Technology is creating change in the road transport and logistics industry and operators, drivers, other road users and the end customer are all benefiting.
Leading the change is telematics, technology that enables operators to monitor their fleet and make changes based around the data collected.
We caught up with the owner of the business, Shane Alderdice (pictured above), to talk about how they’re benefiting from telematics.
Shane, thanks for your time, can you tell us a little more about the business and how it was established?
We started about 25 years ago as a very small operation here in Dubbo. My business partner Damien Mahon was the person that sort of kicked it off and then more recently myself and my wife have been involved.
So we’re all working now in the business and trying to grow the business and keep customers satisfied.
Midwest Foods is well known across western New South Wales, but for people in other parts can you let us know exactly what the business does?
We’re a food wholesale and distribution business and we also do wholesale distribution of alcohol.
We’re based in Dubbo and we cover about a third of NSW and our main client base is North and Central NSW, we cover a fair bit of territory with Dubbo as the hub.
How do you ensure that the right trucks are in the right places, particularly when hauling perishable/cold foods?
Yeah, absolutely. The complication of delivering ice cream in the middle of summer to a place like Bourke or Brewarrina when it’s 45 degrees and the ice cream has to be delivered at minus 18, that’s a bit of a challenge!
But the vehicles are all really well maintained and we try to keep the fleet as modern as we can to help that end result of getting the food where it needs to be in an appropriate condition.
Around 60 per cent of our product is frozen products, so that’s a key part of the business.
How many vehicles are you running?
We’ve got about a dozen rigid trucks on the road and then other smaller, town delivery vehicles that focus just in and around Dubbo.
So, all up there’s about 22 or 23 vehicles in the fleet.
That’s a big enough fleet to create plenty of headaches in regards to making sure they’re in the right place and doing the right thing?
That’s correct and just the tyranny of distance and the isolated places that we do go to creates challenges and I’m just very lucky we’ve got a great team with systems in place to support it all.
Can you tell us a little bit about how you started making the investigations around telematics and around the Verizon system and how that process came about?
We had gone down the path of vehicle tracking because we had vehicles that were in so many different locations and also to try and get some data around using our vehicles more efficiently and effectively.
We invested in what was then the Fleetmatics program and that’s now transitioned to the Verizon software and now we’re really starting to dig down and drill into the data that is available.
We’re just really putting a focus on it and the benefits are already starting to come through. So it’s been really good.
How have your the drivers accepted the tech?
Very well, probably one of the most significant ones is the matrix and a dashboard that we can produce on wasted fuel which is really linked to idle time, compared to turning the engine off.
The new vehicles that we’ve got have got an off engine freezer unit, meaning the truck itself doesn’t have to be running for the freezer unit to run.
After a little bit of education the drivers are now turning the truck engine off and the evidence is very clear that they are starting to save fuel which comes back to a massive cost within our business, so if we can reduce that it helps right across the board.
What would you say to other business operators, especially those of a similar size to yours, in regards to investing in telematics?
I can only see our business using it more and more. It gives the drivers a benchmark to work with, and can actually be set up to allow our customers to understand where we can be in the time frames that are available.
It also helps our sales and marketing staff with them being able to feed on information to our customers about our drivers and our locations and how far away they are and so forth. So, it’s a really good tool in that regard.
Also driver management, making sure that the drivers are rotating appropriately in the vehicles so we’re not using the one vehicle to do all the hard yards, we can rotate the vehicles around.
So having that as a visual snapshot really is an advantage.
Has the Verizon system created extra work back at the office? Have you found the system easy to work with? And is it a case that the more time you put into crunching down the numbers etc. the more you get out of it?
Oh absolutely. I’ve been able to print the data from the logged information sit back and analyze that and we’ve definitely made decisions based around the data that has become apparent to us.
That’s to manage driver fatigue to manage load distribution, maintenance is the one that we’re really focusing on now to automate and track all vehicle maintenance using the whole telematics system, so it’s a great tool across the board.
It sounds like you’re very impressed.
It is and the support that I’ve received has also impressed me, I went down and had a face to face meeting with some of the staff at the office in Sydney and they were really helpful.
That just made it so much more effective for me to understand it and implement it across the business.
It’s been great.