Guest Column | September 24, 2018

The Big Rig Biz Meets Big Data, Tech

By Pat Nolan, Research Associate, Enterprise Mobility & Connected Devices, VDC Research

Combining Human-Centered Design And Big Data In Pharma

The collective transportation and logistics industry shows a strong embrace of technological developments. VDC’s 2018 Enterprise Buyer Behavior study of mobile technology end users finds a 51.1 percent year over year increase in transportation respondent’s extreme satisfaction with the pace of their organization’s mobile initiatives, and a 23.4 percent twelve-month improvement in extreme satisfaction with the adoption of mobile applications. Furthermore, the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals describe record spending on logistics in 2017 at $1.5 trillion, a 6.2 percent annual increase, in their most recent State of Logistics report.

The Mandated Mashup Of Trucking And Tech

Trucking transportation, specifically, is no exception. A recent wave of big rig-targeted technologies have gained traction thanks to the forced introduction of the trucking and tech worlds. This is a result of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) official enforcement of the long-coming Electronic Logging Device (ELD) Rule in December of 2017. The congressional mandate says that commercial drivers–at least those required to prepare hour-of-service records–must use ELDs, a measure to ensure safer driving practices.

One of the many solutions that has risen to the occasion is the My20 ELD by Konexial. My20 ELD consists of a single, small (slightly larger than a quarter) piece of hardware installed into a truck’s diagnostic port that connects to a smartphone app on a driver’s smartphone. At roughly $130 for the device and a $15/month subscription fee per user for the app, it is a cost-effective tool for ELD compliance, log auditing, and GPS tracking with a breadth of other integrated functionalities. A standout feature is Konexial’s GoLoad Dynamic Load Matching (DLM), which allows independent drivers to receive load opportunities pushed right to their phones in order to gain extra revenue when truck capacity and route convenience allow it.

Digital Opportunities Beyond Compliance

With ELD solutions serving as a technological entry point, trucking operations are exposed to a number of niche digital opportunities that can drive efficiencies and improve fleet safety. Companies like Netradyne and SmartDrive focus on highly intelligent dash cams to monitor and manage driver performance, provide safety alerts, and expedite accident handling. Others offer IoT sensors equipped throughout a fleet that can be used to analyze and optimize fuel usage, parts maintenance, and routing.

One developer, Samsara, offers something like a complete suite for fleet digitalization. Like Konexial, they offer a plug-and-play hardware device coupled with a smartphone app as an ELD solution. Their hardware unit also serves as a WiFi hotspot to avoid cellular data costs. Samsara provides dash cams and sensors as described above and a cloud-based dashboard that offers real-time fleet location and alerts, routing and dispatch planning, and a variety of reporting and analytics features. Lastly, Samsara’s solution supports productivity apps like email, text and video messaging, CRM, and work order management.

The truck tech offered by Konexial, Samsara, and the likes is well-positioned for growth. In our 2018 Enterprise Buyer Behavior report, when looking exclusively at our respondents from trucking transportation operations (n=21), we see that the leading market priorities driving mobile technology investments are increasing visibility (14.61 percent), improving mobile workforce productivity (12.36 percent), and reducing delivery costs (12.36 percent). The solutions discussed so far aim to achieve precisely those goals.

A Fuel-less, Driverless Roadmap For Future Fleets?

Beyond its readily available mobility solutions, the trucking transportation sector has some far out innovations in store at the hands of a few ambitious tech companies. Uber, Tesla, and Google’s Waymo are all currently developing autonomous, driverless semi-trucks. It appears that all tests so far have involved a safety driver at the wheel, but autonomous big-rigs have already begun to trek across America’s highways.

Along the same line, truck platooning is another near-future likelihood. This involves a caravan of wirelessly connected vehicles, led by a manned truck and followed by several mimicking, driverless units. A worth-mentioning truck tech middle ground between ELD devices and autonomous, platooning truck fleets is what appears to be the first fully electric semi-truck by Thor Trucks Inc.

Although the trucking sector may have an exciting technological roadmap ahead, it is important to focus on effectively deploying the solutions at hand. In an industry suffering from a lack of drivers, a technology overload without proper training and adjustment time is no way to reward seasoned vets. Another point of caution – our 2018 Enterprise Buyer Behavior report finds that transportation organizations were by far the most likely to have been victims of a data breach or cyberattack. The digitalization of fleets creates more opportunities for such incidents and demands even more attention to the industry’s cybersecurity problem.

View the 2018 Enterprise Mobility & Connected Devices Research Outline to learn more.