By Steve Vaughn, vice president of field operations, PrePass Safety Alliance

These days you will see many stories in the trucking media about technology. You will read about automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, speed limiters, intelligent trailers, and so on. You will see the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration urging fleets to “Tech-Celerate.”

As a fleet owner or owner-operator, you likely appreciate the technologies built into your newer power units. They offer reduced maintenance costs, better fuel economy and improved communication with your drivers. You perhaps chose to qualify for other technological advances, like the electronic weigh station bypass service offered through PrePass. But, on the whole, this technology stuff may be a bit outside your wheelhouse. How do you tackle new trucking technology?

Follow there simple steps to keep your fleet up to speed with  truck technologies that fit your equipment and your operations:

  1. Have a good technology partner or lead employee.  You have a full-time job managing fleet operations. Choose a key employee or a trusted vendor to help you work through your technology options. A good place to start is the Technology & Maintenance Council of the American Trucking Associations. At TMC, your employee can learn from experienced pros who have faced the same challenges at their fleets.
  2. Be sure of compatibility between technologies.  We all have heard the question, “Is your laptop or mobile phone iOS or Android?” Depending on your answer, the program you want to download may not be compatible with the device’s operating system. The same compatibility issues can arise with truck technologies. Start with your original equipment maker, provide your equipment’s year, make and model, and ask for an overview of what technologies will and won’t work with the built-in computer platform. Do the same thing with each new technology added later.
  3. Introduce new technology slowly to employees.  Provide plenty of hands-on training before on-road use and refresher training down the line. Employees first want to know why you are adding new technology to their trucks. Once they understand that, train them to use it properly. Out on the road, truck drivers do not need the distraction of trying to recall how something works or how to reboot an uncooperative computer program or application. Refresher training means eyes can stay on the road and your drivers can stay safe. As a former law enforcement officer, myself and other officers went through continual refresher training on our equipment so we could act by reflex in critical moments.
  4. Be sure maintenance staff has training, too.  Your maintenance crew are pros when it comes to your current equipment. But new technology can bring new challenges, and even the need for new tools, in the installation, maintenance, updates and later repair of the advanced technology you have chosen to purchase. Make sure they are fully versed by the technology vendor.
  5. Stay on top of updates.  Every computer program requires updates over time. Sometimes those updates are automated. Other times they require human intervention, if only to restart a program. Get clear instructions from your technology vendor. Left untended, updates requiring human intervention can pile up to the point that expert attention is required. Stay current. And ask whether the new technology can receive over-the-air updates. OTA updates are convenient but may require your trucks to remain where they receive a strong signal via a cellular telephone connection or satellite.

Welcome to the brave new world of trucking technology! It’s a world of improved safety, convenience and efficiency, when done correctly. Follow the steps above and you’re on the right road.

Steve Vaughn is the vice president of field operations at PrePass Safety Alliance, the provider of PrePass weigh station bypass and toll payment/management services. Vaughn served nearly three decades with the California Highway Patrol and is a past president of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance.

This blog was originally published in the IdeaXchange