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Blog September 2021

The future direction of transport management systems

As a leading technology innovator for waste and recycling companies, AMCS is continuously developing a platform to deliver greater efficiency and safety for its customers’ businesses. While the future is still unwritten, there are clear trends in how the mobile workforce will manage collections in the coming years.

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Wim Hoek

Product Marketing Manager

On the road to tomorrow’s transport management system

As a leading technology innovator for waste and recycling companies, AMCS is continuously developing a platform to deliver greater efficiency and safety for its customers’ businesses. While the future is still unwritten, there are clear trends in how the mobile workforce will manage collections in the coming years.

Tech advances in the end-to-end management of the waste and recycling process are transforming the industry. Savvy operators now leverage the potential for cloud computing to seamlessly link the different parts of their business and harness efficiencies.

Historically, depot managers or planners would compile a list of customers that needed to be serviced on a given day, gathering this information from customer accounts software, possibly the waste company’s accounting software, or a standalone CRM. This customer list would then be put into a route planning software, again a tool run in a silo, which would spit out a paper schedule for each driver. From there, the driver would set off drawing on his local knowledge of the roads or possibly using a clunky Sat Nav, marking off collections and exceptions on the paper schedule, phoning back to base if there was a significant problem.

The story is already quite different today with advances such as the AMCS Transport Management System (TMS), which helps planners draw on a more extensive set of data and integrated applications to deliver value to the business. This TMS presents complex information in an easy-to-understand, user-friendly way through an automated planning module that reduces route planning to a few minutes, allowing transport planners to focus on high-value tasks, delivering much greater business efficiencies.

The optimization module finds the route, sending it to the in-cab display, giving the driver clear instructions about each customer, as well as directions between each lift. It adapts to real-time information factors, such as a traffic event or breakdown, and incorporate environmental/local information, such as the time children are leaving school, which manages risks more effectively and reduces driver workload, keeping them focused on the main task of driving safely on the most efficient route.

AMCS Transport Management System is designed for the future. The advent of telematics, collecting and sharing data about driver and truck performance will inevitably lead to further improvements. This information helps guide performance review by managers and feedback for drivers.

Telematics also informs better maintenance schedules. Improvements in diagnostic monitoring on vehicles mean data on fuel use, engine loads, and operating temperatures will be connected to data from GPS and hydraulics to preempt when a service is required. The arrival of 5G enables the wealth of metrics recorded by the vehicle to compile in real-time, with the cloud software to analyze performance, providing planners and managers with these actionable insights.

Business owners or fleet managers know that investment in transport is focused on electric vehicles or those running on biofuels or other types of natural gas. Governments worldwide have signaled their intent, announcing end dates for selling new petrol or diesel vehicles. The UK will stop selling diesel-powered vehicles in 2030 and the EC is planning to do the same in 2035. As transport management systems advance, these platforms will adapt to maximizing the performance of new engine technologies. In cold conditions, this could mean automatically adapting collection routes of electric refuse collection vehicles to reflect their reduced range as performance drops off in the electric batteries.

The latest AMCS platform release enables planners to reassign jobs, such as when a collection vehicle’s progress is affected by an incident. In this situation, using the TMS solution, it is possible to transfer some of the affected driver’s collections to another driver. The system can then recalculate an optimal route and send a new schedule to both in-cab displays.

Looking to the future, advances in telematics and artificial intelligence have the potential to drive even more sophisticated capabilities, automatically responding to real-time traffic information to reroute and even reassign collections.

The Internet of Things heralds the prospect of sensors in containers, automatically notifying the waste company when it needs emptying. This type of innovation has already established a foothold in the municipal sector, particularly in Europe, avoiding unnecessary stops to empty containers.

Longer-term, it is conceivable that more commercial collection will transition to a weight-based, pay-as-you-go system. AMCS already offers onboard weighing technology, which can create a compelling customer proposition when coupled with bin sensors.

Eyes on the road

Today there is a greater focus than ever on keeping the public and collection crews safe. The industry has an unenviable record. According to the latest report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics waste and recycling is the 6th deadliest occupation in the US and according to the European Public Service Union the risk of an accident at work is 2.5 times higher in the waste management sector compared to the average for all other sectors. In the UK, there were five fatalities last year, down from the recent average of nine a year . We can expect technology to deliver measurable gains in this area, as safety has increasingly become a critical KPI for most waste and recycling companies.

AMCS is continually developing its mobile workforce solution to reduce the cognitive load on drivers, simplifying the interface of the in-cab display.  Already this automates previously repetitive tasks, such as logging a collection based on a vehicle’s GPS.

AMCS Business Intelligence provides a feedback loop, drawing on data from telematics to review driver performance by recording events such as sharply hitting the brakes. This module offers valuable insights for fleet managers to collaborate with their crews and identify issues at an early stage.

One developing field that offers the potential to keep the driver’s eyes on the road is speech recognition. A sophisticated voice user interface (UI) would allow drivers to communicate with a crew wearing headsets outside the cab. Talking to the onboard computer means many other attention-demanding tasks such as recording an exception or event will not involve typing into the display. It also opens up the potential to speak instructions, such as requesting a camera to take an image or record a video,

The problems caused by background noise, particularly in older cabs, increasingly look solvable, using a new approach to separate speech from environmental sounds through deep learning models.

As well as listening to drivers, safety innovation will include watching their movement also. It is already the case that level two autonomous vehicle systems, such as Tesla’s AutoPilot, monitor the driver’s eyes. Although this might initially encounter some resistance and challenges around privacy, drivers may value technology that keeps them alert and everyone safe. It could be a key opportunity for business owners to increase safety protocols.

Autonomous vehicles

Like all other road transport, there will inevitably be a trend towards automation in waste and recycling collections. Although self-driving cars still need substantial development before humans can consistently take their hands off the wheel, this field is attracting considerable investment and will continue to improve. Google’s autonomous vehicle spin-off Waymo already operates driverless taxis in Phoenix, Arizona, with many others not far behind.

Vehicle manufacturer Volvo has already tested an autonomous refuse collection vehicle in Brussels. The trial vehicle ran at low speeds on a preset route, with the collection crew walking alongside loading bins. Volvo fitted it with sensors all around, bringing the truck to a halt if there is an unexpected obstacle.

Although this prototype has not progressed to production, improvement in machine learning and sensors mean self-driving RCVs will inevitably develop. It opens up the prospect for municipal services to replace a driver with an operative that primarily does bin lifts, increasing the number of properties covered. A key ingredient to the early adoption of this transition will be the technology connecting operatives with the RCV’s onboard computer to determine the vehicle’s pace and the ability to intervene and take the wheel if the AI cannot overcome an obstacle.

To some extent, the same could follow for commercial collections. However, the spacing between lifts and less predictable routes (determined by the customers booked in) means this solution might be more challenged to provide the same productivity improvements. It will take technology longer to replicate these tasks. Yet, freeing the mobile workforce to focus on developing customer service and collection will deliver more business value and hopefully, satisfied customers.

Delivering improvements

The waste collections of the future will inevitably target getting more from vehicles and crews, yet placing less stress on either. By keeping both in good condition, these valuable resources will last longer, providing business owners with a healthy rate of return on investment in these technologies of the future.

By employing a connected suite of web-based applications, waste and recycling companies can immediately benefit from many technological improvements and innovations. Real-time route optimization, which makes the most of IoT devices connected with 5G, increases the potential for these businesses to minimize their environmental footprint while delivering services for the circular economy. Becoming a more sustainable business; So they can truly practice what they preach!

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