The semi-truck is the thankless warrior that keeps the engine of the economy running.
Under the hood, however, a quiet technological revolution is underway that is dramatically transforming the trucking industry—and by extension every industry that relies on it to move their goods from point A to point B.
At Software Advice, we’re always keeping an eye on the latest industry trends. Roger that—here are the six big ideas that are redefining trucking and fleet management technology:
1. Who’s Driving This Car, A Robot?
Autonomous vehicles are no longer science fiction. They’re here, and they work. Many of us are wondering when fully autonomous vehicles will hit the consumer market, but there’s a good chance they’ll achieve widespread adoption in the business world first.
And for good reason: The trucking industry isn’t doing so hot. There’s an ongoing shortage of drivers. Drivers are at odds with their employers over proposed regulations that would mandate stricter drug testing.
And, volatility in Congress has led to a back-and-forth of regulation and deregulation concerning driver hours in recent years.
But unlike their human counterparts, autonomous vehicles aren’t subject to the whims of an uncertain labor market. They also don’t get tired, and they don’t take drugs.
The economic incentive for large businesses to forego human drivers for autonomous vehicles is huge, and auto manufacturers such as Mercedes-Benz have already unveiled their prototypes:
A survey we ran in 2014 found that two-thirds of respondents would feel unsafe sharing the road with autonomous trucks. However, once the public is more exposed to this technology, it will likely see greater acceptance.
2. Every Stop You Make, Every Time You Brake, I’ll Be Watching You
If 1984 reads more like an instruction manual than a work of fiction to you, then you’re in luck:
There are more ways than ever to keep tabs on your truck drivers to ensure they’re driving safely and on-schedule.
In all seriousness though, making sure drivers are being safe on the road is critical for any commercial trucking operation—and there are many affordable ways to achieve that.
Track Your Truck is a fleet management platform that offers GPS devices trucking companies install on their trucks.
The accompanying software goes beyond mere GPS tracking, notifying the fleet manager if a driver is braking too hard or too frequently, or if a driver is taking turns too sharply, for example. It can also track if the driver is speeding, which can reduce fuel costs.
3. SaaS Rules Everything Around Me
Long neglected by enterprise software vendors, small to midsize trucking and transportation firms have historically relied on clunky, outdated software at best, or spreadsheets and other manual methods at worst, to conduct back office processes.
Not anymore. The explosion of SaaS, or Software-as-a-Service (also referred to as cloud-based software) has had a dramatic impact on every industry, trucking included.
The ability to deploy software entirely online coupled with the growing popularity of subscription pricing models has been a boon for software vendors. They can better target and accommodate smaller businesses that don’t have a lot to invest in IT.
Competition between software vendors has driven prices down, meaning small to midsize trucking firms have more affordable software options than ever.
These software solutions can assist with common tasks such as:
- Fleet maintenance
- IFTA compliance
- Route planning
- Load optimization
(Want to learn more about all of the fleet management software solutions out there? Be sure to check out our Buyer’s Guide).
4. I’ve Got a Blank Space (In the Back of My Truck), Baby
One of the most recent—and maybe most overused—phrases to emerge from the tech world has got to be “Uber for ______.” There are practically a million on-demand services cloning Uber’s insanely disruptive business model in any industry you can think of. Trucking is no exception.
A number of “Uber for trucking” apps have popped up in the past couple of years:
Essentially, these apps help connect shippers with carriers who have available space in their trucks to haul additional loads, eliminating the need for middlemen freight brokers and reducing the number of “empty miles” a trucker drives.
5. I Like Big Screens and I Cannot Lie
In a video that went viral last year, Samsung unveiled its vision for a safer semi-truck. A giant screen installed on the back of the truck displays the view from the front of the truck, giving drivers a safer view of any hazards ahead.
Presumably, any semi-truck could be retrofitted with this technology, but for now, it appears to be in the conceptual stage. (As someone who drives down I-35 regularly, widespread adoption of this innovative technology can’t come soon enough.)
6. I’ve Got 99 Apps, But Google Maps Ain’t One
Forget Google Maps (or don’t, it’s still pretty useful). But, there are a number of powerful mobile apps designed with truckers in mind that go beyond simple maps functionality. These apps provide truckers with up-to-date gas prices, real-time road conditions and locations of nearby truck stops and weigh stations.
One such example is Trucker Path Pro, which is one of the most highly rated mobile apps for truckers.
Want to learn more? Check out our roundup of the best apps for truckers.