Artificial intelligence should support humans, not replace them.  -  HDT Graphic

Artificial intelligence should support humans, not replace them.

HDT Graphic

Artificial intelligence is transforming our personal lives and our trucking businesses, in both wondrous and scary ways.

Panelists for a session I recently moderated on AI outlined numerous ways they are using, or planning to use, this new technology to improve their operations, including:

  • AI-enabled interior-facing cameras that can detect phone use and distracted driving behaviors even when the phone is out of sight of the lens.
  • A driver assistant chatbot that could help new drivers find information and resources from orientation.
  • The ability to rank driver applications based on location and other factors.
  • Determining which shipper and consignee locations are best and worst for drivers, including dwell time, driver amenities and other factors.
  • AI agents that can connect weather conditions and forecasts to loads and shipments and alert driver managers, drivers, and customers of potential delays.
  • Helping broker agents with pricing quotes, including analyzing emails to determine which shipments were quoted on, which they won, and factors affecting why the quote was successful or not.

Some of these use machine learning in a way that allows the AI to learn to make a prediction based on data. Dashcams, for instance. That's the type of AI we've seen making its way into the industry for a number of years now.

But some of them are looking forward to ways to use the latest iteration of artificial intelligence, called generative AI.

Generative AI and Trucking

You’ve no doubt seen stories about ChatGPT and other generative AI technology in the past year. Generative AI is a broader, more human-like intelligence. It’s a machine-learning model that is trained to create something new instead of making a prediction about a specific set of data. Nvidia describes it as using neural networks to identify the patterns and structures in existing data to generate new and original content.

What we’ve seen in the general media about generative AI are mostly images, video, and writing. Actors are worried they could be replaced by AI, especially in non-leading roles. Journalists worry that AI could write news stories and replace reporters. Teachers worry that generative AI can write research papers for students.

But generative AI also is good at things like dealing with unstructured data communicated in e-mails and documents.

For instance, C.H. Robinson recently announced that it has developed a new, automated appointment-scheduling technology that removes the work of scheduling an appointment at the place a load needs to be picked up and scheduling another appointment where the load needs to be delivered. It uses artificial intelligence to determine the optimal appointment.

This kind of technology can make supply chains more efficient. And efficiency is an important thing — but it is not everything.

The Personal Touch

While huge shippers may want to automate as much of their logistics as possible, some customers want to have connections with real people. They don’t want the relationship automated out of their business.

And if you talk to anyone who’s been successful in retaining good truck drivers, they most likely will tell you that a big key is communication. Yes, technology can help, but at the end of the day, drivers want to feel connected to the company in a personal way — to people who care about their problems and can find creative ways to solve them.

Humans bring a level of judgment, creativity, critical thinking skills, innovation, and emotional intelligence and empathy to the job that can’t be matched by AI. If your company can do something with AI, your competitors can do the same thing.

Artificial intelligence is another tool that your people can use to do their jobs better and more efficiently. It’s the humans using that tool that make this industry run, that are your competitive advantage. AI is exciting — but don’t give up the human touch.

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About the author
Deborah Lockridge

Deborah Lockridge

Editor and Associate Publisher

Reporting on trucking since 1990, Deborah is known for her award-winning magazine editorials and in-depth features on diverse issues, from the driver shortage to maintenance to rapidly changing technology.

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