Over the past 20 years, Sandeep Kar has built a reputation as one of trucking's most prominent futurists. Kar has worked for OEMs and transportation research organizations and think tanks. In 2017, he moved into the technology side of the industry in his new role as chief strategy officer for FleetComplete, which offers services that help fleets in minimizing total cost of ownership while maximizing safety, uptime, and utilization.
HDT: You were attracted to your new role at FleetComplete because you see real-time data and operational transparency about to transform trucking in radical ways, correct?
Kar: Yes. It is palpable today that digitization in trucking is driving profound changes and new opportunities on the supply side of our industry.
HDT: And you feel this trend will change everything – down to how we view trucks differently in the near future.
Kar: Yes. For the past 100 years, the basic business model in this industry has been, “I’ve just bought a truck. What should I do with it?” That concept is about to disappear forever. OEMs are already realizing that, at their core, all trucks today are relatively similar. They need some way of differentiating their vehicles from their competitors in an industry where service matters above all else and you have very high levels of regulation. So OEMs now are starting to realize they have to offer trucks that help fleets excel in all aspects of their business. The average truck driver is 45 years old. So it has to be comfortable. It has to offer fleets low total ownership costs. It has to be a safe truck. It has to be a connected truck.
But that’s not where it ends. Several OEMs are taking these concepts farther, saying, “We’ll sell you a truck. We’ll help you find freight for that truck. We’ll throw in advanced safety and driver assistance systems and even help you find a qualified driver to sit behind the wheel.” OEMs are realizing they have to offer solutions for a fleet’s entire business model – not just provide the vehicle that enables them to enter into business in the first place.
HDT: At the same time, trucking’s business models are changing, too. Correct?
Kar: The core problem in trucking today is how to move freight from Point A to Point A with maximum utilization of all assets and minimal – or no – downtime. This problem is both a challenge and an opportunity for both OEMs and fleets today. To meet that goal, the industry will increasingly turn to emerging technologies such as big data, cloud computing platforms, blockchain, new analytic solutions, safety systems, digital infrastructure, and vehicles that can communicate with other vehicles, their fleet, OEMs, and the structures that surround them.
HDT: Those are a lot of things to keep track of.
Kar: Yes. And that’s where FleetComplete comes into the picture. Using these new technologies, fleets will soon be able to customize their business and operating models to a degree that’s never been possible, before. And the one thing that binds all of these technologies together is telematics. Anybody who is a stakeholder in trucking today can build a business model using telematics. FleetComplete is a telematics company with robust partnerships with OEMs, suppliers, government, insurance and finance providers, and the most important users of this new technology – fleets. This industry is in the midst of a major transition from a products provider to a services provider. And we are there to help fleets manage that transition as it happens.
HDT: Paint a picture of what a “transparent” logistics chain looks like to you in the near future.
Kar: A truck stops to pick up freight. And everybody involved in that shipment knows who the driver is, how that truck has been maintained, and whether the driver is compliant in terms of hours of service and what his or her safety record is. Moreover, in real time, people will be able to check and see what the temperature in the trailer of the truck is, if it is a food shipment, and if the truck is being driven safely. We will also know the truck’s arrival time at its destination, and that arrival time will adjust according to factors such as traffic or weather as the route progresses.
HDT: That’s a lot of information coming in to a lot of different people.
Kar: Yes. But that information will be customized and prioritized based on each party's desires and needs. And this is not all going to happen tomorrow. There are many steps to be taken along the way to this operational model. And it may not happen as completely as I’m suggesting. But even if some of these capabilities don’t materialize in the way I’m suggesting, the trucking industry will still see massive improvements in terms of freight efficiency. And, as I said, those improvements will be crucial for delivering the increased volumes of freight we see coming on time and safely.