As technology changes nearly every sector of our lives, trucking will likely be at the forefront of that wave. There are innumerable areas in which technological advances can be used to enhance commercial trucks and the jobs of those who drive them.
And although trucking has been a willing participant in the era of technological change, does that mean adapting to change isn’t both expensive and difficult to implement? No.
The Reluctant Partner
For many decades, trucking went the ‘opt out’ way of adopting new trucking technologies. The fact is, if a vehicle was over two years old and on a long-term trade cycle, fleets were perfectly okay with letting the other guys wrestle with the technology while it matured.
Another consideration was an abundant supply of extremely cheap fuel, when accounting for inflation. This meant the cost of adopting new technology wasn’t outweighed by its usefulness to the fleet. The advantages just weren’t there… yet.
Today, those days are quite literally a thing of the past. The unstoppable consumer-side tech onslaught that began in the late-1970s has finally enveloped trucking. Welcome to the future.
Embracing the Tech Age
Now we live in a time where everything is wired together, there is a sensor for everything, and communication is instant and constant. From advanced fuel systems to new battery technologies, there are more systems to compete with by the day.
Whether it be through regulatory or industry pressures, new technology seems to be pushed onto fleets the moment it becomes available. Add this to an internet-fueled global mega-economy and you’ve got a recipe for constant change. Can fleets become ever leaner, faster, and more efficient all at the same time?
A multitude of new technologies and manufacturing methods are changing life as we know it. In the age of connected fleets and autonomous trucks, how will the industry look in ten years?
Agents of Change
There are several pieces to the change puzzle. Renowned thinkers and futurists are fast on trying to figure out how the nation’s transportation infrastructure will look within the next 25 to 50 years. The logistics landscape fits squarely within that picture.
Here are just a few examples of technological advances that will impact the future of trucking:
- Wearables: Right now we are talking about Fitbit wrist monitors and smart watches. Tomorrow we may be seeing “smart” contact lenses. Imagine wearing a lens that presents data to you within your regular line of vision. A heads-up display beaming information onto the windshield could be replaced by a contact lens in your eye.
- 3D printers: The sharing economy is revolutionizing manufacturing, and 3D printers are at the forefront of that revolution. Imagine a machine that can scan your body and “print” your clothes. Might we soon see the day where fleets can 3D print vehicle components? How would that affect the parts supply chain? As of right now, these are unanswered questions.
- Semi-autonomous trucks: The idea of an autonomous truck strikes fear into the heart of many a truck driver. But worry not, it appears your job is safe. Connected fleets, semi-autonomous trucks and smart highways could yield huge results in the area of safety and efficiency.
- Changing freight: As 3D printers begin bearing more of the manufacturing burden, fleets will move closer towards hauling more raw materials than finished goods. Furthermore, as more countries emerge from second-world status, the U.S. will be a major food exporter, which will surely be a boon to U.S. trucking interests and those operating within the global supply chain.
- Advanced accessories: Imagine a future where cab seats double as medical monitoring devices. If a driver begins falling asleep, or has an elevated pulse, that information can be transmitted and acted upon immediately. We may even see the day when fleets can take over the truck in the case of an emergency.
These are just a few examples of how we may see trucking changed forever by the endless march of the technological revolution. The fact remains, goods will need to be hauled, no matter the situation.
There is a place in the world for those hauling them, whether the trucks are on the road or flying through the air. Might that one day be the future of trucking?