Netstar is an Australian-based hardware and software developer focused on GPS and telematics solutions.
The company originated in South Africa in 1980 and began delivering telematics solutions in Australia in July 2000.
It was acquired by Altech Netstar in March 2015. Altech is said to be one of the largest telematics companies in the world with over 800,000 units deployed and managed globally.
Netstar Australia has a core team of hardware engineers and software developers supported by sales, marketing and operations teams.
It has a national service network certified to install and maintain the Netstar product, with offices in Perth, Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and South Africa.
The company is certified by Transport Certification Australia (TCA) for regulatory applications and its EWD is certified by the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR).
According to David Nealon, Netstar Australia Product Manager, in addition to developing the EWD, the company has put a lot of effort into producing easy to understand training manuals and courses to ensure users of its product are right across all the features and benefits.
“I’ve created four manuals, including one for the authorised officers doing roadside checks, to ensure everyone can learn what’s required to use the system,” David says.
“I went out of my way to specifically build a help section for the compliance officers that the driver can also access,” he says.
David adds that the system is password protected to ensure that any EWD entries made by the driver cannot be altered by a compliance officer.
“We also have internal staff training courses that replicate the external manuals which include quizzes designed to help them retain the knowledge,” David says.
“While the questions for the drivers are relatively simple, for our staff I really dial up the intensity with weekly courses to ensure our customer service team members are comprehensive wizzes on the EWD.”
Importantly, David explains that one of the manuals is a quick start guide to give drivers the basics so they can get up and running with the EWD as soon as possible.
He says one of the most frequently asked questions about EWDs is what to do if the system completely fails when the driver is in a remote location.
“I advise the drivers to print out a copy of the manual and keep it in the truck. The manual includes a work diary page that can be used as a supplemental work diary if the EWD fails,” David says.
The Netstar EWD uses a Garmin fleet 700 series 7.0-inch tablet in three versions including the top of the line 790 which has a dual-purpose camera that can be used as an integrated dashcam with lane departure, speed limit and upcoming curve warnings.
It can also use the mobile phone network for communications, without the need for an additional tracker.
The EWD records work and rest times in minute-by-minute increments and can be used offline in remote locations. When online, it continually updates information to the Cloud.
Other benefits available with the Garmin tablet include optimised trip routing including customised truck routes determined by such factors as vehicle weight and height in order to avoid low bridges and weight restricted roads.
It also incorporates a prestart checklist and driver fitness for duty verification with sign on glass capability, along with two-way messaging to enable operations to assign jobs to drivers and generally assist with work management.
Keeping track of servicing and maintenance schedules is another benefit of the system.
“The Garmin tablet is ideal for subcontractors moving from truck to truck and the EWD is also designed to move from system to system if the driver changes to a different employer.”
An interesting feature of Netstar’s EWD is that it can be used in Demo mode for drivers who still want to fill out a paper work diary. In this case the entries in the EWD in Demo mode can be easily replicated in the paper diary.
Another useful feature, according to David, is that the driver can send an email with EWD recordings from the previous 28 days. This makes it easy for subcontractors to provide evidence of compliance to the companies to which they are contracted.
As for the tablet itself, David says the company chose the Garmin product due to its rugged industrial-grade construction that’s specifically designed to withstand the effects of the harsh Australian sun and the vibrations inherent in a truck cab.
“We’ve been using the Garmins for two or three years now and I’ve never seen one turn off due to overheating when left on the dash in the blazing summer sun,” he maintains.
In summary, Netstar Australia has left no stone unturned in its efforts to deliver an EWD that is intuitive to use, incorporating the rugged Garmin tablet designed to work consistently well under harsh Australian transport operating conditions.