There is a lot of change coming. Trucking companies must prepare for a future where the job is simply done differently. Did you know that there are UPS electric bikes in Portland, Oregon? Did you ever imagine the day you would see a UPS biker? Likely not.
Yet, it isn’t just the evolution of the truck and truck driver that has driven the change. Take your shop, as an example. Had you ever considered that you might have to teach your fleet technicians how to service an electric bike? When the electric bike driver is maneuvering around the yard, how might you manage the large pieces of equipment and heavy duty commercial motor vehicles?
UPS has been dealing with the issue in interesting ways as the level of last-mile delivery rises throughout the supply chain. New inventory items like bicycle tire tubes and bicycle batteries were suddenly added to the balance sheet. Smaller companies can survive through outsourcing some of the needs of the new century.
Consider the knowledge that fleet technicians have had to work with over the years. Advanced new systems require a different type of training. Going from the legacy systems of old to cutting-edge technology requires a certain grace period; yet trucking companies don’t have one.
How Will Small Fleets Cope?
There is so much more to it than electric UPS bikers. Semi-autonomous trucks, platooning, and just about every other form of high technology has come to trucking. Motor carriers who don’t adapt to the change risk being left behind in the digital dust.
There are small fleets to consider, however. Not every business will find it easy to effectively transition into the high-tech age of trucking. Many may feel overwhelmed by the prospect. Technology is changing so quickly and finding the expertise trucking companies need in some cases has not even been developed yet.
To make matters worse, waiting still is not an option. Trucking companies cannot ponder their future on a straight line in a world of unpredictable change and industry disruption. As industries change, complaisance is a killer. What is fantastic today could be utterly mediocre tomorrow.
The change needs to be born out of the problems of today. What intractable issues are trucking companies dealing with as they try to cope with the industry’s evolution?
Vehicle Technology Goes Extreme
If there is one aspect of trucking that has been the harbinger of change, it is the big rigs themselves. The days of low-tech, smoke-spouting diesels are nearly history, yet not gone. Consider the small owner-operator.
There are small trucking operations that still rely on older technology. Adapting to the change isn’t easy for them. It does not help that the government makes it even harder. GHG Phase II regulations may foist the adaptation upon motor carriers, whether they are ready for it or not.
Safety is another major driver. Crashes involving heavy-duty commercial motor vehicles have been on the rise in the past few years. Older-model semi-trucks are not built to incorporate some of the technology associated with advanced safety systems. Some may not survive the change as they try to transition their fleet.
Change makes opportunity. The level of technology changing the trucking industry has also provided a gift: A treasure trove of data.
Within the Digital Ether
All along the technological march, trucking companies are generating huge amounts of data. It is a goldmine of potential information, yet where do fleets store it? The server space required to store all that information – especially for larger trucking companies – is enormous. They simply do not have the infrastructure required.
Here is the rub, even trucking companies who are still running most of their business within on-site servers, there is still a chance that some of their data is still stored in the cloud somewhere. The apps they use and software products they adopt to manage their information may themselves store it in the cloud. Systems referred to as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) are almost always stored in and run from the cloud.
Furthermore, trucking technology OEMs and partners have moved their data needs into the digital ether. Cloud-based storage and applications have been a part of our landscape for a long time. Gone are the days when one referred to a cloud and nearly everyone associated it with a fluffy white thing in the sky. The technical term for massive space within huge sets of server farms is now ubiquitous.
The network of internet-connected computer servers that make up the cloud provides the backbone for technology companies working both within and without the trucking industry. There are private clouds and public clouds, such as those offered by Amazon and Microsoft. Storage can be rented within a cloud as though it were a digital storage unit. Instead of physical items, bits and bites are stored within clouds.
The Evolution of Data Storage
There are some specific reasons why cloud-based storage systems have become more ubiquitous over the years. As always, it is a matter of money. By moving data-storage needs to the cloud, fleets and their partners save lots of it. Investing in storage infrastructure is not cheap. Netflix does not run their operation on their own servers. They use a cloud provider.
Trucking companies have slowly come around to take advantage of the new data paradigm. IT staff on companies both large and small know what services they can safely leave on-site and what services can be put into the cloud. The market understands that the capabilities are there to allow for reliable data storage and access.
Some may think that cloud resources are only good for large fleets, but we would advise them to think again. Small fleets have plenty of opportunity to get a head start on their competitors specifically because they don’t have to house on-site storage needs or figure out how to hire an IT team to manage it all.
Where smaller operators have had questions in the past regarding data security, companies operating within the cloud have the answers. No longer do the small guys worry that their information is not secure or susceptible to corruption.
Companies operating within the telematic space were the first to realize the potentials of the cloud and small trucking companies found opportunity in working with them. By preventing the necessary capital outlay to bring on and manage critical infrastructure, small operators were able to compete with some of the larger companies they regularly compete with.
The ironic thing is that many years ago, the idea of storing data in the cloud would have been a challenging sell. Think about how the trucking industry’s perception of these technologies has changed. While there still may be some concerns surrounding data accessibility and downtime, the trend continues unabated.
High-Speed Data and Backup Security Trends Drive the Evolution
Better technology has created a more receptive atmosphere for cloud-adoption. Systems operating in the virtual world rely on better hardware to get the job done. The vast computing power on-hand within the huge powerhouse cloud providers makes it easy for software providers to offer products that really wow.
New ways of addressing things like fuel efficiency, cargo security, and more have all come about because of the cloud revolution. The increase in bandwidth has advanced the development of technologies that might not have ever before been associated with the trucking industry.
Scalability has also become a big attractor for fleets who are small now but want to grow big later. Providers within the space allow trucking companies to scale up on their services without a huge investment or time commitment. Faster response times, more complex data processing capabilities, and thorough analytics providing real-world, actionable data are all part of the promise of the cloud.
When you can access your systems from anywhere there is an internet connection, the flexibility and convenience factor becomes hard to deny. Imagine multiple users in several locations, some perhaps even within their vehicle at an internet-enabled truck stop, accessing the same platform. There is a lot of potential for collaboration and increased efficiency.
As speed and storage capacity increases, so does the potential the cloud provides. Lower-cost services also help increase adoption. The price for a piece of pie within the cloud is a lot lower than it used to be. When you get down to economies of scale, utilizing services that are software-based have simply become less expensive and easier to justify to the finance department.
Finally, security is always king. As public and private cloud systems have increased their level of data backup frequency and security. Some cloud providers might take longer than 24 hours to recover the data and restart the operation, but can some of the larger fleets afford to be offline that long? A motor carrier considering a cloud backup solution may want to make sure their partner offers limited downtime.
Things like backup vaulting and emergency recovery services make your data ready to go and, in some cases, minimal downtime can be virtually guaranteed. If you haven’t considered the benefits of the data and cloud evolution, no matter the size of your fleet, it is time to change your train of thought.