Panel at PeopleNet presentation during the in.sight User Conference + Expo. Photo: Trimble

Panel at PeopleNet presentation during the in.sight User Conference + Expo. Photo: Trimble

Change and its quickening pace was an over-riding theme at Trimble’s in.sight user conference for TMW Systems and PeopleNet customers that kicked off Aug. 14 in Nashville.

Connected trucks, e-commerce, autonomous vehicles and ELDs were singled out as potential change agents pushing the trucking industry’s future. David Wangler, president of TMW Systems, noted pace of change over just the last few decades saying, “the pace of change is accelerating” and that businesses could no longer think “on a linear basis. We need to think exponentially.”

Brian McLaughlin, president of PeopleNet noted that the two companies, along with other Trimble business units in the transportation sector were there to help customers “solve the problems of an ever-changing supply chain.”

The good news, Wangler said, was that the transportation industry thrives on challenge. One of which is to acknowledge that in the industry, “what was fixed, is becoming more dynamic” as customer expectations continue to rise and shippers and transportation face greater pressure to meet these expectations.

That is why both companies say a focus on the “final mile” of a shipment has become more important. “Increasingly, carriers are developing local delivery units,” Wangler said. Carriers are also under increased pressure to provide real-time visibility of loads all along the supply chain. And, they must have a way to squeeze more costs out of the last mile since it accounts for about 50% of the total transportation costs. Carriers will be under pressure from shippers to help them reduce these costs.

Another positive of the changing nature of trucking is that “transportation is an amazing space for innovation,” McLaughlin said. The vision was for a connected supply chain including connected trucks, drivers, freight and business intelligence. It’s moved from “vision to reality in record time.”

The next steps in the vision: truck connected to their surroundings, autonomous trucks, remote diagnostics and predictive maintenance. As for predictive maintenance, McLaughlin said the technology now available allows fleets to detect a possible out-of-service condition three days before the event with 90% certainty.

This is possible because of the vast amount of data available about the truck, the cargo, and the driver. And the data just keeps growing. A truck can generate 5,000 data points a minute, making sense out of it all is where technology comes in. The raw data is meaningless unless there is some “science behind it,” said Tom Fansler, president of Trimble Transportation Mobility Analytics (formerly know as Vusion). He put a spin on an adage that said, “Without data, you are just a person with an opinion,” rephrasing it as “without science, you are just a person with data.” With the amount of data generated by the vehicle, it makes sense to develop a way to put the data analytics engine on the truck rather than send it into the cloud. He compared it to the triage performed in an ambulance on the way to the hospital. The EMTs gather information about the patient, relay that to hospital personnel so that by the time the ambulance arrives, they are ready for the patient. The same concept could apply to a truck’s self-diagnostic capabilities.

On the subject of ELDs, Eric Witty, vice president product management at PeopleNet said that about 80% of large fleets already have deployed ELDs. But most trucks are operated by smaller fleets, and only about 20% of those have adopted ELDs. As the Dec. 18 deadline for the ELD mandate approaches, there could be a rush to comply, which may result in some supply problems for ELD providers.

One announcement made during the conference, which was described Wangler as “housekeeping,” was that Trimble had created two new transportation divisions combining its transportation units within them.

Trimble Transportation Enterprise, with Dave Wangler as president will include TMW Systems and ALK Technologies.

Trimble Transportation Mobility, with Brian McLaughlin as president combines PeopleNet, Innovative Software, Trimble Oil & Gas Services, Trimble Final Mile Mobility (a new business unit), Trimble Mobility Solutions India and several other mobile startup initiatives.