Features & Interviews

Transport tech: how haulage firms are embracing digitisation

05 January 2023 #Features & Interviews

Digitisation is playing an increasingly important role for firms who are looking for a smarter and paperless alternative to manage their workshop, invoicing and transport management processes.

Personnel shortages, disruptions due to lockdowns during the pandemic and the increasing availability of the technology at an affordable price has also driven the speedy adoption of digital systems by firms and employees.

For example, St Helens-based general haulier James Shaw & Son recently replaced its vehicle maintenance recording paperwork with digital management systems from Truckfile meaning every bit of information about all vehicles is contained on one screen.

The firm runs 36 tractor units as well as 59 trailers and has an in-house workshop, staffed by two technicians and a tyre fitter.

Chris Thompson, General Manager at James Shaw & Son, said: “I can see which trucks need servicing, MoT testing, taxing or tachograph calibration, as well as any reported defects. I don’t have to go looking for anything – it’s all right there in front of me.

“Our technicians use hand-held tablets and a touchscreen terminal to record all vehicle inspections and jobs completed. It’s so much simpler and quicker than using paper forms.”

The ability to easily cross-reference with workshop loading schedules also means forward planning can be much more effective.

Mr Thompson said: “We’ve been able to iron out the peaks and troughs that we sometimes had to endure previously. So instead of having four trucks in for service one week, and 10 the next; we’re able to ensure there are six or seven week-in, week-out.”

Meanwhile, Consett, County Durham-based Elddis Transport is also rolling out a fleet maintenance system from Freeway Fleet Systems, with workshop fitters being equipped with rugged tablets to replace paperwork.

Through integration between Freeway and the Mandata transport management system (TMS), transport managers are given 24/7 visibility of the status of the fleet.

Freeway also receives daily vehicle inspection data from mobile devices used by drivers, meaning the workshop is provided with immediate information on defects.

As well as receiving 700 daily vehicle check reports, Freeway also helps Elddis manage about 60 Preventative Maintenance Inspections (PMI) and MoT preparations each week, covering its fleet of 150 vehicles and 360 trailers.

Freeway stores parts data and builds records of use and performance over time and through its mobile app, fitters have instant access to historical maintenance information so they can immediately spot recurring defects.

Alan Henderson, Fleet Engineer, Elddis Transport said: “Freeway is proving invaluable as it links engineers with transport planners.

“This means we can reduce vehicle downtime and ensure the fleet is always operating at maximum efficiency and safety.

“It’s a tremendous resource that allows us to better manage and optimise the use of all resources; assets and labour.”

Glasgow-based Rhino Express uses the Mandata Go platform to book in and price jobs, either manually or automatically, allocate jobs to a sub-contractor, record the price charged and reconcile costs against invoices.

The system integrates with Rhino Express’ accounts software and enables the business to quickly send customers both invoices and proof of delivery.

With 13 vehicles in its fleet, Mandata’s package also includes vehicle checking, tracking and the manifests and navigation apps for drivers, providing satnav with optimised truck routing, estimated time of arrival notifications and electronic proof of delivery.

John Alexander, Office Manager for Rhino Express, said the system has helped its business grow as well as save time be more efficient.

“The office can book in jobs which get fed through to the drivers, who in turn can see all the details via the mobile app,” he said.

“Drivers can also update a job status and upload photos for proof of delivery. It is really an end-to-end solution for us, from a job coming in right through to invoicing on completion.”

Freightlink Europe’s TMS collaboration with HaulTech has led to the transport firm being able to reduce its administration duplication by 80%, increase staff productivity and boost customer satisfaction rates.

The company has also introduced HaulTech Connect, the in-cab driver app, which means it can update drivers instantly about jobs without having to try and urgently call or text them about any changes.

Tom Peterson, Operations Director at HaulTech said: “We are getting work scheduled faster, and invoices done at such a quicker pace, it’s created a massive amount of time for us where we can focus on other parts of the business.

“Internally, it’s been a success amongst the team because they’re not having to duplicate or wonder where they’ve placed paperwork and it’s much easier to schedule work.”

Great Yarmouth independent truck and van workshop repairer LG Perfect, which employs ten technicians, uses the r2C platform to send and update all correspondence online.

Customers are also able to access their information through the internet and by email, allowing them to accept and change their bookings.

Previously its manual paperwork processes took up 20% of the working week with bookings, reminders and missed inspections all processed by phone calls.

In addition, lack of transparency across the workshop meant work could be duplicated.

Vaughan Rowley, Aftersales Manager, said: “Before, we could spend two hours a day just chasing missed inspections.

“We now don’t need to make those phone calls which alone is saving more than one day per week. As well as saving time, we’re also saving £600 a year on paper which is about 24,000 sheets.

“Gone are the days of lost inspection sheets and customers requesting extra copies, all paperwork is electronically stored as soon as a job has been completed.”

It seems certain that the move towards digitisation will continue to drive efficiencies and modernise processes in the transport industry for many years to come.

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