If you walk into a trucking industry trade show today, technology’s farreaching influence is immediately apparent, according to Andrew Johnson, chief marketing officer for PrePass.
More than 80% of the exhibitors are representing technology solutions,” Johnson said. “It’s just an indication of where the industry is, and where it is going.
Technology is helping the trucking industry—and those who depend on it—contend with the most difficult and pressing challenges that it faces, including the driver shortage, safety concerns, regulatory requirements and dealing with complex, unforeseen marketplace disruptions, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Kristin Kay, senior design lead, transport management solutions for MHI member Manhattan Associates, said trucking companies and others have never been so receptive to technology’s promise.
“People are much more open to the impact of technology today,” Kay said.
In addition, Azad Ratzki, chief technology officer for MHI member BlueGrace Logistics, said high-tech solutions have become more accessible to organizations of all sizes. Previously, he said, they often were reserved for the largest companies, but today the smallest trucking companies have access to sophisticated technology that can play a variety of critical roles to bolster efficiency and effectiveness.
“That would have been unreal a few years ago,” Ratzki said.
Deanna Kaufman, vice president of sales for MHI member enVista, said companies involved in the supply chain are exploring how technology can help them solve knotty problems because those solutions often make business sense.
“They understand that overcoming problems in the supply chain requires scalable solutions,” she said. “That’s what companies are looking for.”
Managing drivers themselves is among the places where technology’s influence is most apparent. Amid a widespread driver shortage, tech tools are helping improve conditions for drivers, providing them greater incentives to stay in the field and with the companies that invest in them. Johnson said fleets invested in technology to improve productivity before the federal mandate in 2017 that required drivers to use electronic logging devices (ELDs) to manage their hours of service, but drivers often were less likely to adopt new technology quickly. The requirement to use ELDs increased driver comfort with technology in the cab, leading to more ready adoption of other tech tools, Johnson said.
“When we talk about technology adoption, two things are important,” Johnson said. “First, the technology has to be simple to use. There are enough complications in the transportation industry and there is just not a lot of time for steep learning curves. Second, the technology has to solve a problem. If using the technology saves time, lowers costs, improves productivity, or compliance, the adoption curve accelerates.”
Today, Johnson said, “Driver technologies help operators make informed decisions, reduce uncertainties during their trip and generally reduce the stress of truck driving.” Drivers often use apps on a cell phone or a tablet mounted on the dashboard that provide support in areas such as navigation, routing, dispatch alerts and employer communication.
In-cab camera systems are among the most impactful technologies that have emerged in recent years, Johnson said. The systems provide data and context about the driving environment inside and outside the cab.