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Keeping trucking industry on track

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In a perfect world, Persentech, a small electronics technology development firm, would be local all-stars.

The three-person firm has developed a sophisticated automated vehicle data collection device that is manufactured by local plastics and electronic companies targeted to the large local trucking industry.

Commercial success may still happen and Frank Franczyk, the president and owner of Persentech, has the strength of his conviction to back up whatever time and effort it may eventually take to turn the OttoView into a popular device.

And it's not just his engineer's fancy that tells him he's on the right track.

Earlier versions of the OttoView have been out for about five years. Unlike earlier ones, the latest is targeted at the truck market.

It also has the benefit of a few years of work with Transport Canada to hone the technology that's now used by the federal department to collect data in an automated way for its annual Canadian Vehicle Use Study.

In the past, data for that study was collected using a paper logbook and the results were less than satisfactory.

But last year the CVUS -- using a sample of 20,000 vehicles per year -- switched to a device developed by Persentech to collect the data.

The purpose of the annual CVUS is to provide annual estimates of the amount of road travel by various vehicle types across Canada. By collecting information from randomly selected light-vehicle drivers, the CVUS is a key source of information about distance driven (vehicle-kilometres), fuel consumption and efficiency, and passenger-kilometres (occupancy).

Now that the device and its back-office web-based data-management system have been thoroughly tested, Persentech has released its own commercial version, which is available to the public. While it will work on passenger vehicles, Franczyk knows the trucking industry has the most incentive to invest in this type of technology.

As well as many things that could be tracked, the OttoView CVS43 will display fuel cost, fuel economy and the equivalent CO2 emissions.

At close to $700 per device and a few thousand dollars for the software licence, it's a system more likely to find a market with large fleet operators.

Understanding CO2 emissions is an increasingly strategic bit of intelligence for truck fleet operators who are coming under ever-tighter regulatory scrutiny.

"We are trying to understand the carbon footprint," Franczyk said. "It's not as simple as -- for every litre of gas there's so much carbon emitted. It comes down to -- where are the bottlenecks? Did a driver pull around corner and idle for two hours? There's lots involved in coming up with how the carbon footprint is made up."

Terry Shaw of the Manitoba Trucking Association said fuel efficiency -- and reduced carbon emissions -- is a mission-critical goal for all the trucking firms.

"The big firms get it," said Shaw. "It's cost-effective. But somehow we need to give the smaller guys a leg up. They need assistance with the capital requirement so we can increase uptake sooner rather than later when it comes to taking steps to reduce emissions."

An industry official said there are many purveyors of data-monitoring technologies for trucking fleets that come in at various price points and functionality. But whereas many are pitched by companies from across the U.S. and Canada with online seminars and marketing presentations, the official said a company such as Persentech may have a leg up when it comes to the Manitoba trucking industry because it is a local firm.

Franczyk said Persentech's forte is developing technology, but with the trucking industry grasping the increased importance in fuel efficiency, the firm may be forced to make an investment of its own -- in marketing.

Testimonials from OttoView users

"I loved it. My husband wants one permanently in his truck! It was easy to install, easy to handle, instructions were also easy read. I learned a lot about my driving vs. my husbands."

- Lydia B.

"It was no problem to program the logger before each trip. The info it provided was interesting. Felt good to help Transport Canada in the study."

- James K.

"Enjoyed the experience. Appreciated the summary report."

- Robert L.

"It was interesting, and made me more aware of the amount of driving I do, how much I spend in gas, and what can I do to reduce the amount of unnecessary trips that I make."

- Sylvain G.

source: Transport Canada website

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 29, 2012 B5

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