Business Challenge

Every year, adverse weather costs the ground transportation industry billions of dollars in damages and delays. How could Knight help its drivers stay safe and make their deliveries on time?

Transformation

Knight uses a first-of-its-kind solution from The Weather Company, which combines weather data with telematics and geolocation information to alert drivers of upcoming weather conditions in real time.

Results

Boosts safety

by providing new insight to help drivers make smarter decisions

Reduces risk

of delays and accidents by highlighting adverse weather conditions

Aids retention

by giving drivers extra support and strengthening Knight’s safety culture

Business challenge story

Weathering the storm

Picture this: you’re a truck driver rolling down the highway when the weather takes a turn for the worse. You can only see as far as your headlights—so you have no idea what conditions are like further along the route. If you pull over, you risk failing to make your delivery on time. If you don’t, you risk getting into an accident. How do you decide what to do?

Now, imagine if there was a way for ground transportation companies to keep their drivers informed of upcoming weather and road conditions, allowing them to take proactive measures to avoid delays and potential accidents. US trucking giant Knight Transportation has partnered with The Weather Company to do exactly that.

Brandt Wilson, Senior Business Analyst at Knight, takes up the story: “Bad weather, especially high wind, ice and fog, poses a considerable risk to our drivers. It also has a big impact on delivery schedules and efficiency leading to delays that keep drivers on the road longer and potentially cause us to miss delivery windows.”

Industry statistics confirm the serious problems that weather can cause on the roads: it is a factor in 22 percent of all highway accidents, 19 percent of injuries, and 23 percent of traffic delays. Even if nobody gets hurt, the economic impact can be high, especially if a truck’s cargo is damaged.

“The value of a single trailer can be surprisingly large, depending on what you’re transporting,” says Brandt Wilson. “For example, a full load of steaks could be worth up to USD 250,000. If your refrigeration unit is damaged in an accident and the meat gets spoiled, that’s a major loss for the company to deal with.”

Previously, Knight relied on manual processes to inform drivers about upcoming weather conditions. Regional safety directors would monitor the weather and notify drivers of potential adverse events via in-cab communications systems.

“The main problem with our old approach was that it lacked precision,” explains Brandt Wilson. “For example, if there’s a snowstorm covering half a state, conditions are still going to vary from place to place, which means that some drivers will be affected more than others. However, we weren’t able to get down to that level of detail; we could only provide drivers with general weather warnings. 

“What we really wanted was a way to alert drivers in real time of upcoming weather conditions in their location, so they could make better-informed decisions and stay out of harm’s way. We’d been looking for a solution that could deliver these kind of capabilities for a long time, but we just couldn’t find anything that met all of our requirements at a reasonable price-point—until we connected with The Weather Company.”

The Weather Company solution definitely puts us ahead of the curve in terms of safety and technology. This investment shows our drivers that we care about keeping them safe.

—Brandt Wilson, Senior Business Analyst, Knight-Swift

Transformation story

Keeping drivers informed with real-time alerts

After a team from IBM demonstrated the capabilities of the Weather Company Driver Alerts for Ground Transportation, Knight knew it had finally found the answer to its challenges. As a first-of-a-kind solution built specifically for ground transportation, the solution delivers real-time weather information to drivers, dispatchers and safety directors via custom software APIs—making it easy to integrate with existing in-cab systems.

Brandt Wilson says: “The Driver Alerts solution immediately ticked a lot of boxes for us, and its development roadmap lined up well with our future goals. The fact that The Weather Company was willing to mold the solution around our needs as a transportation company really resonated with us. It speaks volumes about their willingness to listen to and collaborate with their customers.”

The Driver Alerts solution uses APIs to deliver audio alerts directly to the cab of each vehicle, giving drivers hands-free warnings of upcoming weather hazards. It also notifies regional operations managers of hazards affecting their areas, helping them coordinate with drivers.

Knight kicked off its implementation with an extensive pilot project, working closely with operations teams and drivers to test and refine the solution. Brandt Wilson recalls: “Our front-line teams will rely on the Driver Alerts to help them get from A to B safely, so it was critical for us to get their feedback. As a result, we have built a solution that is genuinely helpful and easy to use.

“For example, the pilot helped us realize that when we started, we were sending too many alerts to drivers, which could be a potential distraction. Working with The Weather Company, we were able to reduce the frequency of our alerts and strike the right balance between keeping drivers informed without overloading them with information.”

Knight has now brought the Driver Alerts into full production, delivering real-time weather information to thousands of drivers. The company continues to enhance the solution, working closely with The Weather Company to develop new features that offer more detailed insight into weather conditions and drive greater efficiencies.

For example, the team is testing ways to map forward-looking alerts to delivery routes, so that when a driver is expected to pass through a certain area in the near future, it can notify them of disruptive weather conditions several hours ahead of time. With this foresight, Knight could potentially re-route drivers to help them avoid bad weather altogether, keeping them out of harm’s way and keeping deliveries on schedule.

If Driver Alerts helps prevent even a few incidents, it would make a huge difference to the lives of our drivers and other motorists, and could make a huge difference to our bottom line.

—Brandt Wilson, Senior Business Analyst, Knight-Swift

Results story

On the road to improved safety and reduced downtime

With its investment in cutting-edge technology from The Weather Company, Knight is setting itself apart as an industry leader in safety and innovation—a move that could potentially boost its appeal as an employer, too.

Brandt Wilson confirms: “The Weather Company solution definitely puts us ahead of the curve in terms of safety and technology. This investment shows our drivers that we care about keeping them safe and providing them with the latest technology that helps them do their jobs more effectively. This could play a role in helping Knight appeal to future employees and strengthen retention among existing team members. That’s a huge benefit in an industry like ground transportation, where driver turnover is still very high.”

With the Driver Alerts solution, Knight is empowering teams on the front lines with the information they need to make smarter decisions. An improved understanding of upcoming weather conditions helps drivers to take the right measures to stay safe, whether it’s re-routing to avoid flash flooding or pulling over in a sheltered spot to avoid dangerous crosswinds.

“Our drivers really appreciate the weather alerts,” notes Brandt Wilson. “When you’re up in the truck cab, it can sometimes be difficult to gauge exactly how severe the weather is. The alerts give drivers the added insight they need to make better-informed decisions on the road, helping our crews and cargo reach their destinations safely and on schedule.”

Helping drivers to avoid accidents and delays could also have a big financial impact for Knight—a crucial benefit in an industry where operating margins are thin.

“In addition to the human impact of weather-related accidents, which is the highest concern, they can incur hundreds of thousands of dollars in costs,” states Brandt Wilson. “If Driver Alerts helps prevent even a few incidents, it would make a huge difference in the lives of our drivers and other motorists, and could make to huge difference to our bottom line. By enabling our drivers to take steps to avoid disruption and dangerous conditions, Driver Alerts can help us save lives, time, and money, so we can keep our business on the road to success.”

About Knight Transportation

Knight Transportation, Inc. (Knight) is a subsidiary of Knight-Swift Transportation Holdings Inc., the largest full truckload carrier in the United States, offering dry van, refrigerated, intermodal and brokerage services. Formed in 2017 from the merger of Knight Transportation, Inc. and Swift Transportation Company, Knight-Swift operates a fleet of approximately 23,000 tractors and 77,000 trailers, and employs 28,000 people.

Take the next step

The Weather Company, an IBM Business, helps people make informed decisions and take action in the face of weather. The company offers the most accurate  forecasts globally with personalized and actionable weather data and insights to millions of consumers, as well as thousands of marketers and businesses via Weather’s API, its business solutions division, and its own digital products from The Weather Channel (weather.com) and Weather Underground (wunderground.com).

The company delivers around 25 billion forecasts daily. Its products include the world’s most downloaded weather app, a network of 250,000 personal weather stations, a top-20 U.S. website, one of the world’s largest IoT data platforms, and industry-leading business solutions.

Weather Means Business™. The world’s biggest brands in aviation, energy, insurance, media, and government rely on The Weather Company for data, technology platforms and services to help improve decision-making and respond to weather’s impact on business.

For more, visit business.weather.com.

View more client stories or learn more about IBM The Weather Company