AI and automation in the trucking industry have come a long way in a very short period of time. While full hands-free automation is still somewhere on the horizon, technology is already improving efficiencies and creating better working conditions for drivers on the road.
In recent years, machine learning and digitization of logistics have streamlined the methods used to pick, pack, and deliver goods. Now, that same technology is transforming the way we move cargo from the port to distribution hubs around the nation.
There’s a lot of buzz surrounding AI and automation in the freight forwarding and logistics space. Projections suggest that AI in the shipping industry will grow from 12 to 60 percent over the next 5 years, even at a time where driver shortages are impeding growth despite increasing demand. And, in an industry that has historically been slow to make big changes, COVID-19 safety measures helped to expedite digitization in many processes and systems.
With all this movement already underway, here’s what we have to look forward to in the years to come.
How AI is already improving fleet management?
Big data processing has been instrumental in finding new approaches to building more efficient route setting and reducing fleet fuel consumption.
Many of the insights provided by this advanced software have bolstered and refined the on-the-ground knowledge of long-haul truckers, creating more streamlined and driver-friendly transport.
Here are some of the ways that technology has improved trucking:
Internet of things IoT
Handheld devices have already revolutionized the way cargo is tracked on the road, in part due to rapid shifts in consumer demand.
IoT technology helps to connect moving cargo in the supply chain, and allows companies to track and trace freight in real-time. This data has been used to improve efficiency while enabling advanced transparency for both clients and customers alike.
GPS telematics monitor assets in transport using advanced sensors. When combined with onboard diagnostics, this technology has been used to plot movement on maps and plan for externalities that could delay shipments.
Real-time data allows for improved route setting to produce drive paths and pickups with the least amount of idle time and disruptions possible. By collecting information on hundreds or thousands of trucks over the course of several months, logistics firms can plan for traffic, anticipate adverse weather events, and produce route analytics to find the best way to get from point A to point B.
Big data analytics can also reduce profit loss in cost-center metrics such as:
- Fuel consumption — Processing data on fuel consumption can help to pinpoint inefficiencies and minimize waste. It can also be used to ensure that fuel use is compliant and within best practices.
- Idle time — Time spent waiting around at loading docks and weigh stations is time (and profit) wasted. Telemetrics can be used to minimize idle time, which has the long-term benefit of reducing fuel consumption and even improving engine life.
- Maintenance — Advanced analytics can help plan for regular maintenance and anticipate repairs before they turn into costly breakdowns on the open road.
The future of trucking technology
Here are some of the ways that advanced AI are expected to improve shipping logistics for consumers and truckers alike:
A hot topic in the shipping world, automation generally translates to hands-free driving technology. Some anticipate fully unmanned big rigs in the near future, but this is still a controversial, potentially litigious, and largely untested idea. We’ve previously covered the rise of self-driving electric trucks and some challenges engineers face on the road, but we’re already seeing some automation in warehousing that is promising for wider adoption.
In the near future, automated trucks will be able to handle the kind of long, straightaway stretches on transcontinental routes that truckers find particularly difficult, exhausting, and dangerous.
Advanced AI can take running a convoy to the next level. Automated platooning allows several trucks to move in concert, drafting and braking in close proximity without relying on human intervention. The result of automated coordination in truck convoys is improved traffic, lane usage, safety, and fuel efficiency.
Every truck stop or layover can potentially lead to the theft of high value cargo. Hauling dangerous or expensive materials using autonomous vehicles means fewer stops are needed.
The benefits of AI for the industry and workforce
AI is highly controversial among truckers who see it as a potential threat to their livelihood. At the same time, long-haul trucking is one of the most dangerous jobs in the country — more deadly than policing, farming, construction, or even commercial fishing. Truckers are also in high demand at a time when there’s an acute shortage in the long-haul sector, which translates into longer hours for the drivers who are available.
Automation on the road can help improve quality-of-life metrics for transportation professionals by cutting down on the time they spend stuck in traffic or waiting for loads at the warehouse. It also makes routes more efficient, so truckers can be routed in a way that keeps them closer to home. Most of all, hands-free driving technology takes the most unappealing part of the job out of the equation, making the job safer and less stressful for drivers.
Technology is set to transform the trucking industry in ways that benefit both drivers and consumers. Advances in AI and machine learning will make shipping more cost-effective and more time-efficient for the people who do the tough work of moving goods.
Looking for a way to move cargo faster while minimizing your investment in infrastructure and design? Partnering with a leading 3PL with freight forwarding experience gives you access to top-of-the-line technology without all the buildout. Better yet, a partner at the port like Globecon can scale up or down to meet shifting demand in a changing world.
Looking for a technology expert at the port of Los Angeles and Long Beach? Talk to the tech team at GlobeCon.