When most people think of artificial intelligence (AI), they think of hordes of robots roaming the land looking for humans. Except we don’t live in the land of the Terminator. The real applications of artificial intelligence have been creating new business applications and ways for companies to get the job done. Transportation companies in the real world are using artificial intelligence to work better, faster, and smarter.
AI is being used to make computers smarter. It is really just a way to develop systems that can perform tasks without the necessity for human intervention. Yet, the most beneficial way AI is being used in the transportation industry is to manage the vast troves of data that trucking companies have coming in from so many sources. And while the concept of AI has been around for a long time, it was not until the past few decades that the foundations of the technology have really begun to take shape.
Help is in the Machine
Trucking companies get data from so many different data points. Trucking companies can train AI systems on how to sift through the data and create actionable metrics they can use to truly shift their business. Trucking companies can also use machine learning and AI systems to help them make crucial decisions, from routing to asset use.
AI systems contain subsets of machine learning and deep learning. Algorithms and software can be programmed to learn and improve from experience as they absorb data. Deep learning is a level of design that attempts to get machines to think much like the human brain. Basic machine learning principles are already being used to match trucks to loads.
One way in which this is done is through prediction modeling. AI systems can be taught to predict a best match based on location, equipment type, profitability, route, hours of service, truck driver preferences, and so much more. Over time, an algorithm can adjust, adding more data to its data set and making better judgements. Trucking companies are so used to relying on their gut instincts to decide. Now they can look for help in the machine.
There are plenty of real-world examples of how trucking companies are leveraging artificial intelligence to improve their business operations. And this goes beyond trucking companies. Brokerage firms use it in multiple ways, as do shippers. There are several critical areas in which AI can transform the way transportation companies operate.
One such way is in recruiting. You may think all your recruiting efforts must be focused on truck drivers, when in fact the labor market is tight. Positions are hard to fill across the board. Usually, by the time you find someone who may be a perfect fit, they may have already accepted a position at another company. Also, who likes to sit and wade through tons of resumes? Using AI to filter through those who may be good for your company prevents you from having to get into the weeds and do the work yourself.
How might this work in real time? With an AI, you can decide what parameters you are looking for in a potential candidate. It is likely that individual has applied for positions elsewhere and much of their information is usually already located in a public database of some type. When an AI brings you the candidates, you can give a thumbs up or down depending on the information the AI provides.
AI in the Office
While the headlines have been all about driverless trucks and other advanced future tech, indicators show that software solutions and AI are becoming a big part of other aspects of trucking and transportation companies. Companies are looking to increase efficiencies and decrease costs at just about every turn, and that means using AI technology in more than just the cab.
Your accounting department may use machine learning to better predict when funds may be available for procurement or when you may need to reach out to a freight factoring provider if bottom line funds are low. Tasks that might take a while for humans to complete can be crunched in fractions of a second by an AI-enabled computing device.
Fleet managers can use AI to enhance truck driver comfort, training, coaching, KPI creation and so much more. Even better, many of the vendors who provide such services understand that trucking companies may not inherently know how to use them. If you look for providers that have a good record of customer service, you won’t be caught flat-footed if you do not understand a certain aspect of your service.
AI and machine learning can help reduce overall enterprise costs by assisting managers and directors who try to stay on top of administrative costs. Shop technicians rely on it to enhance their predictive maintenance programs and reduce overall maintenance costs. Fleet management and asset-tracking solutions can be integrated into an AI’s back-end decision-making process. Track-and-trace solutions take the worry and headache out of keeping track of equipment and other important fleet assets.
While the pure volume of technology platforms and AI options may seem overwhelming to some fleets, over time, as the technology matures, the best providers will rise to the top of the ecosystem. Right now, we are in a situation where everyone wants in on the game. It is inevitable, however, that there is some weeding out of those who can effectively provide those services. It never hurts to hire a consultant and evaluate your business needs to determine if an AI-powered solution is right for you. Technological trends can be used to your advantage.
Sales and Branding
AI can also be very useful for the sales pipeline. When might be the best time of day to reach out to a prospect? A machine learning system can pull various data points, such as social media activity, when they visit your website, and more. The AI can also be used to determine which potential customers might or might not be a good customer match for your company.
If you could funnel more information to your sales reps to make a more informed decision, you might see a noticeable increase in sales. You might also wind up with a healthier customer base better suited to what your organization does.
Use AI systems to analyze recorded calls that have been transcribed via a speech-to-text add-on. Which of your sales reps are closing the most deals and which are really blowing the goals out of the water? AI systems help you figure out and leverage the techniques that your top salespeople are using. You can use the date to create more effective coaching programs, provide more motivation, and encourage an environment where everyone succeeds, simply because you are better at looking at the data.
A big part of whether a company succeeds lies in its branding and marketing efforts. You can use AI systems to manage your social media and marketing efforts. You can also use it to personalize your websites. When someone visits your website, use technology to track their IP addresses and cross-reference your CRM system to see what industry they are in. You could essentially show a flatbed carrier a different version of the website than a refrigerated carrier.
Utilizing AI also requires different IT specialties. Although it may be an internal function, an AI can process internal tech support requests and suggest quick answers based on a company’s knowledgebase or fixes that had already been implemented across the company. Today, you likely must rely on human input that you could get to the bottom of much faster with AI help.
If you look at where transportation firms plan on making technology investments in the next 12- 24 months, the data is quite interesting. Here are the top ten priorities:
- Predictive maintenance
- Route optimization
- Fleet management
- Load sourcing
- Traffic assistance
- Driverless trucks
The fact is, there is virtually no industry in which AI hasn’t already had a major impact. There is so much data flowing around internal and external networks that executives and technology professionals know the only way they are going to make sense of all of it is through the machine. And remember, using a software-powered AI won’t mean you don’t have to make decisions anymore, it simply means you will have something helping you make the right decisions.