Werner sees cost savings, safety gains from an Azure cloud

Installing telematics systems, video event recorders and mobile applications in the aftermarket is a time-consuming process for motor carriers. Managing the data from these different systems is an even bigger challenge.

Werner is planning to add new driver trip planning features to the Edge Connect platform it is rolling out.Werner is planning to add new driver trip planning features to the Edge Connect platform it is rolling out.

Werner Enterprises (CCJ Top 250, No. 11) is harnessing the power and interconnectivity of cloud computing to realize significant time and cost savings.

Currently the Omaha, Nebraska-based carrier is rolling out new capabilities to its own modern cloud-based technology platform to create a single source of fleet management data from connectivity with various proprietary and third party systems.

Safety in the cloud

Werner orders new trucks equipped with a factory-installed Bendix Wingman Fusion safety system. The system uses radar and camera technologies to detect risky events such as lane departures and following distances. When high-risk events are detected, the system transmits video and event data to Werner Edge’s cloud computing system that is built in partnership with Microsoft’s Azure.

If Werner had chosen to install an aftermarket video-based safety system instead, Danny Lilley, the company’s vice president of fleet systems and technology, estimated the cost would be at least double and potentially up to 75% more in monthly fees per truck.

Some aftermarket systems are using offshore resources to review videos for critical events. Werner developed its own Critical Event Management (CEM) system in partnership with Microsoft to automatically parse through video event data to save time and money.

When a critical event occurs, such as a rapid deceleration, a swerve or other noteworthy on-road event, a 10-second video clip of five seconds pre- and five seconds post-event – together with a full packet of vehicle and sensor data – is transmitted to Werner Edge.

The CEM system analyzes the event data and presents a visual workflow to fleet managers with the video clip and timeline of event data that includes a map view of the location, speed and other data from Werner’s telematics system. The visualization also brings in weather and other external data sources to show contributing factors.

Weeding out false positives

Before developing CEM, Werner’s fleet managers had to coach drivers for safety events that were captured by its video and telematics systems by using separate web portals.

The company has more than 9,500 drivers and on a weekly basis was managing 6,000 camera and telematics safety events. Most of these events overlapped, he said, and the video review process took 48 hours after events occurred before a team could evaluate and assign critical safety events to fleet managers to coach drivers.

Werner Enterprises developed a cloud-based Edge platform to have all fleet management data in a single source.Werner Enterprises developed a cloud-based Edge platform to have all fleet management data in a single source.

After connecting the camera and telematics systems to Werner Edge, the 6,000 weekly events dropped immediately to 3,000. Werner also worked further with Microsoft to apply machine learning to the events and train its models to parse out false positives, such as events triggered by a weather event or roadside hazard.

The weekly events fell to 1,500, and Werner is now able to appraise event data in less than four hours, which makes it possible for fleet managers to coach drivers on the same day events occurred.

Microsoft’s data scientists continue working with Werner to apply machine learning models that today can parse out non-critical safety events with greater than 99% accuracy, said Rob Shrader, a Microsoft engineer who covers all of the data pieces of the Werner relationship.

“The goal of all of these events is to coach a driver to change behavior and increase our overall safety,” Lilley says. “We went through a lot of the existing processes and work that our teams did and spent some time to reimagine and reoptimize those experiences. That’s where Azure really came into play for us.”

“We’re able to give a much more modern experience to our team members and build our additional data capabilities on top of it as well,” he continued.

Werner also built features in CEM to recognize drivers for positive safety events, and not just to identify exceptions.

Virtual driver coaching

Werner is in the process of deploying a new telematics system that uses modern tablets for real-time connectivity to the cloud and back office. Lilley says Edge will be able to give drivers real-time coaching alerts and by utilizing the tablets, fleet managers can include video conferencing for coaching sessions.

Werner has rolled out the new telematics and mobile platform in about 60% of its trucks and plans to be fully deployed in the first quarter of 2021.

The company is working on a new tool, also for the Edge platform, to identify loads trending late to give fleet managers information they can use to swap loads for drivers who are running out of hours. The company is also partnering with a vendor to add new driver trip planning tools to the mobile platform that will include giving drivers accurate information on available parking spots on their routes.