Transporting valuable resources – both drivers and cargo – alongside consumer vehicles brings daily risks and precautions for transportation companies. But those risks, and annoyances, increase in the summertime, or the season best known as road construction season. In fact, in 14 states, the month with the highest number of road accident deaths is July, according to a new study from Forbes Advisor of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data.
Whether it’s a planned project like the I-494 corridor work in Minneapolis this summer or an unexpected project like the I-95 bridge rehabilitation in Philadelphia, detours along major truck routes cause headaches and supply chain delays for everyone involved. The added nuisance for commercial vehicles and fleets is that oftentimes the recommended detour route for these construction projects is not necessarily truck-friendly.
While many vehicles on the highways can easily hop off and take a side road to navigate around a construction site, the driver of a large fleet vehicle or truck won’t necessarily know what that detour route could entail – weight limits, low bridges or other obstacles that could make for unsafe navigation. That’s where commercial navigation solutions like Trimble’s CoPilot and PC*Miler can make a big difference when drivers find themselves off the beaten path and navigating an alternative route.
Commercial navigation platforms offer dynamic routing and incorporate bridge heights, weight limits and other local road ordinances to help drivers and fleets avoid risks specific to commercial vehicles. Let’s explore these safety benefits in depth and how they can help commercial fleets safely navigate the challenging road construction season.
Controlled Fleet Settings
Fleets use a web portal within commercial routing systems like CoPilot to control their fleet’s navigation settings to ensure fleetwide safety and consistency. Users can set vehicle profiles, specify load type (53’ dry van, hazmat, etc.), and select options to help minimize the use of toll roads and avoid areas of risk.
Navigation settings in the web portal are then synced to navigation in the cab. These settings can automatically re-route drivers in route change scenarios as updates come from state-issued road closures and traffic flow guidelines.
Avoiding Low Bridges and Risky Maneuvers
Commercial navigation technology helps drivers avoid risky, unexpected maneuvers like last-minute lane changes–alerting them–in advance–to turns and exits with visuals that reflect clear road signage. Navigation technology like CoPilot aids drivers with lane guidance, helping them avoid missing exits or wrong turns.
“CoPilot is a powerful commercial navigation solution that goes beyond basic turn-by-turn navigation to provide safe, compliant, and comprehensive navigation services to meet the needs of commercial drivers and fleet operators,” said Gabe Boltniew, Product Marketing Manager. “In the event of an emergency road closure, CoPilot can quickly recalculate the route and provide alternative directions to ensure that drivers can reach their destinations safely and efficiently. This can be particularly crucial for commercial drivers who are operating on tight schedules and need to maintain productivity while minimizing disruptions.”
The solution also gives drivers a heads-up about non-public, truck-specific facility entrances and exits. Since a consumer-grade GPS lacks this information, maps built for passenger car drivers direct commercial vehicles to a street address rather than a distribution center or warehouse shipping area. This can result in wasted time while drivers figure out where to go and possibly force drivers to consider unsafe maneuvers to get to the truck entrance or exit.
Routing for commercial vehicles needs to consider vehicle dimensions and the materials being transported, to be an effective commercial navigation technology solution related to safety concerns. Bridge strikes can be costly and deadly, and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has identified consumer-grade GPS as a culprit in many accidents since mapping technology built for cars doesn’t take vehicle height into account while recommending alternative routes.
“Our map data team is constantly working to ensure that our routing is up to date with the latest closure information so fleets can avoid these closures and maintain safe, smooth operation,” Boltniew adds.
Proactiveness with Alerts and Advance Warnings
Roadwork that causes slowdowns on busy highways can create a safety risk for vehicles of all types, but big trucks are especially vulnerable. Last year, the Federal Highway Administration found that large trucks were involved in a third of all fatal crashes that occurred in work zones, even though heavy-duty trucks typically make up only about 5% of traffic overall. Even outside of work zones, sometimes traffic comes to a sudden stop, and that can set off chain-reaction accidents as other drivers fail to stop in time.
It’s difficult for a passenger car to brake suddenly at a high speed, and large trucks take even longer to come to a stop. That’s why proactive alerts based on real-time traffic data are important. With the right commercial navigation solution, drivers can receive alerts based on current data up to five miles out from a traffic flow stoppage, enabling drivers to be proactive and slow down ahead of time.
Potential rollovers and speed limit violations are also major concerns when driving a heavy commercial vehicle. It’s crucial that drivers be notified if their current planned route path matches the approach path to a rollover risk point and if their current speed is high enough to have triggered rollover risk events for other drivers. And as commercial drivers move from highway to road and back again, tracking posted speed limit changes and avoiding potential violations can be a real challenge. A purpose-built commercial navigation tool can provide the real-time alerts drivers need to keep themselves — and everyone else on the road — safe.
Dynamic ETAs and Automated Notifications
Fleets can automate communications between drivers, dispatchers and customers for estimated time of arrival (ETA) of shipments. The initial ETA is calculated with the route plan and updated automatically when drivers encounter construction delays, detours, weather events, traffic incidents or take longer breaks than planned. Dispatchers also receive real-time alerts if a driver deviates out of a route plan. Real-time visibility of shipment ETAs and route compliance helps fleets improve customer service and asset utilization. (For more, check out how Roehl Transport uses CoPilot for last-mile success)
Minimizing Driver Distraction
Distracted driving is a major worry for fleet managers. At-a-glance instructions, audio alerts and large, clear icons can tell drivers what they need to know while keeping them focused on the road. That’s why user interface design is an important factor when selecting a commercial navigation tool. It’s a good idea to look for features like specific day and night color schemes, unintrusive pop-ups and/or voice notifications for excessive speed, rollover alerts, traffic warnings, etc., to reduce distractions while keeping drivers informed and enabling them to do what they do best.
Real-time Visibility and Post-trip Insight
After a load is delivered, fleet managers can review the plan versus the actual trip to see results for distance, drive time, toll costs and more. Managers can use the reporting for coaching drivers and to improve routes to remove guesswork. Trimble did a “plan versus actual” analysis of 155,000 trips from five long-haul carriers, which showed that the fleets could have saved a total of $222,763 and 3,117 hours per month, on average, if drivers had followed the route that was sent to them.
Benefits of Commercial Navigation are Clear
To summarize, commercial navigation solutions help fleets improve safety, efficiency and driver relationships by taking control of route settings and by giving drivers better guidance down to the final mile.
For these reasons and more, harnessing a commercial navigation solution can help your drivers stay safe and productive while navigating the detours of summer road construction season.
CoPilot Truck navigation is available on all major telematics providers. Fleets can customize and embed the application in their own workflows and configure the look and feel of the driver UI by using an SDK kit from Trimble.
Interested in learning more about how to select a navigation system that can fit your needs? Discover how Trimble CoPilot can help your fleet safely navigate this summer construction season and beyond.