Is the Australian road transport industry ready for the kind of disruption, which may be caused by the introduction of some new technologies and ways of doing business? This is a question the trucking industry needs to start asking itself before the new systems, which are disrupting freight business overseas, arrive on our shores.
Diesel News reported the first such incursion into the Australian market, when Go Go Van announced its intention to come to Australia. Local operations like FreightExchange are also putting their heads above the parapet. These are relatively insignificant developments now, but may be a precursor of what is to come.
Normally, wherever North America or Europe go, Australia will follow, after a delay. Currently, the North American freight market has a number of players getting into the digital, mobile freight space. Technologies and business models, similar to the Uber app which is currently disrupting life in the taxi industry, are already appearing on US truckies’ smart phones. They are making their point on YouTube:
Cargomatic, Transfix, DashHaul and Keychain Logistics are all offering variations on a theme. This theme includes internet connectivity, smart phones, transparent load rates and an alternative to freight brokers.
The principle is claimed to work from small packages and van loads right up to full truck loads, and everywhere in between. Admittedly, the new operations are still only taking baby steps. These ideas have only appeared in the last year or so. However, things like this will travel fast, if they make it cheaper for the customer and cut out a skimming middle man. We only need to look at the example of Uber, coming out of a clear blue sky to put big city taxi operations under strong economic pressure.
Another requisite for the fast development of these kinds of ideas is an industry with a lot of small operators and single vehicle operations. Sound familiar? Yes, the trend in Australia in the past few years has been for fewer, bigger fleets, but there are still plenty of owner operators and new load distributing smart phones may suit them well.
The beauty of these new systems is their simple design and easy-to-use interface. The payment procedures also take a lot of grief out of the transaction for both the consignor and operator, the cut taken by the system which matches carrier to load is apparent to all involved. Payment is from one to ten days after the delivery driver takes and sends a photo, from their smart phone, of the signed POD.
This potential change is likely to arrive at the same time as other quantum leaps are taking place in logistics. The boom in online shopping is changing the way goods get to the door of the end-consumer. Customers expect faster delivery of goods, tailor made to their requirements. Flexibility and smart thinking in the supply chain are going to be key to the success of future transport businesses.
The grain will still need to be carted from the paddock to the silo and the port, potato chips made in Melbourne will have to be freighted across the country and steel will still have to arrive at the construction site. These things will never change, but perhaps we need to be ready for change in the way we get this work and how it is allotted.
Australians are, traditionally, early adopters of new technology. Now is the time to think about how new transport businesses in a few years will work and prepare the groundwork, before we get washed away in a tsunami of smart phone apps.