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It’s not a crystal ball, but independent Landstar Agent Mike Meyer has the next best thing … technology to predict the best transportation route for moving 240-foot long windmill blades. The technology supports the immense amount of planning involved by Meyer and his team at TLG Transport Inc. to move his customer’s superload safely to its destination.
“We use a technology called swept path analysis which runs with computer-aided design (CAD) software to visually overlay a truck with its load onto a road plan. The technology gives us an aerial image to determine if the drivers will have the proper clearances, if civil improvements will be required, or if we must find an alternate route for any given load,” explains Meyer. “The technology show us the exact path of the truck, trailer and load on any corner, or even on vertical humps, dips or grades. CAD allows us to map out the most efficient route for our shipments, to plan for origin/destination sites and ensure proper access at pickup and delivery. In addition, it shows us any complications along the route and if transit is even possible.”
CAD software helps designers draft construction documentation, explore designs and visualize concepts through photorealistic renderings, and simulate how a design performs in the real world. Before Meyer started using the technology and the intelligence of CAD software, route analysis was done manually by researchers who went into the field and prepared complex diagrams and land surveys without the aid of software. Now, from his office computer, Meyer can animate vehicle paths and use camera angles to create two-dimensional (2D) and 3D imagery of trucks hauling his customers’ superloads.
“For example, if we have a windmill blade superload coming off a highway exit ramp, the analysis shows us which path the truck can safely take. The technology gives us visual details that allow us to determine whether the truck can make a turn and take a direct path to delivery or if we have to find an alternate route for the truck to travel safely without complications,” says Meyer. “We also have the ability to animate each equipment type that runs our freight, so the exact dimensions of the truck and trailer hauling the load is entered into the system – and the software simulates the path using an animation of that exact truck.”
After using the technology to analyze potential routes, Meyer turns to his agency team of field surveyors and certified drone pilots for final route analysis.
“As great as it is, no technology can completely replace the human element needed to assure these loads can arrive at their destination safely,” says Meyer. “After we have identified what we feel is the best route, our team still goes into the field to do a physical survey and fly drones to assure the map simulations are accurate. Sometimes things change, a building is built, a light pole exists, but it wasn’t on our mapping image. Our agency field team serves as the checks and balance system to complement the software analysis.”
TLG Transport Inc. planned the logistics for 4,026 superloads in 2019 – a record year that Meyer attributes to technology, his agency team and Landstar.
“The team effort at TLG Transport, our Landstar business capacity owners (BCOs) and the technology we use to do the planning for these loads make a difference for every superload,” says Meyer. “It takes a great deal of collaboration to be successful at what we do. We continue to grow with this business because of the unique ways we can support our customers by combining technology and people power.”
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