The Freightliner Inspiration Truck at it's Hoover Dam introduction. Photo: Stephane Babcock

The Freightliner Inspiration Truck at it's Hoover Dam introduction. Photo: Stephane Babcock

A term has been buzzing around industry meetings recently: disruption. This generally refers to technologies that “disrupt” the way business is done.

The key disrupter in recent years has been the Internet, which has changed the way a number of industries operate. In trucking, e-commerce has profoundly affected trucking operations, especially those that serve retailers. Fewer goods are moving from distribution/warehouse centers to retail stores, with more moving from the warehouses directly to the end consumer. The emergence of e-commerce giants such as Amazon and next-day or same-day delivery promises create an entirely new set of delivery and routing problems. (Not to mention Amazon’s interest in delivery drones.)

The recent unveiling of Freightliner’s “Inspiration Truck” autonomous vehicle was also described as a disruptive technology that holds promise for entirely new business models in freight movement.

The phrase was also used by a Daimler Trucks North America executive during the ALK Transportation Technology Summit in Princeton, N.J., in May. Matthew Pfaffenbach, director of telematics, said OEM powertrain integration would “positively disrupt the telematics industry.” Currently, most vehicles are equipped with third-party telematics hardware after customers have taken delivery. Fleets contract with a telematics service provider to gather, transmit, store and analyze vehicle and other data while the trucks are on the road.

But just as OEMs are increasingly providing vertically integrated powertrains, Pfaffenbach made the case for them to integrate telematics capabilities, as well.

Pfaffenbach said telematics service providers have long-established, integrated products that OEMs do not need to replicate. But OEMs can bring more to the telematics table. For example, the partnership between Daimler and Zonar to provide a remote diagnostic system using Zonar’s connectivity coupled with diagnostic data and fault codes generated by the vehicle’s powertrain.

“A lot of information that could be very useable comes from the powertrain,” he said.

The OEM focus should be on information truck customers can’t get anywhere else, and OEMs should develop connectivity solutions that complement those from telematics service providers.

About the author
Jim Beach

Jim Beach

Technology Contributing Editor

Covering the information technology beat for Heavy Duty Trucking, Jim Beach stays on top of computer technology trends from the cab to the back office to the shop, whether it’s in the hand, on the desk or in the cloud. Covering trucking since 1988.

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