Recently at the ATA Conference in October in Philadelphia, industry executives, policy experts and leading suppliers gathered together to discuss the state of the industry, regulatory issues and key business trends. My last blog focused on a key issue that the industry is experiencing today – driver shortages and the recruitment of young leadership and technicians. This blog I want to focus on what I learned at the show from the technology side of the equation, and the perceived costs of that technology.
Trucking Connectivity and Technology is Exploding
“Connectivity is the biggest enabler of a lot of potential benefits for this industry,” said Wallace Lau, an industry analyst with the automotive and transportation practice at global consulting firm Frost & Sullivan. He said the benefits of connectivity and new trucking technology include increased fuel economy, less vehicle downtime and higher productivity. Some industry leaders are even forecasting that by 2020, there will be an average of seven devices per person or driver, from smart phones, to tablets, to personal fit-bit devices monitoring driver health and wellness. Additionally, the industry predicts a convergence of data and video technology to monitor the fleets from all angles. There was even discussion of driver-less technology. The key will be product integration and how well this new technology can work across all OEMS.
More productivity through trucking technology also means there is a lot money to be made as a result of more uptime. Lau’s firm predicts that some 35 million light, medium and heavy-duty trucks will feature some sort of telematics connectivity by 2020. Other experts like Brian McLaughlin, president of PeopleNet, offered an intriguing thought that trucking technology leads to an onslaught of data. The industry needs to move from “big data” to “business intelligence.”
As we know from our Idle Smart customers, there is no shortage of data. Our customers need to be able to act on the data in the moment they need it. Data is a constant feed and can often be overwhelming, especially with large fleets – in other words, data for data’s sake. It doesn’t do any good to have data unless you can do something with it to further productivity. Data is often used for coaching drivers, but in system and maintenance issues, data is only useful is you can make necessary changes as a result of the data outputs. For example, fleet managers may just need to change a couple of truck technology settings for geography, types of loads and even driver preference. Having that ability saves valuable time and money. Data also needs to be simple, easy-to-use and understand, all the while being actionable. Having the systems and platforms that allow you to make instant parameter changes will be the winners at the top of the trucking technology category.
Nickel and Dimed to Death
But the latest trucking technology innovations often come with fleets being nickel and dimed to death. Often there is a base price for products, and then there is the additional pricing for all the add-ons. Sometimes the overall price nearly doubles by the end of the transaction. It was clear at the conference that fleets managers want transparency when looking at the bottom-line of “how much does this cost all-in?” No surprises. Just “give it to me straight” mentality. It’s time to make it easy for the fleet managers to make a purchase decision and budget accordingly.
ATA also was an important show for Idle Smart. We announced our innovative new platform based on the Android operating system, complete with remote management capabilities and easy-to-understand desktop performance reporting and diagnostics. Idle Smart delivers a clear operational picture with the tools to make needed daily changes to immediately optimize fleets, saving valuable time an money. We’re thrilled to be talking with fleets sized from 10 to 10,000 about how this new solution gives fleets the ability to make changes any time from anywhere.
As we reflect on the lessons learned from the ATA conference, we think the future for trucking technology is very bright. With new technology, the industry is gaining high respect and is more exciting than ever.
Jeff Lynch, President, Idle Smart