New trailer tracking technology delivers for Wales-based haulier

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Investment in new tracking technology has enabled a South Wales-based international transport and haulage operator to significantly reduce the size of its trailer fleet and streamline operations.

TDW Distribution runs one of the largest palletised freight and distribution operations in the UK from its head office located five minutes from the M4 in Bridgend. The firm's 90 strong fleet of commercial vehicles clock-up more than seven million miles a year delivering to customers in the food and beverages, manufacturing supplies and building products sector throughout the UK, Channel Islands and mainland Europe.

The family run firm, which is a Palletline member, carries out nationwide deliveries for customers Tesco, building products suppliers Rockwool, and Seda Packaging among others.

Employing a skilled workforce that includes 110 drivers and turns over in excess of £18m this year, TDW used to have a trailer 250-strong trailer fleet before it adopted tracking technology from transport management software specialists, Mandata.

The installation of small tracker devices, which are attached to the headboards on each unit, has proved a beneficial investment, enabling the firm to cut its overall trailer fleet by 10% - down to 210 over the last 12 months.

An enhanced trailer tracking capability has now become an invaluable part of TDW's operations in a move that has seen dozens of devices connected up to a web portal and tracking app, which operates via the Manpack 3 Transport Management System (TMS).

This technology has provided improved real-time visibility, enabling the fleet management team to see where trailers are at any given time. This facility is ensuring that they are not lost or left standing idle for a number of days at customer premises or are used as stand trailers, costing the firm money and draining resources.

Robert Williams, TDW's managing director and son of Tommy Williams, who founded the firm back in in 1963, believes that it would be 'extremely hard' to manage without Mandata's tracking behaviour technology.

"We would find it difficult to operate without it now," he says. "Although it's difficult to fully quantify cost savings, the technology, which is good, easy-to-use and reliable, has been a welcome boon.

"The information provided in real-time enables us to source any empty trailers and locate units for inspection. In this way, we have been able to review our resources, and identify that we could reduce the fleet to run a leaner operation.

"In turn, this has seen a reduction in trailer numbers of 10%. Any savings that this has provided in buying new stock and maintenance can be ploughed back into the business to ensure customers continue to receive a high quality service."

Specifically developed for the road haulage and logistics sector, Mandata's TMS brings together operational information into a single PC or cloud-based system that links to vehicle and driver smartphones out on the road.

The technology, which simplifies the planning of work, tracks operations and monitors driver behaviour and vehicle performance levels, automates critical processes. This removes time-consuming repetitive tasks, providing fleet visibility in real-time and alerting operators and drivers to any issues.

Wider benefits

Improved trailer tracking is among the most recent benefits TDW has seen from its investment in Manpack. In use at the firm since 2004, the system has been consistently upgraded to deliver some significant benefits, including integration across the pallet and hazardous chemical transportation operations to facilitate and streamline the transference of information between the two networks.

Electronic invoicing and document scanning features are also included as part of a comprehensive technology package that also enables PODs (proof of delivery) to be attached to an order along with the relevant invoice before being emailed to the customer.

Recent developments have included the introduction of a drag and drop traffic pad, securely linking delivery jobs and trucks. And in a further extension, tracking has been integrated with the traffic pad to provide enhanced job planning and monitoring capabilities.

"This has made routing easier and afforded our drivers a high degree of visual heads-up regarding any potential problems," adds Robert Williams. "They can see at a glance their current location while start times are visible, cutting out the need for unnecessary phone calls and overall, speeding up the whole planning process."

Augmented tracking and fleet behaviour capabilities are also enabling TDW to better capture critical vehicle and driver performance data. Analysis of this information is shared to raise awareness and understanding of operational issues, and monitor and improve driving standards.

On the back of this, a driver bonus scheme has been introduced in a successful move that rewards good behaviour and superior driving skills. Information about drivers, who are making an extra effort, is also captured and recorded.

The initiative is one of the reasons why Robert Williams believes the company, which employs more than 100 qualified drivers, is performing well when it comes to recruitment and driver.

He also adds: "Better, more skilled drivers mean our vehicles are being driven more effectively and responsibly which in turn has led to a considerable increase in vehicle fuel efficiency. MPGs have increased by an average of two miles per gallon across the fleet within two months which, when spun out across all of our vehicles over several months will represent significant savings."

Augmented tracking and fleet behaviour capabilities are also enabling TDW to better capture critical vehicle and driver performance data. Analysis of this information is shared to raise awareness and understanding of operational issues, and monitor and improve driving standards.

On the back of this, a driver bonus scheme has been introduced in a successful move that rewards good behaviour and superior driving skills. Information about drivers, who are making an extra effort, is also captured and recorded.

The initiative is one of the reasons why Robert Williams believes the company, which employs more than 100 qualified drivers, performs so well when it comes to recruitment and retention.

"More adept drivers mean our vehicles are being driven more effectively and responsibly, which in turn leads to an increase in vehicle diesel efficiency and significant fuel savings," Robert Williams adds.

"You can see an increase in MPGs across the fleet, which, when spun out across all of our vehicles over several months, can add-up to substantial financial savings."

The capacity to monitor revenue on a daily basis is also provided by Manpack, allowing the senior management team to track revenue in real-time day-by-day - an extremely useful feature that in turn aids financial planning and performance.

Single supplier

Having a single transport management solution in-house, with fully compliant features all supplied by the same company, makes the whole system easy-to-use and manage, says Robert Williams, who is currently overseeing the integration of new fleetway workshop management component from Mandata.

Although its early days, this feature will make life a lot easier for the transport department, who will be able to see the status of jobs at a glance on smartphones and other mobile devices thanks to a system of coloured lights.

"This will enable us to identify any potential issues before they become real - and possibly costly – problems. It will also help to improve the safety and security of fleet operations, offering the assurances and peace-of-mind that customers are getting the services they demand."

There's no doubt Mandata's technology is proving a cost effective investment for TDW, delivering wholesale benefits. And as the firm looks to the future and a continuing expansion of its operations, there's no doubt in Robert Williams's mind that it will play an even bigger part in securing service and cost effective fleet operations.

Mandata is a UK leader in the provision of integrated transport and logistics software for companies operating in all sectors of the road transport industry. Mandata software automates and simplifies complex processes and enables operators to plan, manage, monitor and invoice work with one centralised system.

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