advanced technology in truckingIn many ways, truckers form the backbone of our society by ensuring the seamless flow of essential goods across vast distances. From groceries to medical supplies and everything in between, truckers are indispensable to nearly every aspect of our daily lives.

The trucking industry is changing, however. The demands of modern society require that we work smarter, not harder. Recent developments in technology promise to reduce the strain on truckers while increasing efficiency and improving performance.

The Role of Advanced Technologies in Trucking

Advanced technologies are transforming the world of long-haul trucking and logistics. From the trucks themselves to the intelligent systems that truckers rely on, tech will have a profound effect on the trucking industry, significantly improving both safety and efficiency.

Technology is not new to the trucking industry. Since December 2017, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has mandated that all commercial trucks be equipped with electronic logging devices or ELDs. A replacement for paper driving logs, ELDs capture data on hours of service, miles driven, geographic location, and more. Many commercial trucks are also outfitted with event data recorders (also called the black box). But advanced technology aims to go a step further; instead of capturing information about the conditions leading up to a crash, what if technology could help prevent crashes altogether?

In addition to improving safety, advanced technologies can also be deployed to make logistics more efficient and cost-effective. Transportation management systems (TMS) are a type of software designed to optimize supply chain logistics. TSM systems can determine the most efficient routes based on various factors like distance, traffic patterns, and delivery schedules. They can also help plan shipments based on comparison of carrier rates and service levels, allowing for the selection of the most cost-effective shipping methods. Advanced data analytics and artificial intelligence further optimize procurement and fulfillment by analyzing large quantities of data.

Together, these technological tools help to make trucking safer, smarter, and more efficient.

Automation and self-driving trucks

One of the most dramatic changes in trucking comes in the form of autonomous vehicle technology. Transportation is one of the most dangerous occupations in the U.S., with motor vehicle collisions ranking #1 in fatal workplace injuries. The development of autonomous vehicles is poised to change all that, however, by reducing the number of truck crashes that occur. Multiple companies such as Tesla, Aurora, TuSimple, Gatik, and Embark are currently engaged in the development of self-driving trucks with varying degrees of autonomy, highlighting the substantial potential of autonomous trucking to enhance safety and efficiency within the logistics industry.

Even if entirely self-driving trucks are not yet part of our reality, numerous automated safety features designed to mitigate the risk of human error. Sophisticated safety features like those available through Volvo Active Driver Assist, enable truck drivers to better avoid collisions. For example, Volvo uses cameras and radar technology to deploy collision warnings, lane departure alerts, lane keeping assist, and blind spot detection.

Impact of data analytics on route optimization

Big data and unprecedented computing power are transforming business at every level, and transportation and logistics is no exception. By leveraging vast amounts of data and sophisticated analytical tools, companies can now predict, analyze, and optimize the routes taken by their fleets with unprecedented precision.

Data analytics enables the analysis of numerous variables affecting transportation, such as traffic patterns, weather conditions, road closures, and construction work. By processing this information in real time, logistics companies can identify the fastest and most efficient routes for their vehicles. This not only reduces delivery times but also increases the number of deliveries that can be made within a given period.

Fuel consumption represents one of the most significant expenses in the trucking industry. Through route optimization, vehicles can avoid congested routes and take shorter or faster paths, significantly reducing fuel consumption and, consequently, operational costs. Optimized routing also contributes to sustainability efforts by reducing the distance traveled and, therefore, the carbon footprint of transportation activities. Less time on the road means lower emissions.

Benefits of Advanced Technologies for Truckers

There are numerous benefits truckers can reap from these advanced technologies.

Improved maintenance, less downtime - Remote diagnostics can give real-time insights about a truck’s health and performance, and help to address possible breakdowns before they occur. This kind of proactive approach not only helps keep drivers safe behind the wheel but also reduces the likelihood of unexpected breakdowns which can cause expensive delays. This also means more efficient maintenance and repair processes and fewer emergency roadside calls.

Safety - Advanced driver assistance features and the development of fully autonomous trucks can mitigate human errors and reduce the risk of accidents on the road.

Increased efficiency - Autonomous trucks can operate around the clock without the need for breaks or rest periods, leading to improved efficiency and faster delivery times. Route optimization software and GPS tracking allow for more efficient route planning, avoiding traffic congestion and reducing fuel consumption. This not only saves time but also increases the number of deliveries a trucker can make, enhancing overall productivity.

Truck driver quality of life - Autonomous technology has the potential to improve the working conditions and overall experience for truckers. Instead of spending long hours behind the wheel, drivers can focus on monitoring the vehicle's operations, handling exceptional situations, and engaging in other tasks that add value to their work. Furthermore, more accurate scheduling and route optimization can lead to more predictable work hours.

Industry Adoption and Future Outlook

Understandably, many truck drivers may feel concerned that autonomous trucks and related technology will replace human drivers, making them virtually obsolete. However, a more likely outcome is that these kinds of technologies will not replace truckers, but will redefine their job duties and working conditions. The shift is well-timed, as the industry reports a massive driver shortage. The adoption of advanced technologies will require reskilling and upskilling of the workforce to adapt to new roles and responsibilities. Companies will need to invest in training programs to ensure a smooth transition.

While we’re not seeing completely driverless trucks on the nation’s highways just yet, experts say that technology is not far in the future. Regulators will need to act quickly to catch up with advancements in technology that shape the operation of motor carriers. Continued collaboration between industry stakeholders and regulators will be essential to address safety concerns and establish clear guidelines for the use of advanced technologies.

And of course, technology is only going to continue to advance. AI and machine learning algorithms will play a crucial role in optimizing route planning, predictive maintenance, and driver assistance systems, leading to greater operational efficiencies. Emerging technologies such as blockchain and the Internet of Things (IoT) are expected to play a more significant role in enhancing supply chain visibility, transparency, and security.

Authored By:

rob-cook-sheer-logistics

Rob Cook

Rob brings more than 25 years of logistics and supply chain management expertise to the Sheer Logistics team. Prior to joining Sheer, his leadership experience included serving in VP roles at MercuryGate and Arzoon TMS. Known for his customer-focused, value-driven approach, Rob applies solution design skills on both the business and technical sides of logistics to every opportunity that comes his way.