Guy Reynolds, the co-founder of Aquarius IT, discusses why one “Friday afternoon” conversation inspired the company’s development of a live tachograph data solution.
What is live tacho data? Live tachograph (tacho) data is not the remote download of a driver’s card and it is not the remote download of a vehicle unit (VU). Live tacho data in my world is the signal from a socket in the back of the tacho – although if you look at a tacho in a cab, you won’t be able to see the socket.
How do you see this data? You cannot see this data without some form of software than can display it, and the software cannot display it without a device connected to the back of the tacho to transmit the data to the software. There are a number of devices on the market that can transmit the data, and we currently work with the major providers that provide us a full spectrum of solutions in line with different customer needs.
What can you do with live tacho data? Some years ago (I think it was about 2011), I was sitting with a customer and we were talking about vehicle and driver utilisation. The customer explained to me about “Friday afternoons”. He explained to me that margins were so tight that when his phone rang on a Friday afternoon with a customer asking for a collection, the last pickup could be the difference between a vehicle making a profit or not that week. The operator would make a phone call to a driver to ask if he had enough hours left on the day and week to make the pickup? Depending on the driver, some might think, “its Friday afternoon, I want to get home, I could get home early”, so the driver says, “sorry, I don’t have enough hours.”
Coincidentally around that time, I was sitting in an EU CORTE meeting to hear about the latest Digi-tach updates, and the “Friday afternoon” conversation came to mind … in 2011, the live data option was ‘there’ in the original 2002 tacho spec, but it wasn’t available from all tacho’s until about 2012 and this proved an opportune moment.
Our in-house IT development team jumped on it and quickly developed screens of information that would enable a transport manager/ traffic officer to access real time information on all drivers – to look at what hours are available today, tomorrow and the rest of the week. This then allow a transport manager/ traffic officer to make an informed decision for themselves (on a ‘Friday afternoon’), without having to ask the driver if he can do it.
How did we do it? First of all, we needed to start capturing the data, which was probably the easy bit. The main difficulty of dealing with it, is that the data is very raw. Make no mistake, this is not like a card file where the tacho has already worked out the dominant activity for every minute. This is not a verified card file that the DVSA would be interested in and it is not encrypted like a card file. ITS NOT A CARD FILE!
Once we had started to understand the data, then we needed to create a software engine that would think like a tacho, which means working out the dominant activity for a minute, as live feed data tells you the activity change by the second. To put that into perspective, if a truck is stuck in traffic and is shunting forward a number of times in a minute the tacho will be changing activity from “driving” to “other work”. When the minute is complete, the tacho will then calculate the dominant activity for the minute and then write one activity to the drivers’ card and VU for that minute.
Then once this was complete, we could start to calculate what driving time and duty time is left for the day; thus, enabling the traffic officer to make an informed decision if the driver has the time or not.
And the rest as they say is history!