The rate at which technology is transforming the transport industry is challenging but also represents a great opportunity to gain a competitive advantage and improve work life for truck drivers.
The three technology trends that are current focal points for the industry are connected mobility, autonomous mobility and electric mobility. The common denominator linking all three is digitisation. Digitisation is the process of collecting then converting information into a digital (computerised) format so it can be used to produce improved outputs, and this is creating the biggest changes in the way transport operators can derive and deliver value in the industry.
For example, digitisation can enhance the way shippers and carriers interact to create a new business model where ‘on demand' freight mobility is enabled by digital freight brokering. This technology integrates cloud-based data sharing and in-cabin apps to provide a system that works as a type of Uber for freight.
The real opportunity for this technology is to reduce the number of empty trucks being driven for long distances as well as make routing and transfer points more efficient.
Digitising load sourcing and planning can also streamline necessary paperwork, such as insurance, and allow for better time management and automated record keeping for drivers.
Caltex conducts numerous test and learn programs, one of which was a high-end telematics system to enhance the operation of heavy vehicle fleets and encourage safer and more efficient driving practices. While the technology did not meet our market expectations, it did give us significant insights on how technology will play a much larger role in effectively managing road transport fleets.
The era of autonomy approaches.
It’s easy to understand why autonomous vehicles receive a lot of press with the potential for large trucks to be barrelling down the highway without anyone at the wheel. Yet our thoughts need to move towards implications to consumers, infrastructure, the truck industry and people within it. While the implementation of autonomous vehicles is currently low, many believe up to two thirds of trucks could be autonomous within 10 years.
So, what may this mean for truck drivers?
The roles could change with opportunities expanding into different areas. The transport model may move further towards a hub and spoke system with large autonomous vehicles moving between large hubs, then smaller urban trucks completing the journey with greater efficiency. This will allow drivers to work closer to home and maintain improved hours.
Autonomy may also allow drivers to focus on searching for extra loads while the vehicle is in automatic drive. This could occur while the truck is on an autonomous road, with the driver taking over when reaching built-up urban areas.
However, when it comes to oversized heavy loads, due to the difficulty and many variables involved it will be a long time before these are handled without a skilled driver in charge.
Programs such as Peloton may allow two trucks to follow one another to reduce air drag and increase fuel efficiency. In the future this ‘Platooning’ will also give the rear driver the chance to rest as their vehicle automatically follows closely behind the lead truck.
However, Ford CEO Jim Hackett recently noted the industry had overestimated the arrival of autonomous vehicles and though Ford is sticking to its self-imposed 2021 deadline for its self-driving cars, they will not be fully autonomous and most likely be driving in a geofenced area.
Primary amongst the reasons is the complexity in designing autonomous driving software that can navigate every possible event on the road.
Whenever these vehicles do arrive, getting the human part right will be key to gaining a competitive advantage. This means meeting both the consumer need for faster responses and delight in gratification, plus on the HR side attracting and nurturing dynamic talent with the skills to steward these evolving models with digitisation being used to join the dots.
In the medium term, the transport industry will still require suitable facilities where they can stop and their crew can find the amenities they need to keep working, The location of these sites and the ability to pre-order food can be integrated into apps that also include payment systems to get drivers and trucks back on the road faster..
See Caltex fuels transformation with cloud, data and rich innovation culture, by Microsoft New Centre
The adoption of electric powertrains in trucks is gaining momentum. While the issues surrounding range and charging remain, electric vehicles continue to be explored in earnest by many OEMS. They could also lay the foundation for the integration of distributed electronics systems in trucks to enable them to run safer, cleaner and in a more connected way.
Smaller electric trucks and vans will be first to impact the market as they are not so reliant on range and can find suitable charging facilities. Hybrid diesel/electric engines will be used to power larger trucks to provide them with the required range and eliminate the reliance on recharging.
Discover more about how Caltex is helping fuel the future of technology for the transport industry at the Truck Show 2019. Visit Caltex at the FOYER – 011 stand for your chance to win 1,000,000 Qantas Points.
Caltex @ Truck Show 2019 – A stop worth making.