Vnomics: Redefining Vehicle Economics

Lloyd Palum, CTO & VP of Engineering, VnomicsLloyd Palum, CTO & VP of Engineering While the origin of the quote, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure,” might be debatable, it certainly resonates with one of the trucking industry’s major frustrations today—lack of precise data on one of their biggest cost factors: fuel consumption. Over the years, companies have tried numerous approaches to improving fuel economy, usually focusing on new equipment purchases. But that takes capital, which is often in short supply. And, no matter the equipment configuration, the single largest factor in fuel consumption out in the real world is driver behavior and efficiency. Yet that important factor has proven very difficult to track and quantify for fleet owners. Vnomics has cracked the code on that for the trucking industry with its new driver coaching and fuel analytics solution, called True Fuel.

At the highest level, True Fuel helps drivers and fleet managers work together to improve driving habits, saving fuel costs for the fleet, helping transportation companies evaluate their drivers in a normalized and fair manner, and providing a rock solid and fair basis for driver-welcomed incentives for them to improve fuel economy. True Fuel assesses each driver’s fuel economy in real time in the cab, normalized for all the factors outside the driver’s control (such as vehicle make, model and age, load, the external environment etc.) and provides subtle audible tones for the fuel wasting behavior outside of boundaries set by the fleet. Each driver also receives a comprehensive scorecard that fairly measures only those things they could have controlled, and more importantly, easy to use reports that illuminate the steps they can take on the next trip to achieve a better score and fuel efficiency result for the fleet. The scores of each driver, fuel consumption rates and data, and prescriptive reports—available in easy-to-follow pre-configured templates—can be accessed easily by fleet managers through a web portal.

What resonates with fleets and drivers is that the reports completely avoid the coarseness and unfairness of driver fuel performance appraisals that are purely based on MPG data, which is heavily influenced by several factors neither the driver nor the fleet can control on a day in, day out basis. True Fuel even recognizes cases where trucks might be configured incorrectly or require maintenance and generates detailed reports.

Based on these reports and insights, Vnomics enables fleet managers to have granular and normalized discussions with drivers, equipping them with critical visibility of the performance of their vehicles and drivers.

We analyze and precisely quantify the impact of driver behavior on fuel economy and provide fleets and their drivers tools to work together to improve fuel economy

Superior Plus Energy Services, an NY-based propane and heating oil shipping company, saw a 4.5 percent increase in their average fuel economy during their initial pilot of True Fuel. By mapping each vehicle’s fuel consumption metrics with driving behavior, the results proved beyond doubt the value delivered by Vnomics’ coaching and analytics. Today, True Fuel is deployed fleet-wide to all 300 vehicles. “Beyond the cost benefits, there is a lot of emphasis on driver turnover, recruitment, and retention in the trucking arena,” adds Alan Farnsworth, Vnomics CEO. “If you assess their performance by MPG alone, it is neither accurate nor fair to the drivers. It’s like trying to compare two golf scorers from different holes, in different courses, on different days, without knowing what par is. Drivers hate that. We help fleet managers truly understand not just real-world fuel economy but also the fuel efficiency of the drivers for the equipment they have and the loads they carry and make highly informed decisions in that regard.”

Vnomics recognized and overcame the complexities and challenge of precisely mapping driver behavior to fuel consumption with a unique solution that utilizes data collection, machine learning, and digital modeling to create a quantified view of driver performance and its impact on fuel economy. By capturing, interrogating, and processing in real time the streams of data flowing in from onboard sensors, Vnomics builds a “digital twin”—a quintessential virtual model of the truck itself—to assess the impact of driver behavior on fuel economy. The simulated digital twin is a comprehensive view of the truck’s fuel economy performance range that incorporates all the factors impacting fuel economy outside the purview and control of drivers—vehicle operating condition, the route being taken, cargo weight, and so on.

“We analyze driver behavior under actual operating conditions and study its effect on fuel economy by comparing it to the digital twin—the ideal fuel consumption model— on a continuous real-time basis,” explains Lloyd Palum, Vice President, Engineering and CTO, Vnomics.

True Fuel helps customers establish the amount of fuel that could have been saved with better driving habits. Built into an onboard computing device plugged into a standard vehicle databus, True Fuel studies fuel economy data in real time and juxtaposes the results with the pre-built digital twin and automatically normalizes it for the factors the driver cannot control. True Fuel identifies and quantifies the impact of excessive idling, improper engine speed control, and highway speeding. Where driver behavior in these areas crosses certain pre-set boundaries, subtle audible tones alert the drivers in an exception-based way to change behavior immediately, to arrest fuel waste in real time.

Farnsworth explains that True Fuel could be analogized to a combination of game day coaching (the in-cab coaching elements) and review of the films after the game (for the continuous improvement analytics). Vnomics provides all of this information and insight without inundating the user with vast or unmanageable amounts of data in incompatible formats.

As implied by the company’s name, Vnomics has a relentless focus on vehicle economy, particularly targeting fuel consumption, which is one of the biggest cost factors for any transportation fleet. The ongoing innovation in Vnomics’ research and development activities focuses on three major aspects: accounting for all parameters impacting fuel consumption, assessing how efficient the consumption was in comparison to the ideal scenario, and altering driver behavior to improve fuel efficiency using real-time coaching and ongoing analytics. Using directed data capture for a given class of trucks, the company’s data scientists analyze various sensor data profiles to track their impact on fuel economy. Different modeling techniques are then applied to establish the accurate values of impact and a reliable and unbiased scoring system is established for the studied factors. “The results are institutionalized within the True Fuel platform, both onboard and in the cloud, essentially transitioning from a data science and R&D focus to a software development activity leg of the process,” says Palum.

Over time, Vnomics plans to add additional dimensions of driver behavior and its impact on fuel consumption to their modeling techniques to give drivers and fleets an idea of other instances where they could have made a better judgment in terms of handling the truck from a fuel economy standpoint. The accurate, granular nature of the Vnomics approach and reports can catalyze and fortify decisions in many crucial fleet operations including drivers’ incentives, vehicle purchases, maintenance schedules, and other significant cost and investment areas. “We know and recognize that transportation companies are very crucial to our economy,” Farnsworth outlines. “We will continue to empower drivers with tools that would help them drive trucks more efficiently from a fuel economy standpoint and help our customers make decisions that increase profitability.”