Steve Bryan: The second way is through inspection stations. In addition to being weighed, the trucks are also subjected to inspections by similarly-trained law enforcement people. Those are the two modes of interaction that trucking companies have with law enforcement. They open up their book and there are about 3,000 different violations that could be written on the tractor, the trailer, and the driver in every single one of those interactions. About 825 of those violations have been designated by the DOT, specifically the agency within the DOT responsible for motor vehicle safety called the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCFA). The FMCFA collects data specifically on about 820 of these violations and runs them through a scoring system.
For most people who don’t understand this, I equate this to our own credit scores. As consumers, we all have credit scores that are based on the history that we have on paying back consumer loans, paying our rent on time, etc.
Similarly, these violations go into a scoring system for all motor carriers operating in the United States. There are about 500,000 different individual motor carrier companies that operate 5 million trucks and all of them receive a safety score. It’s part of a program called Compliance, Safety, and Accountability (CSA). The law enforcement department notes down these violations during inspections conducted on these large commercial vehicles. They conduct about 3.5 million inspections and write about 7 million violations every year.
Sramana Mitra: This is a Big Data series. I’m still trying to get down the underpinnings of the Big Data source. One source is the violation that inspectors are providing. It’s a human-generated piece of data. What is the other source?
Steve Bryan: The other source is the technology on the truck. The data that is collected by the law enforcement department is probably not qualified as what most of us would think of as Big Data. I think there are perhaps big impacts from the relatively small data set. You may lose your business over the data that is generated by law enforcement.
Now, turn your attention to the technology in the vehicle. You have what they call telematics devices or on-board recording devices that record everything from the revolutions of the engine, fuel economy, the proximity of the vehicles to other to avoid crashes, and GPS and satellite tracking so that they can know exactly where the truck is. Is it on time? Is it going to make its delivery on time? These things generate terabytes of data that flow back into the databases of the vendors that supply that technology. There are several dozen competing companies that sell various types of recording technology to the trucking companies. Vigillo is in the middle of all that. We’re the hub. We gather that data from all the different providers. When we start looking at that data, there are billions of records.