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Fleetowner 28945 022118 Future Trucking Trends

The three big trends impacting trucking

Feb. 22, 2018
ELDs, it goes without saying, are at the top of the list, but e-commerce and Big Data are disrupting the freight markets, too.

Ken Wood, executive vice president of product management at Descartes Systems, will tell you that if there is any one single trend dominating the trucking landscape right now, it’s the mandated use of electronic logging devices (ELDs) and the impending enforcement of that new rule on April 1.

“Let’s face it: a lot of drivers not too happy about this. It’s spicy out there and we’re dealing with it as best we can as an industry,” he explained in an interview with Fleet Owner.

He added that smaller fleets and owner-operators are causing a bit of a “shopper’s rush” right now as they try to get ELDs up and running ahead of the April 1 enforcement deadline. On top of that, fleets that took advantage of the “grandfather clause” for automatic onboard recording devices (AOBRDs) are finding that they must maintain two different technologies, as any new trucks purchased after the Dec. 18 compliance deadline last year must be equipped with ELDs.

“There are tough decisions still to make,” Wood said. “Those with legacy devices are in no hurry to convert – they have until December of 2019 to switch to ELDs – but their new [truck] equipment needs to be equipped with ELDs; that means new software, new procedures, and new training for their drivers. So this ‘grandfather’ thing may not be as great as thought. They have to maintain two different [electronic logging] processes and procedures to maintain for the next two years.”

But that’s not the only data-driven challenge trucking faces right now, he emphasized.

E-commerce is a really big deal. It’s creating more demand for route optimization and dispatching; that’s putting a lot of pressure on getting an accurate view of capacity and the ability not just to make deliveries but hit a specific delivery time window. You are engaging the customer in delivery planning now and that is impacting the efficiency of routes, putting more pressure to deliver shipment visibility, notification to customers, and tracking capability,” Wood said.

Expectations on the part of consumers are “cranking up” as well, he warned, as the use of Uber is “conditioning their expectations” about real-time tracking. “And now Uber is getting into the middle of the freight relationship with similar tools. It is putting even more pressure on the freight network for more technology and integration,” Wood explained. “You are in bad spot when can’t track a shipment. ‘And don’t tell me you can’t do it,’ the customer will say. ‘I am reading about three start-ups a week doing this; my nephew is doing Amazon deliveries.’”

Then there is Big Data, which Wood believes is “a loaded phrase that, when used out of context, is meaningless.” At its heart Big Data is understanding what tools are required to collect and analyze the amount of data being produced. “We’ve got ELDs, billions of status updates, IoT [Internet of Things] devices," Woods noted. "What do we need to achieve our goals? Under that umbrella, then, it’s all about efficiency and visibility.”

And for truckers it all comes down to being as efficient as possible with the capacity at hand.

“It’s about getting more work done and at a lower cost. Now that we have ELDs in trucks, they’ll play a big part in helping create that Big Data picture. They’ll produce lots of high quality data – actual available driver hours, vehicle location, what kind of equipment is the driver operating, etc.,” he explained.

“We can now do interesting things with that information. There are statistics out there about deadhead miles and missed load opportunities,” Wood added. “We’ve attempted to improve backhauling for a long time. And now with ELDs going in, we’ll be getting almost the perfect information to use – optimization tools figuring out where have capacity and where have demand. And where we are going with ‘Big Data’ is more collaboration across freight brokers, motor carriers, others – pinpointing available capacity to meet freight demand.”

Of course, not everyone is happy with the thought of Big Data revealing so much about the trucking business, he noted. “Data privacy is a simmering concern for drivers, especially owner-operators. Comes down to trust in partners and a lot here has to get worked out,” he stressed. “Ultimately where it slows down progress remains to be seen. As soon as an ELD is installed, a customer is going to ask for that shipment data. So the right kinds of controls will be needed; policies securing and protecting data. But that is shoe yet to drop. We have no national policy yet about that. It is all unfolding right now before our eyes.”

About the Author

Sean Kilcarr | Editor in Chief

Sean previously reported and commented on trends affecting the many different strata of the trucking industry. Also be sure to visit Sean's blog Trucks at Work where he offers analysis on a variety of different topics inside the trucking industry.

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