The fleet industry, like any other industry, is in the midst of a technology-induced cusp of change. Here are the top fleet industry trends to look forward in 2019.
Top fleet management companies have been leveraging data for several years now. They set up data points, collect data, analyze trends, and make informed decisions.
Data unearths pain-points causing inefficiencies or delays, makes explicit optimal loads, reveals the best routes, suggests the best delivery times, and much more. In 2019, fleet operators are co-opting the latest technologies related to Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, and other emerging technologies. Hitherto data was used primarily to improve efficiency. The increasingly competitive environment and regulatory framework now make trucking majors leverage data analytics extensively to manage environmental impact, retain skilled workers, increase social responsibility, and much more.
One niche area where the use of data analytics will grow rapidly in the near future is in behavior monitoring and tracking. Trucking companies are now deploying not just GPS trackers, but also onboard computers with 4G internet and dedicated IP addresses. Such systems, hooked to powerful cloud-based analytical engines, keeps track of the vehicle in motion, the well-being of drivers, the safety of the cargo, and other vital operational factors. The real-time video analytics offers to reduce accidents, eliminate wasteful activities such as unnecessary slack, optimize driving to reduce fuel consumption, and overall allow managers to remain in active control of their fleet.
Data facilitates proactive fleet operations in 2019, a quantum jump from the hitherto reactive nature of operations.
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Telematics and GPS tracking allow trucks to transmit information in real-time, streamlining data collection, and share information seamlessly across stakeholders, including customers. Trucking companies now rely on such telemetric data not only for insights into driving patterns and driving behaviour but even maintenance scheduling and spare parts inventory is synced to telemetric data. Vehicle replacement, maintenance, fuel, insurance, and wages constitute the most substantial costs for fleets. Telemetrics allow for transparency and greater insight into such variables, facilitating big time cost saving. Telemetrics improves vehicles utilization and maintenance, increasing the life of the vehicle, and thus saving on replacement costs. Ernst & Young estimates maintenance costs to be anywhere between 30% and 50% of the total cost of ownership for fleets.
While truck managers already use telematics to maintain their vehicles proactively, the emergence of IoT is all set to take proactive maintenance to a whole new level. IoT sensors would remind drivers when the vehicle is due for service, when a component is overheating and is likely to fail, when oil is low, and many such critical insights not decipherable externally. IoT allows scheduling proactive downtime, pre-empting malfunction, leading to reduced maintenance costs and overall much better fleet utilization.
In 2019, truckers and fleet managers will rely on automation extensively, in almost all areas of work.
Many fleet operators are toying with the idea of using Artificial intelligence tools and computer vision technology to cross-dock if operators load inbound pallets optimally, in the right sequence, for the greatest efficiency during delivery.
Voice-activated systems allow users to pull in live information from the fleet’s asset and cargo database, without taking the trouble to pull extract reports.
Trucking companies are also most likely to deploy Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems (ADAS) that leverage Artificial Intelligence and deep learning. These systems offer critical inputs and insights to the driver, such as lane changing assistance and visual analytics to identify dangerous objects on the road.
At the back-end, Blockchain has the potential to refine trucking contracts. Start-up company dexFreight has already completed its first blockchain-based shipment using smart contracts, offering a blueprint of the things to come.
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The popularity of electric trucks grew leap and bounds in 2018 and is set to continue in with a greater trajectory in 2019. Tesla’s electric Class 8 Semi, unveiled in November 2017, is likely to make it to production in 2019. Volvo and Daimler are testing electric versions of existing models, and UPS is collaborating with Thor to develop a fully electric Class 7 delivery truck.
Electric trucks are likely to replace conventional trucks altogether at congested intermodal ports, for last mile delivery trucks and other short-halt trips. Fuso eCanter medium-duty trucks, already commercially available, has set the ball rolling.
There will be greater experimentations, focused on innovation, in 2019. For instance, Nikola plans to unveil a hydrogen-electric hybrid in April 2019. Toyota’s “proof of concept” Class 8 hydrogen fuel cell truck is already deployed in real-world use, in Southern California.
The major obstacle for widespread adoption of electric trucks is the lack of charging infrastructure. The consortium of companies, formed to work on developing a uniform approach to charging infrastructure will likely make a significant breakthrough in 2019.
With a diminishing labor market supply and increasing costs to train the workforce, trucking companies are seeking alternatives. Several fleet owners are forced to idle their trucks, not because of lack of orders, but owing to a paucity of drivers. While the short-term trend is to value skilled workers better, offering them a range of benefits such as signing bonus, not available before, the long term focus is on autonomous, driverless vehicles.
Companies such as Tesla and Waymo has made big improvements in autonomous vehicle technology, and 2019 will see greater breakthroughs that will bring full-scale deployment of driverless vehicles on the roads closed. Experts foresee autonomous vehicles to have over 60% market penetration by the end of 2019.
However, safety standards and enforcement aspects of autonomous vehicles are still being debated, while the technology is being fine-tuned side-by-side. As such, it may take a while before legislation is enacted on this front and autonomous vehicles make drivers as we know today obsolete.
Overall, it is interesting times ahead for the trucking industry in 2019.