Jay Coughlin, chairman and CEO of XRS, spoke at the company’s recent user group meeting (called “XUE”) on the subject of mobility in trucking.

Mobile revolution hits trucking

Aug. 29, 2013
XRS whitepaper peers deeply into mobile technology's convergence zone

XRS Corporation has released a whitepaper titled “Convergence: Mobility in trucking is now anywhere, anything, anytime, anyone.”

The 20-page paper offers a detailed and thoughtful look at various technology trends in the trucking industry, which the company describes as “a revolution” that will have a far‐reaching impact on safety, efficiency and competition going forward.  

“An evolution of technology trends is converging on the critically important American trucking industry,” Jay Coughlan, XRS chairman & CEO, observes in the paper.

Four broad trends, including mobile technology, social interaction, cloud computing, and information (big data) represent this convergence zone.

According to Coughlan, understanding and embracing these trends can help decision‐makers address major burdens impacting everyday trucking operations, including regulatory compliance, safety and efficiency and driver recruitment/retention.

For example, the paper notes that tapping into a broad range of mobile business applications, such as weigh station bypass, proof-of-delivery, routing, automated hours-of-service logging, vehicle inspection solutions, and dispatch applications can facilitate regulatory compliance, strengthen a fleet’s competitive advantage and empower its employees, no matter where they are.

During his remarks at the recent XRS user conference, dubbed “XUE,” Coughlan added that, “Technology comes from home, not from work anymore. This represents a paradigm shift…In a truck or in any industry people are used to anytime, anywhere communications. They just won’t stand for less anymore.”

Social media can enhance drivers’ personal and professional lives by providing the opportunity to share business and personal information with other drivers about everything from best driving practices, to where to park and what to eat, the whitepaper reports. It can also make it easier to keep in touch with friends and loved ones back home, helping to make the job of driving less lonely and more satisfying.

CB [Citizen Band] radios were a social network, perhaps the first mobile social network, Coughlan noted in his speech. “Today, XRS has the largest social site for truckers.”

According to the whitepaper, a major function of the cloud in this convergence is to provide the ability for companies and individuals to connect and collaborate with other employees, partners and customers on a secure, expandable platform, which offers greater transparency across the entire supply chain. “You have to be on the cloud or your business won’t last,” Coughlan said during his presentation at XUE.

Finally, the ability to capture, analyze and report on vast amounts of information from vehicles, drivers and elsewhere, benefits fleets by enabling more metric‐driven business decisions that, in turn, can help to drive operational efficiencies.

In his presentation, Coughlin noted that “Massive amounts of data are available from every truck [six ‘terabytes’ per year per truck to be precise]… There is more data available in the last four years than in all other years combined,” he said. This includes operational data, so-called “dark data,” communications data, social data and public data.

The XRS whitepaper also features original research from Gartner published in 2012--- “The Nexus of Forces: Social, mobile, cloud and information,” by Chris Howard, Daryl C. Plummer et al.--- which Coughlan references throughout the whitepaper and in a special section of the report called “From the Gartner files.”  

In their research findings, Gartner notes that the convergence of social, mobile, cloud and information forces is the result of people’s behavior-- of the “consumerization [sic] and the ubiquity of connected smart devices.” And the result of this convergence is what the company describes as “an eco-system of humans and machines.”

“In the Nexus of Forces, information is the context for delivering enhanced social and mobile experiences. Mobile devices are a platform for effective social networking and new ways of work. Social links people to their work and each other in new and unexpected ways. Cloud enables delivery of information and functionality to users and systems,” Gartner summarizes. 

Given this scenario, their report offers observations and predictions about the world to come:

  1. “Tools will continue to improve and access to information will grow wider and deeper.”
  2. “People will become even more sophisticated customers and co-creators of technology and content.”
  3. While technology will (inevitably) increase in complexity, for users things will “get simpler and more aligned with their intentions.”  This simplification process is a task that falls to the technology providers.
  4. Some traditional business models will fall by the wayside as a result of this transformation in tools and expectations.
  5. Increasingly, people are “relying on their friends or trusted others to recommend where they should spend their attention…Professional analysts could lose some of their influence because social techniques make it easier for people to reach their peers for advice.”
  6. “Mobile computing is forcing the biggest change to the way people live since the automobile. And like the automotive revolution, there are many secondary impacts…It threatens the status quo.”
  7. Devices will come and go faster all the time.”
  8. Because of “the consumerization and democratization of IT, more control has shifted to the user, and the role of IT is to adapt and absorb, not just prescribe.”
  9. The combination of the four key factors of “the Nexus of Forces” creates a decrease in the gap between idea and action---for good or ill. 

For XRS, this whitepaper is more than a treatise on technology, it is an outline of the core observations and beliefs that underpin their recently refocused business.

According to XRS, it was “among the first companies to recognize how four prominent technology trends – mobile connectivity, cloud computing, social media and big data – had the power to transform and improve the trucking  industry….The result was a completely refocused business, product and market strategy designed to serve a growing appetite among customers and drivers for mobile enterprise applications that deliver significant competitive advantages.”

“Trucking companies have long been pioneers in using technology to improve business performance, and they have embraced the power and simplicity of mobile communications with similar speed and enthusiasm,” Coughlan said.

“We believe that harnessing the potential of mobile connectivity – through the ‘Nexus of Forces’ identified by Gartner – will have far‐reaching implications for the trucking industry, and XRS is proud to lead the way by providing the right tools for future success," he added.

About the Author

Wendy Leavitt

Wendy Leavitt joined Fleet Owner in 1998 after serving as editor-in-chief of Trucking Technology magazine for four years.

She began her career in the trucking industry at Kenworth Truck Company in Kirkland, WA where she spent 16 years—the first five years as safety and compliance manager in the engineering department and more than a decade as the company’s manager of advertising and public relations. She has also worked as a book editor, guided authors through the self-publishing process and operated her own marketing and public relations business.

Wendy has a Masters Degree in English and Art History from Western Washington University, where, as a graduate student, she also taught writing.  

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