Retail giant Walmart has installed a computer tablet in every vehicle of its private fleet, saying the telematics-linked device delivers “near real-time visibility” for store deliveries, better shelf stocking for customers, and improved technology for its drivers.
The Bentonville, Arkansas-based store chain designed the units in collaboration with telematics infrastructure and transportation technology provider Platform Science. Each tablet is integrated with NTransit, a driver workflow application developed by Walmart’s product and technology teams.
San Diego-based Platform Science is backed by Daimler Truck AG, as well as venture investors. In 2020, the startup said it had partnered with tractor-trailer manufacturer Daimler Trucks North America to add on-vehicle fleet management software to its trucks.
Terms of the newest deal were not disclosed. But Walmart says it operates 210 distribution centers, providing delivery to its 10,500 stores through a transportation fleet of 9,000 tractors, 80,000 trailers and more than 12,000 drivers.
According to Scott Donahue, Walmart’s vice president for innovation and automation product, the tablet initiative provides near real-time visibility of where its assets are within the fleet, ensuring that freight arrives on time and in the correct location. That data lets stores anticipate load arrival times and plan their labor levels around truck deliveries.
It works by linking trucks to stores through automated notices. As each truck driver approaches a store destination, the tablets use geolocation technology to send push notifications to store associates’ handheld devices, allowing them to plan for a quick unload and turnaround, Walmart said. And from the driver’s point of view, that approach supports a frictionless workflow, removing manual tasks so drivers can spend more time driving the truck and less time waiting at fulfillment centers or store deliveries.
Walmart says the approach benefits drivers, too, by coordinating their scheduling and navigation, letting drivers hit the road to their next destination without keying it in. “Like any job, unplanned activities sometimes require the driver to do more than steer the truck. Our new system creates accountability by allowing drivers to communicate what they accomplished on the road. That way, they are compensated for any miles and non-driving activities beyond what was initially planned,” the company said.