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On-board software means lots of trucking data. Machine data, maintenance data, driver data, load data, and all other sorts of road data arrive at the fleet’s back office waiting to be sifted for powerful insight. But that powerful insight requires fleets to have the right back-office software to do that sifting -- and the right (and regulatory compliant) on-board software to do the right kind of data collecting. And, since the latter also means having the right hardware, the right training, and the right plans for migrating data, being powerfully insightful is, for today’s fleet, rightfully challenging. So, Seth Clevenger wonders, how are industry thinkers working through this challenge? He travels to the Trimble 2019 Insight User Conference to ask a pair of executives to help him understand how one company answers this dual charge and attempts to think about a data-management future.


Mark Botticelli is the chief technology officer of Trimble Transportation. Botticelli is a technology executive with over 25 years of experience providing technology innovation, strategic leadership, and superior product delivery. Experienced in implementing software engineering best practices and processes, he has a proven track record of enhancing the productivity and predictability of software development, as well as overseeing the delivery of quality products on time and on budget.

Alicia Jarosh, CTP, is divisional vice president, customer experience, for Trimble Transportation. In her role, Jarosh is focused on creating an unparalleled customer experience, helping support a wide range of transportation organizations leverage technology to increase performance, efficiency and safety. An industry veteran, Jarosh’s customer-first approach helps to ensure Trimble provides its users with the solutions and support they need to make their businesses successful. Prior to joining Trimble, Jarosh also held customer experience leadership roles at Best Buy and American Express Financial Advisors, forming her continued passion for customer centricity.

Mark Botticelli 

Alicia Jarosh 

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Guest One Mark  Botticelli

Episode Transcript

Dan Ronan: From Transport Topics in Washington, D.C., this is RoadSigns. Here is your host, Seth Clevenger.

Seth Clevenger: Thank you for listening to RoadSigns, the podcast series from Transport Topics that explores the trends and technologies that are shaping the future of trucking.

In this episode, we're going to explore the next evolutionary steps for the back-office software and onboard technology that trucking companies use to manage their operations. It's clear that significant changes are on the horizon for technology in this industry. Moving forward, developers of fleet management software are focusing on how to transform big data into actionable intelligence through the use of analytics and machine learning. And another significant milestone for in-cab technology is right around the corner with a full implementation of the federal ELD mandate on Dec. 16.

But how can fleets take advantage of the latest software advances and manage the final push to ELD compliance? We'll set out to answer that question in this episode, to gain a better understanding of where the industry is headed. I recently sat down with a pair of executives at Trimble during the company's 2019 in.sight User Conference and Expo in Houston.

Later in the program, we'll hear more about the ELD transition from Alicia Jarosh, vice president of customer experience for North America. But first, we'll examine the road map for fleet management software with chief technology officer Mark Botticelli. Let's play the interview now.

Seth Clevenger: We're here in Houston at Trimble's 2019 in.sight User Conference. And I'm very excited to bring in Mark as the chief technology officer at Trimble Transportation. And Mark, this is always a big event on the calendar. Trimble has acquired so many pieces of the technology sector and transportation. So this is always one that we can certainly never miss. Thank you very much for joining us.

Now, Trimble, as I mentioned, has acquired several huge players in the trucking technology space over the past several years, starting with PeopleNet, and followed quickly by TMW systems, ALK Technologies and two years ago, 10-4 Systems as well. So over the past year, you guys have been making a concerted effort to really unite those properties, to combine your capabilities and really add value that way. So can you take us through some of the steps you've been going through and what you've been developing and bringing it all together, the Trimble brand?

Mark Botticelli: Yeah, sure. Well, you're exactly right. I think the acquisitions that we have made were very strategic puzzle pieces to what we're building. And recently we kind of took a step back and recognize that we need to more tightly integrate these systems to deliver more value to our customers. So, you know, as announced yesterday on stage, we built this platform so that we could integrate all of that capability, right from the user experience down to how we integrate through our API.

Seth Clevenger: Sure. And of course, it's also important to note that Trimble continues to integrate with other major technology vendors, even when they may be direct competitors for part of your portfolio, but they're also integration partners for others.

So from your perspective, as a CTO, how do you balance that desire to really build something special with all the parts that you've assembled while still supporting those customers who also integrate with outside vendors?

Mark Botticelli: Yeah, well, that's a good question, actually, because we do own visibility, because we own our TMS and fleet management. We actually integrate with the world. So we encourage the world to really join into this platform. We do want to facilitate and orchestrate all those transactions across the systems, whether they're competitive or not. We in the future, we may be orchestrating a TMS that we don't own with a fleet management system that we don't own, but we are bringing value in that transaction, Seth.

Seth Clevenger: Now, there's been a lot of conversation here at this conference about collaboration and really the opportunity for more collaboration between carriers of shippers and how they share data. How do you really make that a reality and what is the opportunity there to improve the industry?

Mark Botticelli: Yeah, well, I think to that point, when everyone is connected to our ecosystem, we have the ability to share that data more easily because we'll have all the connectivity. And one of the reasons why we created the trust center so that we can give control back to the carriers or the shippers on how that data is shared for how long and what data elements are actually sharing.

Seth Clevenger: Sure. And to your point on the trust center, data privacy, data security has been a big focus, not just in transportation, but really everywhere in the technology world. It's becoming more and more important for carriers. They're very concerned about cybersecurity and they're also concerned about how they're sharing data.

So tell us a little bit more about this trust center. Why was this a necessary step? How will it work? And how will this really give carriers, your customers control over how they're actually sharing data with their shipper customers, other brokers in the supply chain?

Mark Botticelli: Sure. Well, you know, we listen to our customer base and one of their concerns was they had integration fatigue, for example, when, you know, they might have a thousand shippers. Those shippers may have created relationships with five or six visibility providers. So now as a customer of ours, that carrier has to integrate to all of those five visibility providers. What our platform aims to do is connect to that TMS one time and then we will orchestrate the movement of that data to the visibility providers as well as we put the trust center in the middle so that that carrier really has control over what data goes to what visibility provider.

Seth Clevenger: Sure. As we talk about data management, I think it's always kind of good to look at the big picture. You know, the industry is now just capturing so much data and so many details of fleet operations. And that's been a part of the conversation for a long time now. But it seems that the challenge now is just finding ways to actually utilize that information to the fullest. What are your thoughts on what are the next steps for this industry to really begin to take full advantage of all the information that's at our fingertips that maybe we need to sift through it, make it right?

Mark Botticelli: Well, you know, the fact is, all of those transactions or that data along with that transaction will go through our ecosystem. And really, if our customers opt in and share that to identify data, we have the ability to aggregate that and using machine learning or deep learning, be able to dig out market insights and provide that value back to them.

Seth Clevenger: Speaking of AI and machine learning, you know, this has been a hot topic, yes, for a number of years, and especially now in broader software development, it seems to be one of the main pillars of how software will be developed in the future. Can you give us a couple of more examples of how you're using AI and machine learning at Trimble to drive product development?

Mark Botticelli: Yeah, I think we use it in a lot of different places, including at the edge in our telematics boxes. But in the platform we use it for really detecting faults in trucks like using machine learning. We can see anomalies in a lot of the engine data and make predictions about when that truck is going to be coming off the road to be repaired. We're trying to get a truck to do a $40 fix and not a $4,000 fix. And while keeping high uptime and I think the other thing that we do is we have our dispatch assistant, which really allows us to move loads more optimally and machine learning is at the heart of that.

Seth Clevenger: So, Mark, one of the other topics that really came up at the show thus far is the idea that most of the challenges around efficiency are really kind of come back to resource utilization and in one facet or another, whether it's your drivers’ hours, service limits, of course, out free hauling capacity.

These are all finite resources that fleets really need to make the most of. Just how do you approach that and what are your thoughts on these problems that need to be solved for the industry? How do you address all these facets of really kind of maximizing all these resources?

Mark Botticelli: Sure. Well, again, with our new ecosystem and the fact that we have data from our ELD systems, data from our TMS' data from visibility from fleet management. We really are uniquely positioned to aggregate that data to make predictions on how best to move that load in the most efficient way possible, while at the same time making sure that we're not overworking drivers or we're not putting them at risk of turning out of the company and we're making sure that we're moving loads that are within the ELD mandate.

Seth Clevenger: So we're going to talk about blockchain a little bit. Obviously, the hype cycle for blockchain has subsided a bit at this point. But there's still you know, there's been a lot of talk about how it could be applied to transportation.

There's a lot of thoughts about how it could come into play in the future. And Turnbull's been a part of the watch and the transport alliance started to develop standards for this when it is ready for the industry. What are your current thoughts about launching its potential for this industry today and in the future?

Mark Botticelli: Yeah, well, I think blockchain addresses a lot of problems. It's a really good solution for privacy and security. We have been thought leaders with blockchain and we will continue to be thought leaders. But at the moment the industry is API-led and we need to integrate with our partners, our customers in the best way to do that is through well-thought-out API. With that said, our platform will support blockchain, but it really doesn't need to be known by the customer what is under the covers that's managing security of their data. So over time we will support it.

Seth Clevenger: All right, then, just a final question before I let you go, Mark. Always like to end on the crystal ball question on your thoughts on where this industry is headed. You know, you spoke about this yesterday, but just where do you see transportation truly changing in the next five years, 10 years, especially through the use of data analytics and some of the next-level technology that we've been discussing?

Mark Botticelli: Well, I think our customers are demanding more. And, you know, Trimble, again, what we try to do is transform the way the world works. So what we're trying to do with this new ecosystem is really get those connections to the shippers, get in with all the carriers and the visibility providers so that we can really optimize the movement of freight through the entire supply chain, whether it's coming on rail or within containers, on shipping cargo. We really want to optimize and get visibility into that. So I think that's the big shift, is that our customers are demanding more. They want to know where their freight is along that entire supply chain.

Seth Clevenger: Also, it will certainly be fun to watch as you guys continue to roll out new products down the line. Always interesting to see what you guys have to show us at these shows. And are you looking forward to next year? So thanks for joining us, Mark. Greatly appreciate your insight.

Mark Botticelli: Thank you.


Seth Clevenger: We're here at Trimble 2019 in.sight User Conference in Houston. And next up, I'm pleased to welcome Alicia Jarosh. She's the vice president of customer experience for Trimble Transportation. Thank you very much for joining the program.

Alicia Jarosh: Thanks, Seth. Looking forward to it.

Seth Clevenger: Yes. Let's talk about the full implementation of the federal electronic logging device mandate, the federal ELD mandate, of course, went the effect back in December of 2017, but included this two-year grandfather period for fleets that were using older e-log systems that are classified as AOBRD - automatic onboard recording devices. Lots of alphabet soup there. But these are the older systems that the early adopters have been using for some cases for many years. But that exemption is going to expire on Dec. 16, which is right around the corner. And that means AOBRD users will need to make the switch to ELD software very soon. Here we are in mid-September. Where are you at Trimble in this process of helping customers make that migration to the ELDs?

Alicia Jarosh: It's a good question. We have customers who are in all kinds of different places in terms of their migration to ELD. Most large fleets and large midsize fleets that we work with, we've been engaged in conversations with them since, really, well, I mean, it all started in 2017 kind of timeframe, end of 2017. But in terms of actual tactical steps required to complete a migration and to be ready for it, including things like moving of the technology and the integrations to the training of end users to understanding the policy implications, we started that process with large customers much earlier this year. So they have an executable plan. There are things that have to occur before a fleet can migrate over, including updating software.

So we're going through that process right now. Those fleets tend to have project plans that they're managing against and they're looking to migrate as quickly as they can. Most fleets want to do it in a really condensed period of time. They don't want to have it drag out for a long time.

Seth Clevenger: Sure. I think you mentioned yesterday morning that about 80% of your customers have actually begun the migration. Is that about right? And where does that leave the remaining 20%?

What would it take to get that last segment far more engaged in the process?

Alicia Jarosh: Well, hopefully more podcasts with Transport Topics. But traditionally, what we're what we're finding is that the remaining 20% tend to be made up of smaller fleets and potentially a lot of small business people, owner-operators, maybe having made the assumption that they're already at an ELD status. So I think that we've done a lot of outreach to customers. We did build a migration team to help customers. Once they began to go through the process. But we use them initially to do a lot of outreach and help people understand. So this last 20% we're capturing through social media, targeted campaigns, phone calls, relationship management. We really want to make sure that we are as on point as we can be with their migration. I think that the last and final stages, there's a back-office interface that we offer to customers and we will begin turning on kind of a countdown clock for them. So they have a visual cue to understand that there are some actions that need to be taken.

Seth Clevenger: Sure. And this is a process most of your customers still need to go through, right.

I mean, is it fair to say that the majority of customers are using telematics systems in their cabs have continued to use AOBRDs over the past couple of years during this transition stage?

What's the breakup? You told me immediately back in the end of 2017 and 2018 versus those who were willing to right about now to change.

Alicia Jarosh: The vast majority of customers are waiting until now to make the change. There's a lot of reasons for it. I think, you know, more than anything, ELD is less friendly than AOBRD. So people were going to make that change, not before they were ready to. The secondary piece is that we've worked really closely with customers and there are some different ways to interpret it. So we've been very close partnership with customers and we've made changes to the software and we've been very good, I guess, observers of what customers want to see as we go down this path.

Seth Clevenger: The general session yesterday, you talked about your support team.

This team of ELD Jedis were working to help these customers through this transition. There is a lot of detail to stay on top of all these. It's just a lot of information and changes to your policy and your business procedures.

So just tell me a little more about the work that they've been doing to help your customers through this process of making the migration.

Alicia Jarosh: Yes, absolutely. I think I call them ELD Jedi is what they ultimately are that really these personal guides to help customers through the migration process. There's so many elements of planning that occur before you migrate to ELD. And it all happens well before you ever train drivers. So we have built a wealth of materials and insights and guides for customers. But, you know, unless you connect what a fleet needs based on what we know of them as their partner, it loses context and value. So the ELD guides have been out there making phone calls and now they're more on the reactive side, working with customers that we're engaged with, setting up a projects plan and setting up a kickoff, helping them understand the data elements, the fact that data itself needs to be cleaned up, that things have to be mapped well, and then guiding them along in some good process, things like pilot terminals and how they train things that we can offer to them.

I can tell you that at in.sight this year, I've gotten such great feedback from customers about this team. I actually had customers seek me out to thank us for this, because if you're a fleet, there's a lot of really unknown things and it's a very overwhelming process. And people really, I think, appreciate the opportunity to have someone say, let's break this down. And instead of looking at this as something that has to be done all right now. We can process we can put this into a process and make it achievable.

Seth Clevenger: Sure. Of course, there's a technology element to this process. Updating software is complying with the regulation. But there's also this massive training management element that you've been discussing because of the only rules are different purpose.

So where do you see as the greatest challenge in the technology side or is more on training drivers and back-office workers?

Alicia Jarosh: The technology side is certainly a piece of that because we have to update the software. So that's one component of it. It would be nice if we were working with vehicles that all came back to one location. Oftentimes it isn't. They're traveling across North America and they're traveling through different kinds of, you know, coverage. That's actually not the hardest part. And really, neither is the training, because in the end, it's once you decide how you're going to do a thing, you can build the training plan for that. What I think and what we're finding is the biggest challenges that fleets face are how are we going to manage some of the policy changes that are different between AOBRD and ELD? So now we're helping them with the technical side of this and we're asking them questions along the way so that when they have to determine how they're going to manage ELD records, that they're prepared for making decisions like that early.

Seth Clevenger: You mentioned this process with this approach of setting up a pilot terminal to help prepare for a broader rollout of ELD and making the switch. How does that work and how would you go about setting up a pilot terminal way to really do this?

Alicia Jarosh: Absolutely. A lot of carriers are focusing in on a location, but prior to going all in with a location, they may choose a pilot group of drivers that they're working with. The purpose is not really to work with the drivers and understand what you know, what their process is going to be through this. It's really more about how the back office is going to respond to some of the changes. How are we going to handle certain questions? What do we do if a driver doesn't accept an edit? What do we do if there's unassigned driving time? How are we going to manage it when drivers want to use their vehicles while they're off duty? All of these questions exist in the new regulations. So the pilot is really the opportunity for you to go through this. Identify the time involved with this. Make sure that you have the right training materials in place for your field people and also your back-office people. And then once you go through that process, it's really our recommendation to just hit it hard and use the momentum and go all in on the migration of drivers and technology.

Seth Clevenger: Well, it's good to hear at least the majority of your customers are trained or very much engaged in this process and are well underway getting through it. But what's your advice to those your fleets out there that haven't personally started, which they do right now?

Alicia Jarosh: Don't wait. Start now. And don't back into 12-16. There's a period of time that you need to leave to yourself, is it as a carrier to manage vehicles that are not easy to get back in things that you can't maybe get updated over the air, give yourself enough time to be able to plan for those kinds of outliers.

Seth Clevenger: Yeah, have a cushion. And what are some of the pitfalls that you've seen thus far? You know, for converting to ELD or have you seen any common issues that tend to come up? Or tend to be problem areas.

Alicia Jarosh: It's a good question. You know, I think the biggest challenge that we've seen is when customers tried to go through the migration process themselves without working with us directly. And it's not the most intuitive process. There's a lot of technical steps involved with it. So we really just ask them to work with us and we can walk them through it and avoid all different kinds of frustration. And it's also pretty sequential. So you have to do certain things in the right order to make sure that you're successful. And what we've seen customers become frustrated is when they try to migrate a mini group of vehicles and drivers. You know, it hasn't gone well. It's very easy to correct. We just want to be there to help them through the right steps.

Seth Clevenger: Sure. Well, I'm going to end here on a prediction. I'll ask you to make one. December is going to be a disruptive event for the trucking industry? Or do you think the fleets out there, by and large, will be ready for this?

Alicia Jarosh: This is a community of people that cares deeply about being safe and maintaining compliance. I believe it's going to be a chaotic time. But I do believe that will remain compliant once we hit Dec. 16.

Seth Clevenger: All right. Well, we'll hope you're right. And we'll be watching closely. And thanks again for these insights is very helpful for many fleets out there that are still trying to wrap their minds around how to do this well and see it through to the end. Thanks again for joining us.

Alicia Jarosh: Thanks so much.

Seth Clevenger: Before we close, let's take a moment to reconsider our original question. How can fleets take advantage of the latest software advances and manage the final push to ELD compliance? As we've discussed, fleet executives at modern trucking operations increasingly find themselves swimming in a sea of data. But moving forward, companies will find opportunities to more fully utilize that information in a way that's truly driving business decisions. Software developers are moving in that direction with data analytics and machine learning, and it will be up to fleets to find the best ways to utilize it in their operations.

Meanwhile, time is running short to complete the migration from AOBRDs to ELDs. One of the keys to a smooth transition is providing sufficient training for drivers and back-office personnel. Updating company policies to reflect the ELD rule is another important step by harnessing the latest advances in technology, fleets will be in a much better position to ensure regulatory compliance and stay ahead of the curve in a rapidly changing industry.

We'll continue the conversation about trucking technology in future episodes of RoadSigns. Until then, I'm Seth Clevenger. Thank you for listening.

Guest One, Mike Roeth

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