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Monson Logistics: using the right data to ask the right questions

It’s easy for your business to choke on data. Modern fleet operators often use multiple software packages, each with specialised functionality. Each can also generate multiple reports and reams of data. 

The key to getting good value from these investments is to access the right data, not the most data. 

Tasmania’s Monson Logistics has successfully adopted several essential software packages to streamline operations and improve safety. It’s done so by focusing on the most relevant reports and data points – here’s how they did it.

Too many spreadsheets!

In 1992 Bruce and Toni Monson opened a ships agency office in Burnie, Tasmania. The company grew quickly and today comprises three depots supplying trailer deliveries, international shipping, project work and more. 

“We’re now running a fleet of 40 prime movers around Tasmania and about 140 trailers,” Bruce says. “We mainly transport containers and timber, but we also operate customs and quarantine facilities.”

In 2017 the business was overwhelmed with spreadsheets. The team was having trouble keeping up with jobs, maintenance, staffing and all the complexities of running a large transport operation.

“So we embarked on a program to completely transform the business from operating off spreadsheets to operating off computer systems,” Bruce says.

Software was the solution 

The solution was simple in the sense that over time, Bruce and the team evaluated and deployed five critical software packages:

  • MT Data: truck speed and driver fatigue
  • Skytrust: health and safety 
  • Gearbox: maintenance
  • FreightTracker: transport management
  • Wise: accounting and business management

The complexity was in user training and understanding what data to use – and how to use it.  

Improving driver safety

Monson uses MT Data and Skytrust to improve driver and operational safety. The key to its success has been to use automated speed and fatigue alerts to trigger managers’ responses.

“They’re the two things we need to know in real-time,” says Bruce. 

Some drivers initially resisted the idea of having cameras on their trucks. However, Bruce and his team took a staged approach. Lead drivers adopted the technology first and became their fellow drivers’ first point of contact if they had problems or questions. 

The company also ran short training sessions on every new technology at its toolbox meetings.

“The other drivers could talk to the leads about what we were trying to achieve,” says Bruce. “If we had somebody continually flouting it, the general manager would come in and have a heart-to-heart about it. After that, most of them came on board.”

A critical success factor was managing the data collaboratively, such as working with the drivers to set alert thresholds and responses. 

“We introduced limits and tolerances for overrun, which were generous to begin with, to allow drivers to adapt and change driving patterns. After a brief period, we tightened all those up so we are fully compliant with speed limits.”

Monson’s team also generates weekly summaries of near misses, incident reports and lost time. Not that it was a dangerous business before, but the overall safety improvement has been significant.

“If we go back to 2017, we had two or three accidents. Trucks written off, trailers dropped … On the sixth of July last year, 2020, we passed 1000 days, and now we’re sitting around 1250 days without a lost-time injury,” says Bruce.

It’s a performance to be proud of, and it’s primarily thanks to Monson’s careful use of only the most relevant data.

Reducing business costs, improving efficiency and cashflow

Safety may be the essential benefit, but it’s not the only one. Drivers also enjoy much simpler systems for pre-start checks and job sheets, all of which run off Android tablets. They all feed into the business’s maintenance systems, which can automatically order parts for upcoming services.

“The driver can log any faults or questions on the pre-start app. That automatically uploads into Gearbox, so when the maintenance manager gets to work, he can see any faults that have been reported that day.” 

Bruce says the back-end systems’ data has also helped Monson reduce costs. The reduction in lost-time injuries has been a significant boon. However, accounting and freight management dashboards have also helped the business to prosper.

As soon as a job comes in, it gets entered into the system. All the information is available so Bruce and the other managers can see revenue, expenses, purchase orders, staffing levels and more.

“If I go back to June 2017, we were taking four to eight weeks to invoice out for some jobs. We were just drowning. This year, if I look back to December 2020, I think by the fifth or sixth of January, we had all our invoicing done,” Bruce says.

“That has really improved our cash flow because a lot of people pay the invoices when they get them – it has a follow-on effect right down through the business.

“We’ve also had a decrease in our insurance costs in the last 12 months. Our lost-time incidents have been zero, and our damage to trucks has decreased remarkably.”

Putting your system together

Every business is different. The systems that have worked so well for Monson Logistics may not work so well for you, but Bruce says that if you keep a few key points in mind, you’ll be able to pull together the systems – and the data – you need:

  • Goals: “You’ve got to look at … what are you trying to achieve? Be prepared to adapt and change. You need service providers that can work with you and are prepared to change their systems to meet what you want.”
  • Workforce: “You need to get your workforce on board. We did that through the use of lead drivers and general discussion with the drivers. We have a fairly flat management structure, so we get to talk to a lot of the drivers on a regular basis and take their needs into consideration as well.”
  • Perseverance: “Everybody will test you when you first put systems in and find every reason why it’s not working. You’ve got to be strong in your resolve to continue and say, ‘no, it’s what we want, and you’re going to have to adapt to the way the business is now’.”

It hasn’t always been easy for Monson Logistics, but Bruce wouldn’t change a thing. Not only have the business’s data flows transformed operations, improved safety and reduced costs, they’ve also set up the company for the future.

“We’ve set the business up now, we’re in a position where we could add 20 or 30 trucks to the fleet, and the systems will work as well then as they do now,” he says. “So we’ve future-proofed the business. We won’t have to go through the process again.”

It’s been a great recipe for success – and for Monson Logistics, it looks well set to continue.

For tips on putting in systems that deliver the right data, download NTI's The right data, the right questions: a guide

Disclaimer: Information in this document is a guide only. It does not take into account your personal or business circumstances. Whilst all due care has been taken, you must not rely on the information as an alternative to legal, legislated regulatory and compliance requirements associated with your business activities.  NTI.M003.1.07062021

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