Photo: Arctechnia

How mobile technology is making waves in trucking

July 26, 2017
In many ways it is still hard to fully grasp just how much change is occurring in the trucking business due to the ubiquity of mobile devices: smart phones, tablet computers, you name it. Indeed, the rapid proliferation of different mobile applications or “apps” in the trucking space is changing everything from how fuel is purchased and routes are navigated to invoicing for freight shipments.

In many ways it is still hard to fully grasp just how much change is occurring in the trucking business due to the ubiquity of mobile devices: smart phones, tablet computers, you name it.

Indeed, the rapid proliferation of different mobile applications or “apps” in the trucking space is changing everything from how fuel is purchased and routes are navigated to invoicing for freight shipments.

Recently, a report by global consulting firm Frost & Sullivan helped put that in perspective for me, for not only are mobile apps expected to be one of the “biggest disrupters” within the North American transportation industry – an industry worth $700 billion – the mobile app business alone in trucking is expected to be worth some $35.4 billion per year by 2025.

Yet only about 30 of the more than 100 currently available trucking apps in North America are expected to survive until 2020 as competition in this particular space is fierce, noted Chandramowli Kailasam, team leader for commercial vehicle research at Frost & Sullivan, in that report.

"Fleet optimization apps will drastically bring down cost barriers to adopt services that were previously only accessible through traditional telematics players requiring hardware,” he explained.

“That will help small fleets and owner operators, which constitute 90% of the North American trucking carriers,” Kailasam emphasized. “Driver utility apps will make being on road easy for drivers with clear delivery instructions, documentation, receive payments, regulatory compliance, communication, point of interest (POI) services and most importantly to find loads with a press of a button to eliminate empty return miles.”

He pointed out that on-demand freight mobility apps will also allow for higher asset utilization among smaller fleets, helping reduce logistics costs for shippers due to lower brokerage fees, easing the truck capacity crunch, and reducing empty return or “backhaul” miles that currently total some 20 billion annually in North America.

Yet despite incredibly rapid growth of mobile technology use around the world, most businesses are still struggling to manage the “chaos” being created by them.

That's according to a seven-nation study of 1,300 CEOs as well as remote workers carried out by Arlington Research on behalf of Internet of Things (IoT) management firm SOTI.

One of the key concerns SOTI highlighted as a result of its poll is that many CEOs across a wide range of industries simply don't understand how vital mobility has become in the basic “arsenal” of business tools – especially the freight business, where 70% of CEOs within transportation and logistics companies “fail to grasp” the importance of rugged handheld devices in the field, despite the pivotal role they play in service delivery.

"As the future becomes increasingly mobile, devices and tools are being embedded with software, sensors and connectivity at a rapid pace,” noted Carl Rodrigues, CEO and founder of SOTI, in the report.

"[But our] research highlights a lack of integrated mobility tools. Many organizations are using mobility for the basics, but do not know how to implement the next level of mobile integration to transform their workforce."

He added that this is leaving businesses with a “piecemeal approach” to their mobile operations - a disconnected set of point solutions required to perform business critical operations.

Photo: Apple

“However, at this juncture, it's very much a sink or swim time for businesses,” Rodrigues pointed out. “Ignoring the endless possibilities innovation brings could prove disastrous for organizations who fail to jump on board. Leaders must act now to stay ahead of the pace of change, or risk finding their business adrift while the competition rides the wave of the mobility tsunami."

Yet surfing the “mobility tsunami” successfully is just about as hard as it sounds.

Take a recent global survey of more than 1,000 line-of-business executives conducted by Wakefield Research on behalf of cloud-based enterprise firm Kony Inc.: it found that while businesses are realizing the importance of mobile apps, they are discovering deploying and managing apps in their business is not as easy as they had thought, with challenges growing around user experience, cost, and ongoing maintenance.

In addition, Kony’s poll also found trust in information technology (IT) is “dismal” among such executives, with fewer than one in five of respondents saying they would work with their in-house IT department.

Here are some other key findings from this survey:

  • Apps Reign Supreme: Overall, the report revealed that the business value of mobile technology is clear with nearly all respondents (98%) noting their company would benefit from specific types of mobile apps.
  • Unsatisfactory Experience: However, business leaders that have invested in mobile app development in house or externally identify serious problems with the user experience.
  • Among business leaders who have invested in mobile app development internally over the past 12 months, the majority (65%) reported they’re not completely satisfied with their IT department’s management of the overall user experience of apps, while 92% of those who sought out external app development help didn’t feel their outsourced apps met expectations.
  • Lack of Confidence in Internal IT: Only 19% (one in five) of the business leaders polled feel that working with their in-house IT department is the best solution to develop their apps. Notably, 97% of business leaders who don’t manage app development internally identify many reasons their companies aren’t capable of bringing development in-house.
  • The most common challenges highlighted to internal app development are: lack of skilled staff (42%), limited IT budget (40%), and security (37%). And despite the importance of apps for business success, 27% of respondents felt their IT department “de-prioritized” mobile app strategy.
  • External app development challenges: While 73% of respondents manage mobile app development externally, a majority of them (96%) said they faced problems as well. Those included: higher-than-expected costs to develop the app (43%), higher-than-expected costs to maintain the app (41%), and lack of customizable options (36%).
  • Also, business executives that have outsourced mobile app development found in the end their apps were not compatible with Apple iOS (15%), Windows OS (26%), and Blackberry OS (56%).

No doubt many trucking companies deploying and using mobile apps are encountering some of those issues as well. Just goes to show that technology isn’t always the cure-all we expect it to be.

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