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Welcome to #BizUnited, a new series highlighting innovative partnerships between large companies and smaller businesses across America. Check back periodically for new installments.
Seven years ago, entrepreneur and auto industry veteran Josh Switkes launched Peloton Technology Inc. to mitigate two of the most important concerns facing America’s $700 billion dollar trucking industry — safety and fuel costs.
“Commercial motor vehicle crashes cost more than $87 billion per year in the U.S., and the U.S. trucking industry spends more than $140 billion per year on fuel,” Switkes told Free Enterprise. “An average long-haul fleet will spend over 30 percent of its operation expenses on fuel per year alone, and the competitive nature of the industry means most fleets are experiencing profit margins in the low single digits.”
To change that — and to significantly reduce the frequency of accidents in the process — Switkes and his 60-employee team of engineers at Mountain View, Calif.-based Peloton have pioneered an innovative driver-assistive technology. Called the Truck Platooning System, this groundbreaking solution combines wireless communications, radar-based automated braking systems and real-time weather, road condition and construction zone information to link pairs of trucks in aerodynamic “platoons” that are less prone to accidents and markedly more fuel efficient.
Put simply, Peloton’s technology enables truck drivers in these two-truck platoons (one truck following the other from behind) to remain fully in control of steering. Meanwhile, its “smart” system automatically controls acceleration and braking in a way that’s similar to adaptive cruise control. The result is a dramatic reduction of aerodynamic drag (think: cycling drafting) that leads to fuel economy savings of more than 10 percent for each platooned truck.
“Every household, every business and every industry we have relies on trucking,” said Switkes, who is also an amateur race car driver and a former Volkswagen Electronics Research Lab senior engineer. “It’s an industry filled with people who reflect some of the best American values — strong work ethic, independence and entrepreneurialism.”
The freight trucking industry essentially serves as the circulatory system of the American economy, moving approximately 70 percent of the country’s total freight tonnage from coast to coast every year.
However, as Switkes pointed out, the trucking sector is “also an industry under immense financial pressure from fuel- and crash-related costs. We’re uniquely positioned to create innovative and well-designed systems for drivers and fleets to improve efficiency, safety and, ultimately, their bottom line by bringing the trucking and technology communities together.”
To help introduce its gas-saving and potentially life-saving technology to more drivers and fleets, Peloton recently joined forces with Omintracs, LLC, an approximately 800-employee leader in software-assisted trucking fleet management.
Founded in 1988, the Dallas-based company pioneered the use of commercial vehicle telematics more than 25 years ago. Today, its broad offering of intuitive tech solutions, available in more than 60 countries, covers the full gamut. Included within its high-tech services are: safety and compliance; driver retention; fleet productivity; GPS fleet tracking; route planning and scheduling; fuel efficiency and fleet maintenance.
Omnitracs and Peloton’s partnership will bring Peloton’s platooning technology to Omnitracs’s large existing customer base. In addition to greatly expanding its reach, Switkes’s startup will also collaborate with the global trucking giant to develop joint solutions that blend each business’s unique fleet management, safety and efficiency technologies.
To start, Peloton, now flush with nearly $80 million in venture capital (with investments from UPS, Volvo Trucks North America, Intel, Nokia, Lockheed Martin and BP), plans to begin filling pre-orders of its flagship platooning product for Class 8 trucks later this year.
“By working across Omintracs customers, Peloton can create opportunities for inter-fleet platooning,” Switkes said, “using jointly developed solutions based on Omnitracs’s routing and dispatch solutions to optimize matching opportunities for two fleets to platoon trucks together.”
Meanwhile, the new alliance extends Omnitracs’s long-held position within the transportation industry as future-forward innovator that readily embraces the latest and most effective road safety and fuel efficiency technologies.
“Peloton has developed technology that is on the cutting edge of advanced driver assistance systems and the automated vehicle movement,” Omnitracs CEO John Graham said in a statement. “Its emphasis on spatial awareness is a crucial and foundational component of improving truck safety and fuel efficiency.”
Key to Peloton’s early success, Switkes pointed out, has been its eagerness to partner with larger, long-established players within the industry, such as Omnitracs.
“For us, being #BizUnited in our approach means that there are plenty of opportunities to innovate in a way that creates mutual success for ourselves and for our business partners,” he said. “We certainly believe that healthy competition is a key driver of economic progress, but, where possible, we have found partnerships have helped us move faster, avoid pitfalls and broaden our customer base in a way that we never would have been able to achieve without being #BizUnited.”
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