Just as the connected car is already changing how car makers will operate in the future, the addition of the digital truck and the digital supply chain will completely transform how freight is transported.
Thanks to the combination of innovative technologies, trucks will soon be able to move down the road, driven by a wealth of information to improve utilisation through remote maintenance, increasing efficiency, and boosting safety.
These advances will have an equally profound effect on the end-to-end logistics system. Trucks will become even more tightly integrated into the logistics chain, allowing all the players across the supply chain to gain full transparency into the whereabouts of their goods.
Ultimately, trucks will be able to communicate their itineraries with technology platforms, that will automatically match shipments with trucks, which have available capacity, and re-route them as necessary.
As these digitally enabled solutions come on line, they will re-arrange how the logistics business operates, rendering old business models obsolete and re-inventing new ones in their place. The promise of connected trucks combined with the digital supply chain is huge. But so are the risks for those that don’t start building the capabilities and business models needed to succeed in this ‘re-invented world’, right now!
Managing climate change, saving energy and natural resources have become a world-wide challenge (regardless of what the current US President rules), and is forcing the industry to develop cleaner, more efficient trucks and optimising the use of heavy vehicles. As a result, digitised trucking will transform how virtually everyone in these linked businesses will operate.
Just imagine long caravans of large trucks traveling in a ‘Platoon’ down major motorways while each of the trucks automatically transmits its whereabouts, estimated time of arrival, and load information to its next stop.
On arrival, warehouse systems auto assign each truck to a loading dock, where several smart forklifts spring into action and unload it. Then they move the load on to another portion of the warehouse, where it is sorted by autonomous mobile robots (AMR) for local delivery routes and loaded onto the appropriate electric trucks/drones for final delivery…
Although this end-to-end vision of “digitised trucking” is still at least a decade in the future, most of these components are already many years into development, and offer some sort of intermediate solutions today…
Drones for delivery
Transport drones are rapidly becoming a part of the modern logistics industry. Although 2017 is set to be the year of the transport drones, it’s not going to be as dramatic or intimidating as was envisioned by this Audi Video.
In realistic terms, it does represent the real possibilities for how this technology can be utilised to impact our (and other) industries positively. UPS have recently completed a successful trial on using drones as an extension of their trucks, using it as a ‘central hub’ to reach rural areas. While Amazon have completed their first successful full drone delivery here in the UK, and are working hard to navigate the FAA’s recent release of operating rules for drones. But these rules are very restrictive, so, it may be quite some time before we see delivery drones hovering over our heads every day!
Vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communication.
This technology makes it possible to provide drivers with real-time information about weather, congestion, or accidents and automatically update routes. Automated parking features will provide suggestions on where to park securely depending on the driver’s level of fatigue, regulatory provisions, and the traffic situation. Intelligent road signs will even be able to signal specific messages, appropriate to each vehicle type.
For example, when a customer sends an order to a manufacturer, the system will send back a report on the availability of the goods and timing of shipment, enabling the manufacturer to optimize its just-in-time production schedule. Once the goods are available, the shipment will be dispatched from the warehouse along a predetermined route. If an accident or heavy traffic impedes the on-time arrival of the truck, the system can automatically determine a new route, and send a new estimated delivery time to both the shipper and the customer. Given the delay, the system will then calibrate changes in the shipping rate and cost of the goods where appropriate.
Vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication.
Enabling trucks to communicate automatically with other vehicles (V2V) and infrastructure (V2I) on the road will ultimately improve safety, thereby decreasing fatalities and reducing accident rates. Intelligent telematics systems linking trucks will share information regarding position, speed, and direction, allowing for automated alerts. When integrated with advanced driving technology such as adaptive cruise control, collision avoidance systems and radar, V2V will also enable trucks to save fuel through platooning: (moving down the road in tight convoys, close enough to benefit from the decrease in aerodynamic drag). This technology can save as much as 10 percent of fuel costs for a three-truck platoon. Although the first examples of this technology are already coming to market, the legal and regulatory status of platooning must still be worked out before its benefits can be fully realised.
Through constant monitoring of the condition of the truck, remote diagnostics solutions like those from Volvo, Scania or Daimler, will allow companies to make more timely repairs, develop more efficient maintenance schedules, and considerably reduce truck downtime. It is estimated that the technology can prolong a truck’s service life and reduce maintenance costs by as much as 5 percent. The technology will also provide truck manufacturers with detailed understanding of how vehicles are used, as well as the ability to control their electronics remotely. The attraction for customers is clear: maximised truck up-time and significant maintenance savings.
Ultimately, of course, these technologies, combined with short- and long-distance radar, laser detection, cameras, sensors, and 3D mapping, will eventually lead to the era of self-driving trucks, and completely revolutionise the entire industry. The first road tests for autonomous trucks are already under way, (carried out by OEMs such as Daimler).
Whether these trucks will be fully accepted around the world is unclear. However, given ongoing regulatory concerns about drivers’ control of the trucks and whether the driver or the truck is responsible for the truck’s behaviour in emergency situations… there are most certainly long term benefits to consider.
The key advantage of the connected truck lies in its total cost of ownership, which will vary by its stage of autonomy.
- Connectivity itself will play a key role in recruiting younger, more “digitised” drivers, who trucking companies are desperate to hire, in part because they are less expensive.
- Automated driving saves money by optimising accelerating and braking, in addition to platooning.
- Improved safety will reduce insurance premiums
- Drivers can turn their attention to administrative tasks that would otherwise have to be done by others.
This level of savings by itself, will completely change the economics of fleet ownership.
Electric trucks are even more interesting than electric cars. Trucks, while accounting for just 1% of all traffic in the USA, account for 28% of pollution. Electrifying the industry would be an enormous environmental coup — to the tune of about 12 tons of e per year, per truck.
That’s exactly what companies like TESLA are doing now. Elon Musk, CEO claims that Tesla will be unveiling a heavy-duty electric truck in the next year. – “We believe the Tesla Semi will deliver a substantial reduction in the cost of cargo transport, while increasing safety and making it really fun to operate.”
However, getting widespread adoption won’t be easy. Hauling cargo requires enormous amounts of energy, and right now, electric truck batteries are extremely heavy, and even more expensive. It will take a few years of R&D before electric truck battery costs come down enough to make their trucks a viable option for the average owner-operator. But it is estimated that these trucks won’t be roadworthy until 2020… at the earliest.
Between self-driving tech and electric batteries, there’s a lot to look forward to in the next 5–10 years of freight transport. But is there anything you can start benefiting from right now?
Automated freight matching.
Yes! Did you know that about 25% of trucks on the road right now are currently empty? It’s one of the most regrettable market inefficiencies in the world — both in terms of money, and in terms of pollution.
Why are so many trucks travelling empty? Well, there is no straightforward way for trucks to find cargo. Truck companies are notoriously fragmented — once they drop off their initial load, they can’t easily find a load for their return (back haul) trip home.
One industry expert estimates that they contribute to over 19 billion needless miles a year (30 billion km) — and that’s just in the USA.
The situation is even worse in Europe, where language barriers, existing rules on cabotage and the attempt to apply minimum wage rules at nation level, make it even make it even harder to coordinate between trucking companies. Thankfully, things are getting a bit better…
However today, companies like TGMatrix, offer an objective and automated cloud based solution to reduce empty running, save on transport costs, provide end-to-end visibility and environmental savings through their real-time freight matching system, Matrix.
The platform will notify the driver and fleet management about available freight-sharing opportunities, and an agreement that meets all specified criteria can be automatically struck between the truck operator and the shipper.
In the future, trucks will eventually be able to determine whether they can take on additional freight. The truck trailer itself will be able to determine through sensors its available space and weight, as well as scheduled route, ETA, and other relevant information, and communicate this data to a digital freight-matching platform.
The combination of technologies that underlie the connected truck and the digitally integrated supply chain has already begun to transform the entire logistics business and is being adopted in stages in an effort to ready businesses for the supply chain.
Hardware developments like self-driving trucks and electric batteries, are going to change everything we thought we knew about logistics. Meanwhile solution innovators like TGMatrix are already helping shippers and carriers to cut costs and reduce their carbon footprint.
These are just a few of the exciting developments happening in the transport industry… and we haven’t even mentioned Big Data, Predictive Analytics or The Internet of Things (IoT) yet!
So now is the perfect time to start revolutionising your supply chain. It’s one of the few industries that not only holds the promise of making a colossal positive environmental impact, but is also unlikely to run out of demand in our lifetimes!
I hope you have enjoyed this blog, and would love to hear your thoughts on just how this technology will impact your business. Please comment below or give me a call
Thank you & Best Regards
Marketing & Client Development Director
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