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Outside Voices: A.N. Webber: Technology’s role in navigating severe weather conditions

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According to the Department of Transportation, trucking companies lose around 2.2 to 3.5 billion dollars annually from weather-related delays. We talked with Warren Schultz, Executive Vice President, and Rob Koch, Vice President of Operations, and Skip Grigas, Fleet Maintenance Manager, of our customer A.N. Webber, who has 190 vehicles operating in 48 states and Canada, on the challenge inclement weather poses, and how technology has helped them improve routing. 

Why is weather such a pain point for carrier operations?
Weather has always been, and will continue to be, a concern for us, because it affects both driver safety and operations. There are many types of adverse weather truck drivers face, with very different levels of risk, like high winds, heavy rains or snow, fog, blizzard or hurricane conditions. Any serious weather situation can close the highways, with drivers forced to try and find a safe parking spot in a rest area or truck stop. While our first concern remains the safety of the driver, operations must deal with this situation to adjust delivery schedules to satisfy the customer. This is why weather’s such an important component in managing our drivers, service and operational schedules.

What spurred you to request features targeted at navigating weather?
Before we partnered with Teletrac Navman, we had no real alternative but to watch the Weather Channel or weather radar maps. Sometimes we’d get feedback from drivers in the area with the adverse weather, enabling us to alert other drivers in that area. While this was helpful on occasion, there was no central system or process in place for monitoring and communicating weather changes. We had just never seen a solution to the problem. We wanted to give our drivers and customers an accurate view of the conditions they are facing ahead from a safety and delivery standpoint.

You requested the weather overlay system, then had direct impact on its development – what was that process like?
We had worked with Teletrac Navman for about seven years before we made the request for a weather-specific solution. We told Teletrac Navman generally what we wanted and they came back with demos, giving us the opportunity to see, and comment on, what they were planning. Our operations team went back and forth with their product development team to make changes to the feature based on our feedback. 

How does the weather overlay feature work?
Today, we have a 55” television monitor in our operations room that gives dispatchers and the operations team an instant view of weather and where drivers are relative to the weather systems 24-hours a day. Our trucks are visible on the map at the same time as weather fronts and conditions. The overlay allows better weather information visibility and allows both the drivers and dispatchers to be informed and to plan accordingly. It adds a dimension to Teletrac Navman Fleet Director for monitoring and managing operations that helps drivers, dispatchers and customers alike, and we are not aware of this feature on any other software platform.

How does the technology help fleet managers, dispatchers and drivers navigate weather? 
It’s important for fleet managers and dispatchers to provide accurate information in real-time to drivers, communicating with them early and often. The more notice the dispatchers and drivers have, the better.

Without this feature, drivers would get caught in bad weather and, at that point, we could only show them a way out. But with enough advance notice, we can avoid sending drivers out, or reroute around entire areas facing severe conditions. We can plan and reschedule deliveries or pickups with minimal disruption to the customer. With the recent hurricanes in Texas and Florida, we watched the weather very closely and got drivers out of the area, reloaded or deadheaded before danger hit and stopped sending anything new into the area before danger was cleared. 

The weather overlay technology allows us to have more efficient operations on a day-to-day basis, alerting us to potential weather issues ahead of time. As airline pilots routinely use cockpit and ground-based technology to reroute around weather, Teletrac Navman’s weather overlay system is another tool for dispatchers to use in a specific vicinity to make sure truck drivers make it to their destination and back safely, and to reroute around bad weather.

*Content was provided by Warren Schultz, Executive Vice President, Rob Koch, Vice President of Operations, and Skip Grigas, Fleet Maintenance Manager, at A.N. Webber and edited for clarity. No specific attribution has been provided.
 

Click to learn more on how Teletrac Navman’s fleet tracking solutions help companies navigate weather conditions.


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