In some ways, the trucking industry is the backbone of all other sectors, as everything else relies on it. Given how crucial it is for logistics to run smoothly, trucking companies must always adapt to the times. Today, that means keeping up with the latest transportation technology.
Tech drives the modern world, and embracing it has never been more critical. The COVID-19 pandemic has simultaneously increased demand for trucking services while restricting economic flexibility. Logistics companies must achieve more with less, and technology provides a way to do that.
As the world becomes more digital, tech will become increasingly crucial, even apart from the pandemic. With all of this in mind, here are seven transportation technologies that are shaping the trucking industry.
1. Fleet Management Software
It’s difficult to imagine the modern trucking sector without fleet management software. These tools provide companies with a central system to view real-time data about driver hours, truck locations, and more. This visibility enables managers to make more informed decisions about their fleets’ operations.
Any logistics company will face unexpected delays now and then, but fleet management helps them react. Control centres can see when there might be a disruption so they can reroute trucks or make other accommodations. While they may not be able to prevent all delays, they can mitigate their impact.
This technology has already disrupted the industry. As of 2019, the global fleet management software market was worth USD 14.59 billion and has only grown since. It’s become something of a standard within the sector.
2. Autonomous Trucks
Few transportation technologies receive as much press as self-driving vehicles. While autonomous cars and trucks aren’t ready for full-scale deployment yet, that future could come soon. Back in 2016, a self-driving truck travelled 120 miles to deliver 50,000 cans of beer.
Autonomous trucks will become increasingly valuable as the industry faces a growing labour shortage. Some estimates say there will be 900,000 unfilled positions in the trucking sector by 2027. Self-driving vehicles could help companies meet growing demand despite fewer workers entering the industry.
Self-driving trucks will also improve safety. Many traffic accidents come from human errors like distracted driving, which aren’t issues with autonomous vehicles.
3. Connected Vehicles
It may be a few years before autonomous trucks populate the streets, but connected vehicles are already here. An increasing number of cars and trucks feature IoT connectivity, enabling vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communication. This growing interconnectedness can make roads safer and more efficient.
V2V communication can assist automated features in cars like lane correction. When two connected vehicles get too close, they’ll sense it and can automatically course-correct. This communication can also highlight traffic patterns in real-time, giving trucking companies more accurate insight into route efficiency.
V2I communication can alert drivers about parking conditions, inclement weather, or other, less-predictable factors. Signals between traffic lights and trucks can enable automatic braking when a light is about to turn red, improving safety and saving fuel.
4. IoT Sensors
The internet of things (IoT) is another one of the most important transportation technologies today. IoT sensors make real-time data about virtually anything wirelessly accessible, creating an interconnected ecosystem. Trucking companies can use these networks to track product quality throughout shipment or monitor vehicle performance.
For example, some computer parts require a humidity level of around 75% and specific temperatures. IoT sensors in these shipments can alert drivers and managers when the humidity or temperature nears unsafe levels. They can then address the issue before it jeopardises the integrity of the shipment.
IoT devices in the truck itself can enable predictive maintenance, where systems predict when a machine will need repair. This proactive approach takes the guesswork out of maintenance, can reduce downtime by 20%, and prevents costly breakdowns.
5. Electric Trucks
One of the most significant trends in modern transportation technology is sustainability. Electric vehicles (EVs) lead this movement, and they’re starting to break into the commercial sector, not just consumer markets. It may not be long before electric trucks are standard across the industry.
EVs used to be too inefficient to be suitable for trucking, but that’s changing. The median EV range grew by 56% between 2011 and 2017, and some can now travel more than 300 miles on one charge. As technology advances, these vehicles will only become more efficient and affordable.
Some of the world’s largest shipping companies are pursuing electric vehicles. Amazon.com has ordered a fleet of 100,000 EVs to operate by 2030. These substantial investments will fuel further research, helping EV technology advance faster.
6. Artificial Intelligence
Artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the most impactful technologies the world has seen, and it’s shaping trucking, too. All of the technologies mentioned earlier in this article can improve with AI integration. They all generate considerable amounts of data, and AI handles data better than humans can.
For example, AI in fleet management software can analyse truck locations and traffic trends to plan more efficient routes. Some companies already rely on AI-driven systems like this. UPS uses a tool called ORION that has saved the business 10 million gallons of fuel a year through optimised routes.
AI can also take data from IoT sensors and translate it into meaningful, actionable insights. These intelligent systems provide ways to improve that companies could have overlooked otherwise.
7. Lightweight Materials
The materials that compose trucks are a less glamorous transportation technology, but a similarly valuable one. Scientific research has led to stronger, lighter-weight materials that improve vehicles’ safety and performance. As engineers continue to develop new alloys and polymers, trucks will keep getting lighter without sacrificing strength.
Every 10 kilograms of weight reduction leads to a 1 gram per kilometer drop in carbon emissions. While that might not seem like a considerable amount given the trucking industry’s scale, even small changes could have substantial impacts. A 1 gram per kilometer drop in emissions would be quite the improvement for thousands of trucks travelling thousands of kilometres.
Transportation Technology Is Driving Modern-Day Trucking
Technology is transforming virtually every industry across the globe, and trucking is no exception. As these resources become more advanced and affordable, more trucking companies will implement them. The sector will become more efficient, sustainable, and safer as a result.
Bio: Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized, an online magazine exploring innovations in the industrial sector.