In this guest piece, Dwayne Lazarre, Trimble MAPS Director of Strategic Accounts – Enterprise Solutions, takes a deep dive into how CoPilot can help fleets address some key business challenges and help drivers find their way more safely.
Navigation technology is the foundation of modern commercial transport and shipping. And while every business understands how important that technology is, I’m always surprised to discover that people don’t understand the potential value of CoPilot: a solution purpose-built to provide turn-by-turn commercial vehicle navigation based on a vehicle’s size, weight, and load. It sounds simple when you describe it like that, but the unseen benefits to an operation are numerous.
What many organizations might not realize when they look at CoPilot is that it’s built with PC*MILER data at its core. PC*MILER is a common denominator that integrates a vast amount of routing, dispatch and accounting information for the back office. So, if they’re using PC*MILER to route vehicles, track mileage, bill for miles, and pay drivers, CoPilot is a natural extension of what the organization is doing in the back office.
How efficiently drivers navigate a route is just as important to your operation as how carefully planned it is. Why not use a navigational tool that uses the same commercial map data that supports your current systems to provide consistency across your organization? Why not use CoPilot?
Of course, different organizations have different needs, but every carrier encounters similar challenges. A small fleet with five trucks needs to worry about fuel routes, hours of service, tolls, etc. just as much as a regional fleet with five hundred trucks. The marriage of PC*MILER and CoPilot affords key benefits to both to any business. At the minimum, it’s more efficient to guide someone using a solution with a map and spoken instructions than it is to write some notes on paper about their route. But when it comes to CoPilot, it’s not just about updating technology and implementing a fancier app. It’s about addressing basic questions of operational efficiency. There are many navigation apps out there, but when businesses don’t use a commercial-grade navigation tool, there are many potential pitfalls.
First, if a carrier spends time in PC*MILER looking at miles driven in and out of route, time, fuel spent, toll costs, etc., it pays to be mindful of how drivers are navigating to their destinations. Without a tool like CoPilot, drivers are often out there trying to map routes themselves, which doesn’t always result in the best Return on Investment. Efficiency is at the core of transport and establishing consistency is key to that efficiency.
Second, CoPilot can provide insights that might elude organizations otherwise. Route compliance is something CoPilot is especially good at tracking, which helps eliminate some of the risky and more unpredictable elements of a driver's job in several ways. If a driver isn’t following the routes you create, this capability can help you understand behaviors and learn one of two things: either the routes are way off and need to be improved, or the driver is ignoring the information provided to them and needs better coaching.
But more importantly, as we layer slowdown alerts, rollover areas, critical events, etc. on top of that behavioral data, a more complete picture of the driver’s experience comes to life and dispatchers can better understand what has impacted the driver’s day and where. Combined with Hours of Service, traffic conditions, time of day, etc., fleet managers can start to see patterns. With a suite of web tools designed to let fleets create vehicle profiles, set locations or roads to avoid or favor, and last mile path selection, we make it easy to customize and enhance the driver's experience. Managers can say, “This is a hard braking area,” or “This road isn’t worth it,” or “There’s a speed trap here,” and compare risk and efficiency to develop safer, more consistent routes.
And when it comes to safety, standardizing routing and navigation helps establish a baseline of operational consistency that supports drivers’ day-to-day well-being. All organizations have a level of responsibility for the safety of their drivers and I believe providing a tool built with that responsibility in mind is essential. With CoPilot, we guide drivers down truck-legal roads all the way through the last mile based on their vehicle’s characteristics, with the goal of safe, efficient transport. Because CoPilot is built to integrate routes from PC*MILER and takes into account the vehicle’s characteristics, drivers don’t have to be staring at a screen to double-check the roads they’re going down are safe. We provide full text-to-speech navigation and audible alerts for speeding, slowdowns and incorrect turns, so drivers can forget about navigating and focus entirely on driving. Many drivers don’t want to watch a map twist and turn throughout their route and often this distraction can be dangerous. We help drivers keep their eyes on the road and stay engaged with their work, instead of just driving a line.
So, why wouldn’t an organization provide a tool like CoPilot? Well, the complaint I often hear is that compared to the more popular navigation tools out there, CoPilot costs while the others don’t. But while I understand the allure of free, that doesn’t necessarily mean those tools are without cost. If an organization is hauling something that’s high value—such as iPhones, machinery, vaccines—those trips are monitored from start to finish, sometimes with secondary vehicles to track them, and are usually equipped with the latest technology.
However, in most small- to mid-size companies drivers are using apps on their phones that aren’t built for commercial operations. They’re not built with fuel costs in mind, with a TMS in mind, with a vehicle's profiles, weight, loads in mind. Simply put: free tools don’t take into account the same considerations CoPilot does when guiding a commercial vehicle. If a truck gets into trouble, tears the roof off on a bridge, or there’s an injury or fatality, those cost multiple times more than a commercial navigation solution.
Moreover, there are practical costs. How much does it cost when drivers spend hours trying to figure out the way to their destinations? When they miss an exit and course correct? When they’re ticketed on a road not meant for commercial vehicles? All of those things add up. One or two wrong turns, a single accident, a couple of tickets, and a navigation solution like CoPilot could help mitigate those costs and pay for itself.
Even if I wasn’t the spokesperson for CoPilot, I would suggest companies standardize their operations—from routing with PC*MILER to navigating with CoPilot—so they have a level of consistency across the products they use. Not only will these solutions work together to provide a better in-cab navigation experience for the driver, they will help ensure that from dispatch to destination your operation is more efficient, your customer’s satisfied, and when you’re reconciling debts and deposits at the end of the day, they’re far more likely to even out.