Mangers at trucking fleets of all sizes and applications believe that technology can lead to significant improvements in their operations, according to a survey of trucking firms commissioned by the data capture and information management company, Intermec.

Jeff Sibio, industry marketing director, transport and logistics, said 375 trucking firms with 500 employees or more were surveyed in six countries: the U.S., France, Germany, the U.K., Australia and New Zealand. Carriers surveyed covered a broad vocations and fleet types from truckload to courier.

“One of the things that struck me, was that there seems to be a universal belief that automation and innovation could lead to significant improvements in productivity and efficiency,” he said. “In one statistic, at least 30 percent improvement is expected out of automation of the pickup and delivery processes.”

Another thing that surprised Sibio was the percentage of carriers that are already using GPS tracking in their operations, with 77% overall reporting they have deployed the technology. “I knew it was a high percentage, but it was a higher number than I expected,” he said. The percentage of fleets using GPS was consistent between private and for-hire fleets, with a slightly higher percentage for private fleets, at 78%, than for-hire fleets, at 74%.

While virtually all fleets recognize the value of automation and technology, a surprising large percentage have not deployed such technologies. “Only 61 percent of the companies said they had actually done some automation of their processes,” Sibio said. “That’s kind of surprising when they all recognize the benefits.” The primary factors listed for not automating were cost of deployment and the lack of a business case for deployment.

When asked what they thought were the most promising technologies in terms of return on investment, the vast majority, 60%, selected broadband communications. “Across the board, one of the most promising was broadband communications, high-end broadband for mobile communications,” Sibio said. “Our customers see those broadband technologies as a way to unleash what they do in the field.” Other technologies reported as most promising for return-on-investment were integrated vehicle telematics, at 44%, and radio-frequency identification, or RFID, at 38%.

Sibio said the survey also found that fleets are seeing and/or expecting automation to reduce customer service calls by 24 percent. “It validates that customers are seeing back office improvements through automation.”

He said Intermec commissioned the study “so we could get additional evidence we can use with our customers and to gain information to help drive our product development efforts.”

Intermec sells hand-held and fixed ruggedized computers, bar-code scanners, RFID readers and printers used in transportation, logistics, warehousing and other industries.