Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on the economy, there’s no question that 2020 and 2021 brought unique challenges for both the trucking and fleet industry.
Fast forward to the present day and while the pandemic’s effect on businesses is slowing, trucking companies and fleets face a number of challenges. These include ongoing ramifications from the pandemic, government regulations, climate change, and the rapid development of new technologies. Of these, technology is expected to present the biggest challenge and drive the biggest changes — changes for the better.
Technology: Investing In the Future
Technology is crucial to safety, performance, and efficiency more so than ever before. It is set to transform the future of trucking and fleet management. Going forward, business as usual is not going to cut it. To that end, let’s look at some technologies to consider to future-proof your operations and maintain a competitive edge.
Note that some technologies are currently on the road, while others such as fully autonomous vehicles are in testing phases.
1. Autonomous Vehicles
It will be years down the road for autonomous vehicles to rule the road, but technological advancements are paving the way for fully autonomous vehicles and are making vehicles safer and more efficient.
One is lane-assist technology, which uses sensors to warn drivers when the vehicle drifts across lane markers. Some lane assist technology takes it a step further and redirects the wheel to ensure that the vehicle stays in the lane.
Another innovation is forward-feature collision warning, which detects stationary objects on the road and alerts the driver before impact. If the driver doesn’t act quickly enough to avoid a collision, emergency braking is automatically engaged.
Platooning is a strategy that has been around for years, but with advances in technology, a strategy that one day will require only one human behind the wheel. Here’s how it works:
Two or more vehicles drive in a line with the first vehicle controlled by a human driver. When the technology reaches full realization, the vehicles that follow will be controlled by sensors and cloud-based communications to maintain the proper distance and speed. This technology will help fleets improve efficiency with one driver controlling two or more vehicles. It will also reduce fuel costs since the following vehicles experience less wind resistance and consume less fuel.
2. loT (The Internet of Things) Technology
IoT devices are internet-connected and collect all types of real-time data that give fleet managers the ability to make informed, data-driven decisions. An estimated 42% of US fleets currently use IoT technology and that number is continually growing as fleet managers are increasingly realizing the advantages IoT devices provide, including:
Real-time Location Tracking
This gives fleet managers full transparency about where every vehicle is at any given time. This information can be used to provide real-time updates to customers and shipping partners, plan routes more effectively, raise awareness of potential disruptions, and improve customer satisfaction.
Shipment Quality Monitoring
Monitoring shipment quality provides real-time updates to prevent products such as produce and pharmaceuticals from expiring or spoiling during the shipping process. Connected temperature sensors sense when the temperature within a refrigerated trailer drops beyond a threshold, giving fleet managers the ability to adjust a route or deliver goods to a closer location.
This allows for more efficient and proactive maintenance scheduling. Early warnings from sensors can detect issues before they become costly problems, prevent breakdowns, and keep maintenance costs down while maximizing vehicle uptime and vehicle lifespan.
Detecting dangerous driving behaviors can help reduce accidents, avoid fines, and lower insurance premiums. It does this by monitoring speeding, harsh braking, and taking sharp turns. When detected an alert is sent and fleet managers can take immediate action to correct the behavior.
Additional IoT safety technologies include in-cab cameras and ignition locks that require a driver to pass a breathalyzer test in order to drive.
3. Big Data and AI Technology
Big data analytics is a hot topic for the transportation industry with the global transportation analytics market size expected to reach $21.8 billion USD by 2027. Fleet managers can harness the power of big data and the valuable insights it provides to improve almost every aspect of fleet operations with the ability to make more informed, data-driven decisions.
But there are challenges. With the large masses of data that IoT devices collect and the many stats and metrics available, it can become difficult to analyze data in a meaningful way that makes data actionable. To ease challenges, some companies are turning to analytics programs that leverage AI technology to analyze data and make predictions based on past metrics.
Route optimization is an example where leveraging AI technology can create efficiencies. By taking into account factors such as current trailer capacity, traffic data, and warehouse lead-time, AI-driven dashboards can produce routing options, each with a predicted arrival time.
As technology advances and previous technology is improved upon, trucking companies and fleets will continue to benefit from the efficiencies that technology provides. The challenge for fleet managers is staying ahead of the technology curve by keeping informed about current and upcoming technologies, determining which technology investments are right for their fleet, and when to adopt or upgrade — and that’s when to adopt or upgrade, not if.
Working with a fleet management company can help tackle these.