Published on 2018-11-01

In a response to customer demand and expectation, the transport and logistics industry is undergoing a technological revolution.

Demand driving innovation

Simply put, people want their items and orders to be delivered faster than ever having become used to the express services provided by organizations such as Amazon, so the transport and logistics industry is striving to meet customer expectation.

From the individual ordering groceries online every couple of weeks to corporate clients writing big checks to transport companies for delivering their equipment and produce around the world, expectations are ever-increasing and tech is the way to meet them.

Electric power

While the move to electric powered cars is well documented, many may think the idea of huge lorries being electrically powered fanciful. In reality, electric power pioneers such as Tesla and other automotive big names such as VW and Daimler are developing big trucks that can realistically run on battery power.

Tesla, for example, announced its Semi Truck at the end of 2017; it has a range of up to 500 miles on a full charge and can be ‘fast charged’ in half an hour to produce a 370 mile range.

This electric behemoth can accelerate far quicker than a diesel truck; a good 20 seconds less from 0 to 62 mph. It means this, and trucks like it, will not only help protect the environment but also help goods to reach their destinations faster.

Tesla had the foresight to create a network of fast battery chargers to help the infrastructure keep pace with electric power take up, and other automotive makers such as Ford and BMW have joined in by revealing plans to create a fast charging network across Europe to support the rise of electric powered vehicles including trucks.

Internet of Things (IoT)

IoT is affecting many areas of life and business as articles on this resource show; it forms a network of appliances, vehicles and devices that can ‘talk’ to each other and share data. IoT will play a big role in the driverless car and have a huge bearing on transport and logistics.

For example, there’s definitely scope for driverless trucks. IoT tech is already in evidence in the way it can monitor a truck through a myriad of sensors located throughout the vehicle.

They can help monitor tyre pressures, load stability and other information from the load carrying perspective – such as temperature and humidity – so certain loads in transit can be re-routed or prioritized; for example to help perishable goods reach their destination faster.

Big Data

The power of Big Data means detailed information of an organization’s transport and logistics ‘status’ in the form of real-time analysis – such as where trucks are located at any given time – can help improve delivery and reporting to the end customer as to where their goods are and when they will be delivered.

Big Data in conjunction with AI (Artificial Intelligence) can help interpret the data and produce on the spot accurate forecasting for deliveries and build a ‘history’ to use as a reference to plan future logistics planning.

Truck ‘platoons’

A way of trucks traveling in formation. They’re grouped together on the roads so helping reduce traffic congestion, improve fuel economy and reduce emissions through steady progress and combating wind resistance.

Tech plays a role in how the trucks are formed up by using telematics – similar to the units fitted into some vehicles by insurance companies to assess factors such as use, speeds driven, times of day the vehicle is used and so on.

Robotics

When it comes to actually preparing goods orders ready for transportation, warehouse robotics is becoming widespread in many businesses.

Amazon already uses some 80,000 robots in its warehouses and says operational costs are 20% reduced as a result and Alibaba – the largest retailer in the world – has been able to reduce its human workforce in one warehouse location by 70% through the use of robots.

Not all good news

The US railroad industry, once industry leaders, is lagging behind other nations through not adopting technologies that would keep them at the forefront.

Battery technologies could potentially eclipse the huge difference diesel made when it took over from steam, but the US isn’t taking advantage of new tech with only 12% of its locomotives using the latest electric technology.

Clearly the US railroad industry needs to join the transport and logistics tech party. Innovations are available that can make a big difference – now it’s time to put them to use.

Jessica Foreman is a Durham University graduate specialising in business and lifestyle based writing. She has developed her skills on projects surrounding The British Broadcasting Company, and running a print and online based magazine whilst at university. She is currently looking towards starting her Masters in Mobile and Personal Communications as well as broadening her horizons through travelling.