Truck Tech

The Future in Your Pocket

February 1, 2017

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Photo: Telogis
Photo: Telogis

Late last week, I was sweating away in the gym watching two talking heads blather away on one of those stock market channels the old guys in there love to watch. And these two experts were going on about how Apple was pretty much over as a tech company – that all that could be done with a cell phone had been done and the company founded by Steve Jobs was going to have to find something new to sell to the public.

And then this week Apple announced that it sold 78.29-million iPhones in its last financial quarter. Oh, and it has $246 billion in cash on hand. And it is working away on the next generation of products and innovations.

So much for the talking heads.

This week also saw a new study from transportation analysts Frost & Sullivan landing in my inbox. Titled “Mobile Apps Driving Trucking Industry Transformation in North America, 2016-2017,” the report focuses on the use of smartphones and how they’re quickly becoming a mandatory piece of equipment for pretty much anybody working in the trucking industry today.

In fact, according to this report, smartphones will likely be the foundational building blocks that take trucking into a new world of integrated operations and efficiency. In short, as every conceivable aspect of our lives becomes wired into constant-flow, real-time, fully integrated, data-driven, information stream, the smartphone will be the point of delivery and interface that allows us to navigate, update and access that virtual world.

In real world terms, the report says, this will mean the end of paperwork, while removing many of the competitive advantages that large fleets enjoy and the barriers to entry that hamper small fleets.

The result will be a technology explosion that will lead to enhanced, visibility, and competitiveness among owner-operators and small fleets. Large fleets and dealerships will benefit greatly, too, as smartphones will streamline maintenance and shipping operations while increasing visibility and accountability throughout the logistics chain.

And the crazy thing about all of this is that we’ve barely scratched the surface in terms of the apps that will empower smartphones in trucking and fuel this massive efficiency explosion.

Currently, according to the report, there are about 70 widely used trucking-specific apps in popular use today – and virtually none of them have or are connected with developmental support from traditional industry players such as OEMs, dealerships, brokers, and 3PLs.

But all that is about to change. The authors of the report predict that $2 billion will flood into trucking in the next five years to fund “digitization” of the traditionally paper-bound industry – with the lion’s share of that money focused on the $50-billion brokerage market, which is widely seen as woefully inefficient and badly in need of modernization.

My take is there is nothing but good news in this report. For starters, pretty much everybody has a smartphone today and is comfortable using them. So the learning curve, as these apps and abilities come on line, while be manageable and largely stress-free.

These same attributes should work to keep costs relatively low, too – something that is usually not the case during industry transformations on this scale. As the apps empower drivers, dealers and fleets, efficiency, productivity and profitability should rise accordingly as well. And, equally, important, because this movement is just stirring to life, there are ample opportunities for traditional industry players as well as brand-new tech developers to get in on the ground floor in a big way.

The transformation will be sweeping. And the winners will be those who tackle this technology head on, master it and put it to work on their behalf. And it is not at all too early to be thinking of these changes, and even planning for them today.


  1. 1. James c [ February 02, 2017 @ 11:20AM ]

    This is so true. The competitive nature of the transport industry will weed out the operators that are slow to adopt SaaS tech which includes apps like Whip Around - an intuitive mobile inspection platform designed specifically for the transport industry. As the co-founder I am amazed at how some operators are so slow to realise this. They will be left in the dust so to speak.

  2. 2. Charlie Brown [ February 03, 2017 @ 05:20AM ]

    a lot of older truckers are like me and not into this modern technology and this and the ELD mandate will put us out of business . I had a smart phone and couldn.t do anything with it and gave it back. after 39 years, it's time for me to quit.

  3. 3. Justin [ February 04, 2017 @ 05:57AM ]

    Yup, smartphones are becoming more useful and easier to operate.
    It astounds me the available apps and trinkets available.
    I am also astounded that all of this capability is being forcibly installed into a device that can not be legally used or manipulated while driving a commercial vehicle.

  4. 4. James Rapp [ May 16, 2017 @ 07:57AM ]

    As truck drivers are quickly becoming information workers via the rapid adoption on Mobile devices , APPs, OBCs and ELDs, the onus is on the industry to offer proper remote support and training. The wireless carriers relied on AetherPal to build and deliver scalable self service and remote support tools to ensure adoption of smartphones and tablets that were the driver of revenues and data plans. The trucking industry needs to follow suit and ensure the successful adoption of mobility for all of its age groups or further driver turnover will result via dissatisfaction and purported revenue and safety gains will not be properlt realized.See Charlie Brown's comment. Giving a driver an APP or an ELD with a PDF instruction page hidden on the web is not the answer. On device guided tutorials and attended remote support should and can be affordably sourced and delivered.


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Author Bio

Jack Roberts

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Senior Editor

As a licensed commercial driver, HDT senior editor Jack Roberts often reports on ground-breaking technical developments and trends in an industry being transformed by technology. With more than two decades covering trucking, in Truck Tech he offers his insights on everything from the latest equipment, systems and components, to telematics and autonomous vehicle technologies.


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