Have you heard of the Internet of Things (IoT)? The IoT is a burgeoning technology field where common, everyday devices from refrigerators to coffee makers are connected to the internet. That’s right! We live in an era where your fridge can now communicate directly with its original equipment manufacturer (OEM). And while you may at first think, “What does this technology have to do with trucking?” Surprisingly, quite a lot. Trucking has for too long been a low-tech industry.
Trucking companies and the rigs they operate are increasingly becoming more “connected” by the day. As such, your commercial motor vehicle might now be classified as an IoT device. It may sound strange, but it’s true. With the number of sensors, your ELD, cameras, and other data-gathering devices on your big rigs, they are no doubt “connected.” And yet, companies like yours struggle to quickly deploy and take full advantage of wireless IoT solutions. Consider that these solutions are good for your business.
The question is, how do you go all-in on something that you may not be familiar with? Well, consider working with an established wireless network operator to help you pick up the skills and information you require. The big wireless carriers in the United States all have integrated IoT solutions geared for speed and scale for trucking companies.
Why do IoT Solutions Exist for Trucking Companies?
The abrupt and dramatic business disruptions that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic have permanently altered how we live our lives. And they have changed the way business leaders think about leveraging technology to benefit their operations. The Internet of Things has emerged as a way to address pressing business problems. From lowering costs to improving efficiencies, IoT plays a part. But how?
First, IoT solutions are generally interconnected with other devices on the tractor and trailer. Data from this array of connected devices and sensors can then be transmitted over narrowband-IoT, 4G/LTE, and 5G cellular technologies. The data is transmitted into a software solution that parses is and provides insights to its users. Fleet managers use advanced analytics data to make better business decisions.
The wealth of data available from IoT-connected devices cannot be understated. Gathering current, actionable data should now be considered part of a fleet manager’s job. Effective fleet managers know exactly how to utilize data to benefit their operations. Data types generally included in various IoT-based software systems include:
- Equipment issues
- Driver and equipment statuses
- Asset tracking
- Route planning
- Transportation of goods
- Warehousing of goods
- … and much more!
It should be quite clear at this point why IoT services have been developed for trucking companies and others in the transportation sector. The amount of data generated alone is worth the price of many of these software-based products.
Other Benefits of Connected Devices for Trucking Companies
Companies in the United States are more connected than ever before. The Internet Age has changed the way companies do business in just about every industry imaginable. Trucking companies specifically can now generate real-time end-to-end information and status updates regarding equipment visibility and internal supply chain.
Fleet managers can respond to sudden shifts in shipper behavior. And during times like these when uncertainty seems to lurk around every corner, responsiveness is key. And this isn’t just about your customers. If consumer buying habits or preferences change because of outside influence, your business could change. Ensuring you can respond to changes like these is critical to the functioning of a healthy trucking company.
Connected devices also improve efficiency. They can help truck drivers and their supervisors better account for time. In a way, they help truck drivers who need more home time get that home time. IoT solutions may have higher up-front costs, but they reduce costs in the long term. Why? Because they reduce costs, increase productivity, improve logistics, enhance distribution, and much more.
For business owners and fleet managers, the value of these benefits has increased as the underpinning technology matures. In a tight labor market – like the one the U.S. now finds itself in – technological solutions like these might be just what your fleet needs to attract professional, experienced truck drivers.
From the Research Lab to the Back Office
The fact is this: IoT solutions are no longer far-flung ideas. They have moved beyond simple academic or research considerations and become a part of our commercial operating environment. Fleet leaders who prioritize “growing with the times” prioritize fast, cost-effective IoT solutions and deployments. Many aspects of the current trucking IoT landscape have moved beyond simple theory.
For example, IoT deployments allow companies to extend manufacturing automation efforts to cover a more diverse array of tasks. As corporate America has shifted more into a remote work model, the IoT infrastructure to support remote workers has flourished. Consumer behavior shifts can be better mapped out and responded to.
Technology advances like this impact nearly every aspect of a company’s operation. Connected software and hardware improve employee training, safety and compliance, documentation, productivity, maintenance, and more.
Let’s take training as one example. By utilizing connected headsets, shop technicians can use augmented and virtual reality technologies to learn new maintenance techniques or tasks. A fleet could have a technician in one location training the other technician in a completely different city. Without IoT devices, this kind of long-distance collaboration would not be possible.
Don’t Take IoT Connectivity for Granted
Quickly creating and deploying manageable IoT projects is a complex process. As such, it is something you should never take for granted. To simplify adoption and overall use, fleet managers and other decision-makers should consider partnering with a mobile network operator to ensure constant up-time and reliability.
Today’s IoT solutions – especially of the hardware variety – require constant uptime. They may rely on wireless network technologies such as LTE and/or Narrowband-IoT. Connecting devices to a cellular network might provide just the edge your fleet needs in computing and analytical resources.
Of course, this is music to the ears of mobile phone operators. Big cellular companies are well-positioned to create integrated solutions for companies who want to use IoT devices to improve business operation outcomes. They are developing a full suite of management tools along with consulting services to help adopters get the most out of their solutions.
Fortunately, interoperability has come a long way. Generally, network operators, software vendors, hardware vendors, networking technology companies, and consultants all use different systems. Getting those systems to talk to each other can sometimes be a herculean task. This is where bundles come in. They aren’t solely the realm of your cable provider anymore.
How Bundling Services Can Help Trucking Companies Cut Costs
Many network operators and trucking IoT vendors, software, and hardware providers now offer services bundling. Provisions for adapting services to specific business requirements is a common practice. They generally include the following service types bundled into one low-cost package:
- Fleet Management: This includes vehicle location, tracking, monitoring, and assignments.
- Asset Tracking: This could be tractors or trailers and other power equipment.
- Smart Video Analytics: Continuous automated scanning and video analysis.
- Full-Suite Sensors: Sensors provide around-the-clock monitoring and alerts both on and off-vehicle.
These represent just a few aspects of a comprehensive trucking IoT solution. It is this diverse array of features that has attracted trucking company executives, board members, and fleet managers all over the country. For example, Oracle Corporation conducted a survey in 2021 of 800 enterprise IoT decision-makers and found that:
- 64% would choose an ‘off-the-shelf’ solution as opposed to a custom-built offering.
- 75% would prefer to have services bundled or ‘baked-in.’
- 70% would like access to data and analytics tools as part of a bundled package.
As you can see here, bundling is a big part of what makes network provider solutions desirable. Because when you add services, you save money, and this holds true no matter your industry or service offering.
Ensure Your Solution is Ready to Scale
You’re probably reading all this wondering if adopting IoT technologies will require huge capital expenditures. Fortunately, if you conduct your due diligence properly, you should find packaged, ready-to-run solutions that offer simplicity, speed, and scale.
Find a technology partner who is well-positioned to help you assemble, coordinate, and install IoT solutions to scale. Scale is important because you want to make sure you are ready for expansion. The point of adopting new technologies is not to hamstring growth, but to support it.
IoT systems, when deployed at a large scale, increase in complexity as you scale. From design to procurement, validation, integration, deployment, and management – if you don’t have in-house I.T. talent to handle these tasks, the project becomes more complex and takes longer to fully deploy. You need to be able to count on partners both internally and externally for full confidence you’ll be able to handle an IoT conversion.