The idea of technology improving the transportation industry is an old story with mixed results. Fleet owners and owner-operators are often justifiably wary when hearing about the next ‘Big Thing’ coming to trucking.
For a few years, the industry has been flooded with headlines about driverless trucks replacing truckers altogether. Though that makes for a flashy headline, all indicators show that driverless technology is in no state to hit the road for many years, and then only being limited in deployment.
In the Bibby Financial Services US Trucking Trends Survey for 2019, we wanted to dig deeper and find out what technology initiatives technology companies are undertaking in the next 24 months. After seeing survey results, which indicated most companies are bringing in technology to increase efficiency and reduce costs, we also spent some time at the Mid-America Trucking Show looking at new technology products.
What does this technology do?
Besides electronic logging device systems, trucking technology companies are delivering solutions to help take care of other back-office needs for trucking companies. The options for automating administrative tasks are steadily growing as more software and hardware hits the market. The range of services these software and hardware solutions can provide extends from asset tracking to remote diagnostics.
At MATS, we saw new trucking technology everywhere, focused on every aspect of the industrym, including predictive maintenance, accounting and invoicing, route optimization, load sourcing, ELD compliance and driver safety. Management and administrative software are designed to make companies more efficient or reduce the number of hours required to do the necessary back-office work to keep any transportation company moving. Maintenance, driving and safety packages help drivers stay on the road longer and ensure regulatory compliance to avoid violations and fees.
For instance, we met Sachin Burke, head of sales and business operations for TruckX, a young company specializing in tech solutions for the trucking industry, such as ELDs and GPS tracking. We talked about how the technology of today is different than in the past. One key aspect was the increased ease of use for new platforms.
“Today, companies such as TruckX are delivering products and services which are extremely simple for an owner-operator to install and use,” Sachin said. “I believe the ease of use coupled with improvements in customer service and support are the driving forces behind the high levels of adoption we see today. At TruckX, we invest heavily in both so that trucking business owners can take full advantage of our technology.”
Another common component of new technology platforms was a focus on helping to reduce business costs by staying on top of key administrative tasks. The BFS US Trucking Trends Survey showed predictive maintenance platforms as the most demanded upgrade, with one in three trucking companies looking to add them in the next two years.
TruckDok, another company we met at MATS, has a hardware and software solution that provides truck diagnostics and dealer-level programming capabilities. Their system also allows direct connection to remote technicians to diagnose any problems with the truck.
The above examples are just two of the dozens of technology providers we encountered at the show over three days. Some have all-encompassing solutions; MVT-360 delivers a whole suite of products and services integrated into one platform. Others are focused on specific services and hardware. For example, Samsara has AI dash cams and sensor suites as well as offering fleet management and asset tracking solutions. Fleet management and track-and-trace solutions were the third and fourth most popular choices from the survey, respectively.
“The old way works just fine” may not be enough
The pure volume of technology platform options and choices available for fleets and owner-operators can be overwhelming, and the number of technology solutions in the transportation industry will only expand over the next few years, primarily aimed at cutting costs and streamlining the business. The industry is only going to get more competitive, making staying profitable more difficult and cutting costs more important. Reducing operating costs and making the best business decisions using technology makes you more competitive and increases your profits.
Technology plays an important role in saving time and money in the day-to-day operations of carriers. Employing technology to source loads, optimize routes and save money can help fleets remain competitive and stay on the road.
When choosing technology solutions and partners, make sure to evaluate not just the up-front costs but also the long-term costs to maintain the solution. Finding companies to partner closely with and provide any needed support or additional features can be key to employing the best solution to save time and costs.
As new technology becomes available, take the time to evaluate what it could do for your business. Not every new innovation will make sense for you, but some absolutely will. Take advantage of these opportunities to stay profitable and keep growing.
Mary Ann Hudson is the EVP, Managing Director of Bibby Transportation Finance and has over 20 years of experience in the transportation finance industry. She is a pioneer of easy-to-access services that are driven by the digital habits of customers who primarily do business while on the road. This article has been edited according to the standards of HDT to provide useful information to our readers.