Earlier this year, when l attended the World of Concrete show in Las Vegas, I simply was fascinated by the selection of vehicle tracking technology providers. I remember seeing the first designated area for vehicle tracking equipment at ConExpo-Con/Agg 1999, where only a handful of vendors exhibited their global positioning systems (GPS) and automatic vehicle location (AVL) products. By World of Concrete 2003, there was a multitude of technology vendors showing their wares and taking up probably three times as much exhibit space as the vendors in 1999.

One company that caught my eye was International Road Dyna-mics (IRD), Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. The company said it dominates 85 percent of the world market share for Weigh-in-Motion technology, which uses radio frequency identilication (RF/lD) technology to allow over-the-road truckers to bypass weigh stations when their vehicle is properly tagged.

Curious to find out why IRD was at a concrete show, l soon learned it is the exclusive distributor for the Siemens VDO Driver Management System,and the company was introducing the technology to the concrete industry. The VDO Driver Management System provides automated reporting of driver perfomance and vehicle use. lt can track approximately 15 different events, including GPS, and alerts the operator when events like harsh acceleration incidents are detected. For heavy-duty service vehicles, such as concrete trucks, this Siemens black box has the ability to interface with onboard scale sensors and automatic tire inflation systems, as well as with the OEM engine control module. The data can be retrieved from the system through SI card method, key method, short-range FM, cellula, or satellite technology.

According to Randy Hanson, chief operating officer and executive vice president of IRD, "This is a system that was developed by Siemens over a 30-year period with more than 50,000 installed units woridwide."

Of the systems installed, Tony Reynolds, project manager for Siemens VDO Driver Management System, said, "The average fleet size of companies that use this technology is approximately 20 vehicles."

A number of potential benetits drew me to this product, including its cost-saving advantages and behavior influences. Reynolds said the system is based on behavior modifaction, similar to the basic principles of Ivan Pavlov and his salivating dog (I'm familiar with this concept, since my cocker spaniel has learned to carry a sock to the laundry room for a treat!).

Behavior modification works in a positive way when it comes to our driving habits. l can attest to this because I have had the Siemens VDO system installed on my personal vehicle for more than two weeks. I was surprised to hear the buzzer go off after accelerating from a stoplight, which indicated harsh acceleration. Try explaning that to your wife when you have 300,000 miles of commercial driving experience under your belt, and you think your driving habits are as good as they get.

Reynolds also said Siemens will guarantee a return on investment (ROI) if a company chooses to implement the VDO Driver Management System. "Measuring the return on technology investments has been the Holy Grail for chief executive officers and Chief information officers for the past 30 years," said David A.J. Axson, cofounder of the Hackett Group, in an article for Computerworld earlier this year. Now the lifting industry has a $5 billion industrial giant coming to our trade shows to guarantee ROI if you implement its technology.

Of course, there are conditions to be met, such as providing Siemens with actual operating costs and a commitment to implementing the system fleetwide. Nonetheless, when was the last time a vendor walked through your door and made such a claim?

How does drive management technology specifically apply to lift equipment professionals? Looking at every area of your operation for cost-saving opportunities just makes sense. Inherent changes in the lift equipment industry may detemrine the shape of the future, which includes work force issues. A recent AED study found that "dealers who sell, rent and service construction machinery will see slightly more than 2,000 technicians retire in the next five years."

The study went on to say that this number amounts to about 7.5 percent of the estimated 26,400 technicians now working for 1,100 independent equipment dealers in the United States. Given these sobering statistics, what better opponunity will you have than to monitor new employees in such a fundamental job function as driving? Alter all, these new employees will be driving your service truck to the jobsite.

Through monitoring their driving behavior, you may prevent accidents, which can have at major impact on business profitability. If you don't take this seriously, just take one look at your insurance premium to open your eyes. By using drive management technology, you'll not only save money and ensure safer fleet management, but you'll also help your business prosper.

Lift Applications & Equipment September 2003