Editor’s note: Written by Marc Meyer, chief commercial officer at Transmetrics, a company that applies artificial intelligence to logistics planning and asset management. This is one in a series of periodic guest columns by industry thought leaders.
The business of logistics technologies is like a machine. All of its parts must be aligned and well-oiled in order to function smoothly. In the digital world, data drives insights into the operations of that machine, directly affecting it and allowing for optimization. Because of its intricate network of many different components—including people, information, goods, and services—it is vital that data is accurate in logistics technologies.
Advancing technology is going to be the key differentiator when it comes to informed decision-making in trucking transportation. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and other innovations are evolving the shipping and logistics industry, with its use of AI due to grow from 12 percent to 60 percent over the next five years.
Advancements such as the capacity to control traffic patterns and road safety from miles away, computer-driven truck fleets and electric and autonomous cars are rapidly revolutionizing trucking.
AI THROUGH TELEMATICS
A McKinsey survey found that the Internet of things (IoT) and other smart sensor applications, such as telematics and vehicle tracking, are some of the most widely developed among emerging logistics technologies today. Driven by the power of AI, telematics and IoT has infinite potential in trucking.
Vehicle tracking now extends beyond simple GPS with the implementation of telematics—which is the monitoring of cars, trucks, equipment, and other assets in transportation with sensors. Utilizing both GPS technology and onboard diagnostics (OBD)—this technology gives organizations the ability to plot asset movements on a dynamic, computerized map.
Using both historical and real-time data, the information provided by telematic sensors provides insight into live traffic data, route analytics, fuel consumption and idling time while tracking a vehicle’s location in real-time. Companies can use that information to achieve increased performance and efficiency.
One example is predictive maintenance. Sensors record and organize information so that AI can determine the cause of maintenance issues before sending technicians into the field. This results in faster repairs and reduces downtime.
AI AND THE INTERNET OF THINGS
By connecting telematics devices with sophisticated analytics, IoT provides the capacity for even more advantageous transportation solutions. These innovations offer a roadmap to enhanced feasibility and productivity through both predictive analytics and demand forecasting.
IoT can even suggest what can be improved–such as more effective routes, strategies for mitigated fuel consumption, and smart assistance to drivers to increase travel safety and overall performance.
In a case study conducted by our company Transmetrics, predictive analytics applied to demand forecasting showed substantial revenue and service level increases.
TIP Trailer Services, manages a transport fleet of over 90,000 units, provides trailer leasing, rental, maintenance, and repair services. The company struggled to anticipate peaks in demand because of the natural waxing and waning of demand in freight.
Oftentimes, TIP was left with a surplus of unused assets at one location while having a shortage at another—forcing them to reject customer orders on account of unavailability. This was exacerbated by the fact that the company didn’t have an online platform to track orders, which gave them an over-generalized understanding of their order—misleading the company on the numbers they were truly losing with customer bookings.
By implementing predictive analytics, the company achieved 95 percent demand prediction, with a record-breaking revenue increase of 11 percent.
EMERGING TRUCKING INNOVATIONS
One of the major innovations in ground transportation is the utilization of platooning—which takes advantage of new physical and technological practices to increase efficiency in trucking.
Platooning is the practice of driving vehicles in close physical proximity with automated driving systems and vehicle-to-vehicle communication. Platooning allows trucks to accelerate, brake, and cruise together—creating more predictable and organized traffic patterns. This improves road safety through braking-assist features and equips companies with the latitude to more easily track their vehicles and resources. In fact, Volvo Trucks executives estimated that some fleet customers could achieve fuel savings of up to 10 percent when using platooning.
Telematics in combination with platooning provides trucks with coordinated control and state-of-the-art driving support systems through intervehicle connectivity—increasing energy efficiency and reducing overall costs. Additional socio-economic benefits include congestion mitigation and smoother traffic flow, better lane usage, and reporting for reduced maintenance and accidents.
Platooning and telematics are being widely supported and are expected to significantly advance trucking. At the conclusion of 2018, an estimated 51 percent of freight miles within the U.S. were executed by approved commercial truck platooning, based on US Department of Transportation Data.
ELECTRIC AND AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES
The benefits of implementing electric vehicles into shipping are obvious. They offer a significant decrease in both fuel consumption and carbon emissions. Some companies are paving the way to electromobility. Amazon plans to have 100,000 electric delivery vans on the road by 2030— helping the eCommerce giant reach its goal of being carbon neutral by 2040.
Currently, the logistics industry is using autonomous vehicles mostly in warehouses, using self-driving vehicles, collaborative robots, advanced sorting systems and indoor drones. AI is a key component of autonomous driving systems under development for autonomous trucks. When they eventually hit the road, the industry will undergo a significant transformation. McKinsey estimates that with full autonomy, shipping operating costs would decline by about 45 percent saving the U.S. for-hire trucking industry between $85 billion and $125 billion.
FORGING A FUTURE IN TRANSPORTATION
Rather than replace drivers, AI and other technologies will work to help augment their experience. This can help to improve the physical and mental health conditions for employees in the transportation industry, eventually resulting in attracting more people to seek opportunities within the industry. Technology enhances and simplifies the experiences of all niches in shipping, while also attempting to increase feasibility in sustainability, capacity, and costs.
The symbiosis between AI technology, new innovations in vehicles, and the human power that backs it up will manifest the future of shipping. Keep an eye out for the innovations we have listed above to see what can be expected on the roads for 2021 and beyond.
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