The trucking industry can expect technology that's used behind the scenes to grow in the years ahead, according to Ken Weinberg, vice president of Carrier Logistics Inc. These "less sexy technologies" that are used to move freight and load trucks more efficiently will gain traction, he says.
(Photo courtesy of CLI)
(Photo courtesy of CLI)

Such technology includes better dock scanning systems, automated forklifts, electronic shipping labels and RFID (radio-frequency identification) technology, he adds. RFID will eventually become ubiquitous, Weinberg says.

"[RFID] is here; it's just waiting for the price to come down."

CLI recently held its Annual User Group Meeting in White Plains, N.Y., where Weinberg and other industry stakeholders discussed technology trends and addressed the future of trucking technology.

While technology has traditionally been an area that has been overlooked in the trucking industry, Weinberg says it is now seeping into all areas of a carrier's operation, as a way to reduce their costs in a competitive marketplace. Technology enhancements, such as the move to the Web, have allowed carriers to improve productivity and efficiency as well as be more customer-centric.

The Move Toward Automation

Technology has also allowed carriers to eliminate paper and the manpower needed to perform certain tasks, according to Keith Wilson, president of Titan Freight Systems, a Milwaukie, Ore.-based carrier. In his opening address at the Meeting, Wilson told attendees of his view of the future where the Internet rather than people will manage trucking systems, from dispatch to payment, without so much as a phone call or a person's action.

Wilson cited's sales model and Walmart's RFID detectors as examples of how commerce is "all about data and replenishing product. Carriers will have to be good at moving data," Wilson said. "The Internet will take over all aspects of our lives and mobile devices will eventually replace desktops."

Weinberg echoes Wilson's view that data will transmit more electronically in the future, as systems will be able to communicate to each other. Having systems talking to each other results in less errors and faster movement of data, he says. "Why don't we let the systems talk to each other?"

According to Weinberg, the savings of this will not come from reducing dispatchers, but it will allow dispatchers to spend more time managing the people on the street. Without these systems, dispatchers are task-oriented, with little time to manage. "The answer is to get people to manage better," he says.

Avoid the Bleeding Edge

"It's nice to be on the leading edge, but [carriers] should not be on the bleeding edge," warns Weinberg.

When considering a new technology, Weinberg says carriers need to evaluate whether the solution really has merit for the company. For some, being first on the block to implement a technology can provide an ego boost, but you have to have the resources to properly support and fund the technology, Weinberg cautions. Being on the leading edge also involves taking into account the difficulties of using a technology. "You win on some; you lose on others."

Craig Lis, CLI manager of marketing communications, recommends carriers attend conferences and industry events as a way to network with other people about technology. Weinberg says some people are afraid to share competitive ideas, but working with peers can be a way to shortcut the development time and reduce the risks.