Internet of Things Reaches Into the Trucking Business by ERICA E. PHILLIPS

30/04/2015 09:11

The Internet of Things, it seems, is coming to your local truck stop.

Recently, Saia LTL Freight Inc. began employing Internet-enabled Intel on its fleet of more than 3,000 trucks. Sensors installed on Saia’s vehicles enabled the company to track maintenance needs, driver safety, fuel usage and several other metrics in real-time.

Previously, those sensors recorded information on fuel consumption and other “vital statistics” on engine and driver performance, but the data was only gathered intermittently. Whenever trucks were in the shop for routine maintenance, for example, company analysts would plug a cable directly into the truck and download the information. That happened roughly monthly.

Now, all that information is available to Saia engineers on a real-time basis, using technology designed by Intel and a program developed by Vnomics Corp. With the installation of an antenna and a new computer on board, information on a vehicle’s fuel economy, location, and engine diagnostics gets sent back live to engineers in the company’s offices.

“It used to be, in our industry, for us to find out what happened with a driver and with a vehicle we had to wait for them to come back to the office,” Brian Balius, Saia VP of transportation, said in an interview. “Now we can see these things happening all day long—as they occur.” In its first year, the program led to a 6% increase in fuel efficiency, which translated to $15 million in savings for Saia. The company said it paid for itself.

The Saia project shows the growing relevance of the so-called Internet of Things (IoT), said Bridget Karlin, a director in Intel’s Internet of Things group who spoke at the Milken Global conference in Beverly Hills earlier this week.

“That’s not been typically a partner we would have worked with,” she said of Saia, adding that Intel is forging “new alliances” in sectors that weren’t major users of its technology in the past, including transportation and logistics.

About 50 billion devices will be Internet-enabled by 2020, up from 15 billion today, according to a recent report published jointly by DHL and Cisco.The Internet of Things is expected to generate $1.9 trillion in economic value in the supply chain and logistics sector over the next 10 years, according to the report. During that time, DHL and Cisco say, the IoT will expand to connect shipments, warehouse inventory, truck fleets and personnel leading to a faster, more efficient logistics industry.

Write to Erica E. Phillips at