March 12, 2018
Few processes in construction produce more paper (and sometimes fraud) than contract trucking and truck tickets. And while many construction companies rig their own trucks with GPS and telematics to monitor cycle times, fuel use, and the rest, GPS is not a viable solution for contractors using brokered trucks to haul asphalt and other materials.
At its annual Users Group Meeting last week, HCSS showed attendees a new solution to the problem, a simple, low-cost software-plus-hardware system for trucks running to and from asphalt plants and other heavy-haul situations.
Called “HCSS Trucking” this system eliminates the paper ticketing process with two simple pieces of hardware and cloud-based software apps, explains Josh McDonald, R&D product manager for HCSS. “In paving operations, the vast majority of the trucking activity is brokered, so the goal of this system was to eliminate the stacks of paperwork and sometimes conflicting claims about that paperwork,” he says.
The hardware consists of a Bluetooth enabled iBeacon Proximity broadcaster that’s about the size of four quarters stacked together and a larger “black box” iBeacon receiver. The small iBeacon broadcasters are put in each truck and send out a ping to the receiver every two minutes. The receiver has cellular and GPS functionality and is placed near the entry/exit points for the trucks. It logs the time and identity of the truck as it enters the jobsite, disconnects when the truck gets out of range, and reconnects with the truck when it comes back to the site with a full load. The receiver automatically uploads this data to the cloud, giving drivers and dispatchers real-time status reports. At the end of the day, instead of a bunch of paper tickets, you have a digital record of every trip every truck made to your jobsite.
The information on trucks entering and leaving the worksite is relayed via the system’s Ticket Writer app to any designated mobile device, tablet, or phone. The Manager app allows you to set up jobs and dump sites cost codes, materials, and drivers, and can set schedules for company and brokered drivers. The Drivers app keeps drivers informed about their status and cycles during the day.
To set up the iBeacon broadcaster, you simply scan the QR code on the device with a tablet or phone, enter the truck ID and other info on the web page that pops up, and you’re ready to work. A piece of double-sided tape can adhere the iBeacon to the dashboard, windshield, or other surface inside the cab.
HCSS is giving the iBeacon broadcasters away free and charging $3 per truck per day for the service. But you don’t pay the $3 until the truck comes within range of the iBeacon receiver, so your broker’s trucks can move on to other jobs and keep the iBroadcaster in the cab ready for any future jobs you may call them to.
The batteries that send out the pings from the broadcaster last about two years. The receiver with its GPS and cellular functionality has an average battery life of about 80 days and costs about $1,000. The receiver batteries are rechargeable, and HCSS even has a solar charger you can connect to the device to keep it fully charged at the jobsite.
HCSS had several of its beta testers in the first session describing its trucking app to customers. The big question from the audience was what kind of response the beta testers were getting from their trucking brokers. The beta testers said pushback was minimal, especially after they told their trucking brokers to either accept the iBeacons in their trucks or lose the business.
The system also allows you to notate other types of information as well. If the broker still wants to issue paper tickets, you can take a photo of the ticket and electronically upload it to the website, says Mike Bordelon, HCSS vice president of product management. “If you really don’t trust the ticket writer and think he is colluding with the truck driver, make him take a picture of the truck for validation. That’s how airtight this system is. You can have a picture of the truck, a picture of the ticket, longitude, latitude, time stamp, and then all this other data. No broker is going to be able to argue with you on that,” Bordelon says.
“Once you get to that level of transparency, the fraud just melts away,” says McDonald. “Everything is out there in real time, all the time.”
HCSS plans to integrate many of the information fields generated by its trucking app with HCSS Heavy Job and HCSS Aggregates programs, and scale and weighing systems later this year.