Carriers’ crystal ball: John Christner Trucking gains from ‘big data’
Fleets for years have used performance data in driver scorecards to help identify and address problems. Now, with the help of companies that specialize in collecting and analyzing data, fleets are trying to go beyond identifying problems. They aim to head them off before they happen.
This story is the second of three remaining installments that examine three data management systems and three fleets that use them, with varying degrees of predictive analytics, to improve retention, safety or both.
John Christner Trucking this year began using Athena, a product Vigillo calls its “state-of-the-art big data platform and the answer to the business intelligence challenges facing the trucking industry.” Vigillo has been the industry’s leader in gathering and reselling data from the federal Compliance, Safety, Accountability program.
It appears to be “a pretty incredible product,” says Shannon Crowley, vice president of risk management for John Christner, an all-owner-operator fleet based in Sapulpa, Okla.
One of the biggest uses for the fleet might be the ability to educate its customers about the inevitable problems with CSA alerts, he says. Athena can help the fleet craft a periodic report about points dropping off or coming on, and help alleviate customer concerns when scores are too high.
“This is where the world’s going – to a more data-driven decision-making process.” –Steven Bryan of Vigillo
Having more detailed and current violation data should be able to help with retention, Crowley says. “If you start to see that, and if you can be proactive and intervene with folks before there are patterns of violations you can’t ignore and have to terminate leases over, that’s a retention tool.”
Athena’s data also should prove effective in various operations areas, he says. Lanes that have more inspection stations experience prolonged delivery times, so the fleet might adjust pricing accordingly.John Christner expanded its data-crunching in late 2013 when it began using a FleetRisk Advisors retention module, says Crowley, who sees that as more of a pure predictive-analytics tool. Athena “is less about modeling and more about putting data in a format and comparing the data and analyzing the data any way you want,” he says.
In the first week following Athena’s February launch, after months of customer testing, Vigillo brought on about a dozen carriers representing about 7,000 drivers as Athena clients.
Athena “takes a holistic view of everything,” says Steve Bryan, Vigillo chief executive officer. “Whether it’s onboard vehicle, back office, government – wherever it lurks, we’re trying to pull all of it together into one unified analytic predictive platform.”
Historical weather data, overlaid on other data, can reveal unanticipated patterns involving safety, routing, pricing and other things. Or population data from the U.S. Census: “Where exactly and what kind of freight is going to what kind of people,” Bryan says. “Our big goal is to become the hub of all data the industry has.”While Athena’s primary focus is safety, its website says it offers “about 30 highly customizable dashboards for effectively managing safety, operations, sales, maintenance, fuel purchasing, and driver recruiting and retention, among others.”
It’s reasonable to expect that some thorny issues will develop as carriers apply more predictive models to their recruiting and retention, especially in the pre-hire stage, Bryan says, but such problems are “well understood by HR departments,” he says. “This is where the world’s going – to a more data-driven decision-making process.”
Tomorrow: Load One improves retention with Stay Metrics