How will technology transform the future of the transport industry?
The transport industry is now collecting more data than ever before via new technologies like on-board sensors, passenger counting systems, GPS and other vehicle tracking systems. The only problem is, given the sheer volume of available data we are still learning how best to interpret it in a meaningful way so we are still some way off enjoying the real benefits of knowing so much about what is happening on our roads.
However, as many other industries are already proving, having access to so much data has the potential to revolutionise the transport sector. Theoretically it would allow logistics companies an unparalleled opportunity to improve operations, reduce costs and better serve both those doing the driving and other road users.
Transport and logistics experts have already been quick to promote some of the areas they believe more sophisticated data interpretation could transform and these include:
- Freight movement and routing optimisation (including avoiding delays, roadworks, congestion & accidents)
- Inventory and capacity management
- Improved customer service
- Reducing the environmental impact of heavy road transport
- Improving road safety
- Optimising fleet performance by allowing more accurate predictive maintenance support
We certainly wouldn’t disagree with any of those ideas but the three key benefits we think data will deliver more immediately for transportation and warehousing providers desperate to keep pace with the growing expectations of manufacturers, retailers and consumers and those are:
1. Achieving greater consistency and quality
Track-and-trace technology is now accepted as standard and every client now expects to be told when their cargo will arrive. New technologies not only provide real time positional updates but also alerts if delays have occurred on route and exact ETAs so those managing the facilities the cargo is being delivered to can plan ahead to ensure maximum efficiency during the turnaround at their end.
However, the benefits could exceed simply improving the timeliness of delivery.
Over time the time series data being collected could lead to significant cost savings. Companies will be able to build up a more complex picture of where cargoes are and where they need to go to and reduce their loads to include only what is actually needed.
Similarly onboard sensors will be able to monitor temperature, humidity or movement more accurately and trigger the required response so that fewer cargoes are damaged or lost in transit.
2. Improved efficiency and productivity
More intuitive fleet management systems are beginning to drive greater transportation efficiency by communicating with the vehicles in their fleet and assessing how long each has been on the road and recalibrating the best routes continually during a journey.
As a result ‘idle driver’ time will be reduced, fuel efficiencies and safety records will be improved and as a pick up can be switched to another driver if the original driver is held up, the prospect of downtime or late delivery will be minimised.
3. Increased adoption of ‘Platooning’
Platooning could well become one of the most exciting developments in the transport industry.
Platooning is the term for linking three or four trucks travelling a sort distance apart over longer routes. During the journey the lead driver digitally controls the speed and route of the other driverless trucks in their platoon before guiding all of the trucks to the agreed rendezvous for unloading.
Although it may sound like science fiction, platooning could prove to be a game changer for the transport sector. As you only need one driver for every three or four trucks, labour costs will fall dramatically. It is also believed the potential for accidents should fall as there will be less potential for human error.
There could also be a positive environmental impact too. As the vehicles will travel at a constant speed they will emit less CO2 and use up to 11% less fuel.