Technology brings exciting changes to the transportation and drayage industries every day. Each year, new technologies either improve the industry or cause potential problems. 2014-15 brought some particularly interesting technology to the trucking trade. With advances in vehicle automation, interconnectivity, and fuel efficiency, the industry is set to raise the bar in how goods are transport. Only time will tell if the new trends for 2015-2016 will be a boon or bane.
The idea of self-driving vehicles has been around for some time now – Toyota and Lexus made self-parking cars popular in the early 2000s. Since then, vehicle manufacturers have joined the arms race to create completely automated vehicles. Earlier this year, truck giant Daimler announced its “Future Truck 2025” trailer.
The unveiling showed a trucker at ease in the driver seat, while the truck itself drove down the road, staying at a safe distance and speed amongst other vehicles. Other advances in automation include “platooning,” where a group of trucks operate safely and automatically to save fuel by driving close together. As truckers know, the industry is currently suffering a significant driver shortage. Many are confident that automated trucking technology will greatly alleviate the shortage. The drawback? Others are afraid the digital systems will create issues with liability and leave open digital cracks for hackers to exploit.
Big Data and Telematics
Big data has been a buzzword throughout many industries, including intermodal transportation. Telematics systems continue to become more intelligent, harvesting real-time data to regulate the engine and other parts of the vehicle. Using interconnected vehicles and analytics, truck fleets gain more insight into operations like turnaround times and fuel economy.
These insights lead to improvements in safety, efficiency, and productivity. In an industry where every second on the road and every penny spent on gas counts, big data will continue to improve relationships among manufacturers, fleets, shippers, and receivers. As long as fleets can understand and master big data, the possibilities are endless.
Fuel Efficiency and Future Trucks
Improving fuel efficiency is always a top priority for freight manufacturers (and environmental activists). The past several years have seen big advances in energy saving technology, but the new Walmart WAVE concept truck recently took the cake. This space-age looking truck was built with the help of sponsorship from Peterbilt, Roush, Great Dane, and Capstone Turbine.
The truck is built to achieve 10% better efficiency. It’s made from light-weight carbon fiber panels and has an engine that runs on natural gas. Its full-sized cab is equipped with amenities optimized for driver comfort. Other truck manufacturers continue to release vehicles that revolutionize the industry, including the Peterbilt Supertruck, Kenworth T680, and Volvo DME. These models feature innovations in fuel efficiency, cargo capacity, and driver comfort. Though the upfront costs will be steep, and they aren’t quite ready for production, the future is promising, and the benefits much outweigh the costs.
As 2016 approaches, it’ll be interesting to see how these technologies will be implemented and improve the industry – and which ones won’t.