Innovative fleets taking advantage of open-platform technology

Schneider and Platform Science

For a large provider of trucking, intermodal and logistics services like Schneider (NYSE: SNDR) with tens of thousands of assets, the deployment of new technology can take months and the return on investment even longer. Trucks, trailers and containers are on the road hundreds of days a year, and routing any single unit to a facility capable of hardware installation is a complex logistical challenge. That’s why the “speed-to-value” calculation for technology deployment is so important.

Shaleen Devgun, executive vice president and chief information officer for Schneider, explained to FreightWaves that speed-to-value is the time it takes to install new technology and how quickly Schneider or its customers or carriers can start recouping value from that technology. That’s why, from Schneider’s perspective, the recent announcement that Platform Science’s on-vehicle fleet management technology would come factory-installed on Daimler Trucks North America’s Freightliner trucks is such a game-changer.

Devgun said the inclusion of the technology, which Schneider currently adds to its tractors after the fact, is “super exciting and creates a lot of value in terms of [improving] driver productivity.”

“The product comes with a lot of foundational capabilities that allow companies to accelerate … to push workflow to the fleet,” Devgun told FreightWaves. “[It’s] very useful to accelerate when you are doing something in a very specific dedicated model where the [customer can gain value].”

The Platform Science technology allows for the development, download and inclusion of custom-built apps or third-party-built apps on the truck without the need to run additional wiring or pull the truck out of service to install hardware. The inclusion of it from the factory on Freightliner models — Schneider’s primary tractor provider — is a major time saver and plays into the speed-to-value proposition, Devgun said.  

It is also exactly what Platform Science Co-founder and CEO Jack Kennedy said is the company’s goal with the product — to open up the world to innovation and productivity tools without the added costs associated with installing new technologies in vehicles.

Roger Nielsen, president and CEO of Daimler Trucks North America, hailed the inclusion of the platform as a “leap forward for the industry.”

“The demand and the need for efficiency, safety and uptime has never been greater than it is today,” Nielsen said. “With Platform Science, we will help customers avoid pre-installation delays, improve the fleet manager and driver experience once their assets are on the road, and help keep them moving forward as they keep the world moving.”

Devgun agreed.

“We’ve been on their platform for a while,” he said. “We’re happy to say we were one of their earlier customers and we’ve worked on the product. … The Platform Science approach to this whole piece has been very unique. That’s what attracted us to this. The fact is no one before Platform Science stepped back and said the real value is taking pieces from across this value chain and connecting them with other pieces and bringing them together. This whole process was unique and is still unique.”

The Platform Science technology also allows fleets to innovate themselves. FirstFleet is one of the carriers using the platform to develop technology that pushes productivity. Presenting a demonstration of its new driver workflow, FirstFleet Chief Innovation Officer Austin Henderson explained that technology is at the heart of the Murfreesboro, Tennessee-based fleet.

Austin Henderson, CIO of FirstFleet, shows how his fleet is using Platform Science’s  open-technology platform to develop custom driver productivity solutions. The demonstration took place during FreightWaves LIVE @Home. 

“At FirstFleet, we believe in technology solutions that benefit everyone involved in the lifecycle movement,” Henderson said during the demo, which took place as part of the FreightWaves LIVE @HOME event in early May. “We’re constantly looking for methods to gain productivity, efficiency and satisfaction for everyone involved.”

What the fleet realized, he said, was that it was unable to buy exactly what it wanted for its drivers and customers.

“When it comes to in-cab technology, we’ve come to realize the tools we had were limiting the solutions we had for interacting with drivers,” he said. “We found we were hindered in our ability to provide technology interactions that were typical in the rest of the driver’s life. Why should their experience not be on par with their consumer interaction?”

FirstFleet turned to Platform Science for the solution. Utilizing the tech company’s SDK and API tools, FirstFleet built a custom driver workflow.

“Platform Science has provided us with solutions for best-in-class experiences for things that are common among carriers … things like ELDs, messaging and telemetry,” Henderson said during the demo. “On top of these solutions, Platform Science has provided us a tool set to build other solutions designed to meet our other business needs.”

For example, FirstFleet built a custom solution so that drivers could easily interact with each delivery, from the start. It ensures driver vehicle inspection reports are completed, identifies issues with equipment and ensures the proper trailer is connected to the truck. Route navigation connected to Platform Science’s navigation tool and even a document-scanning feature are included to speed transfer of documents.

“What we ended up with is a near-seamless experience for our drivers to move between Platform Science-provided tools and FirstFleet-managed solutions quite easily,” Henderson said.

Click for more FreightWaves articles by Brian Straight.

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