, fuel consumption and cycle times.
Al-Pac log haul contractor Michael Mallock (above) says drivers were originally concerned about having ‘Big Brother’ watching their every move with the monitoring system. After a few occasions when it came to their defence, however, they could see the benefit of the monitoring system.
The AccutreQ system is also hooked into the truck’s central tire inflation (CTI) system. Deflating truck tires has been shown to reduce road damage, improve traction on off-highway roads, and extend tire life. AccutreQ can monitor whether or not the driver is using the CTI system in the appropriate circumstances.
Al-Pac log haul contractor Michael Mallock says using the data collected by this monitoring system has eliminated a lot of the guesswork for establishing a fair haul rate for each assignment. “What’s attractive for the log haul contractor is that the cycle time is set automatically based on the average length of time it takes to make a round trip from a particular area,” he says. “You don’t have to go in and negotiate a rate.”
Safar agrees that it’s easier to set log haul payment rates because they are based on the facts, rather than assumptions, like truck manufacturer specifications on fuel consumption. From a safety aspect, using the average time it takes to make a round trip to set the rate eliminates any financial incentive to speed.
It has also become an important business management tool for the log haul contractors. With factual information concerning individual truck performance related to fuel consumption, engine speed, and downtime, contractors can choose particular truck configurations that provide them with the greatest efficiency.
It may be possible for a contractor to make more money by using a more fuel efficient rig, if the rate is the same for all contractors regardless of what equipment they operate.
Fleet owners can also monitor individual driver performance. Some have developed payment bonuses for consistently safe and conscientious drivers.
This monitoring system and computer software was modified to meet Al-Pac’s specific needs when the pulp producer agreed to be the first forestry company in Canada to implement the system on a full-scale basis in 2000.
“It has actually worked out very well,” says Safar. “The biggest challenge was modifying the program so that we received the reports that we wanted.” He says the black box information such as truck speed and braking has proven invaluable when trying to determine the cause of accidents, especially when there are no eyewitnesses.
Mallock says there was resistance from some log truckers when Al-Pac initially announced its intention to implement the monitoring system. They were concerned that “Big Brother” would be watching their every move. However, it only took one or two occasions when the GPS information came to their defense, following a public complaint, for them to embrace the system. Sometimes it was a complaint from a town resident accusing a driver of speeding. In most instances, the GPS information showed that the driver was, in fact, driving well within the speed limit.
“However, it is a double-edged sword,” says Mallock. “Sometimes when Joe Public phones in to complain, we discover that an operator did speed. Those kinds of things are a thing of the past,
though. It’s very rare because of the deterrent factor. You know you are being monitored.”
Safar says using the AccutreQ system is not complicated and drivers are trained on how to use the system properly prior to getting behind the wheel.
In terms of the extra cost to purchase and install the AccutreQ equipment, payment for the system hardware is factored into the rate paid to the log haul contractors. Al-Pac’s cost was minimal, spent mainly on purchasing the software, some extra computer equipment, and training to become familiar with all the system’s capabilities.