When we are looking at future trucking, we need to look at the way all business will be changing in the next twenty years. A number of basic building blocks in business look likely to look completely different than they do today.
Blockchain is one of the factors that looks set to transform business. It is an underlying architecture, responsible for crypto-currencies, like bitcoin. It works to eliminate middlemen, using a system of distributed ledgers that everyone can see. Values can be exchanged on those ledgers between parties, without need for corroboration. In fact, crowds corroborate the transaction. The internet is about the exchange of information, blockchain is similar, but is about the exchange of value.
“Blockchain has huge ramifications for anybody who sits clipping the ticket on a movement of some sort,” said Brendan Richards, talking at this year’s Trucking Australia conference. “The banking sector is already spending a fortune to develop a response. International transfers of currency will go, stock exchanges will become irrelevant, passports will be replaced with a digital identity.
“In logistics it will have a significant effect. There are so many documents in a single freight movement. In Europe, there are 30 participants and 200 bits of paper which float around with one container. This will all go – it will be on a centralised system. There will be little need for individual players to have a role. It may not impact road transport today, but it will start to impact down the track in some way. In many ways for the better.
“Network, sensing and connectivity will also change things. I am talking about complete connectivity between assets and the capacity of them to communicate and to sense what others are doing. They will be able to dynamically re-route things, work out the most efficient way to move something and push that information to the assets themselves and have the whole thing happen automatically.”
Replication, involves 3D- and 4D-printing technology, which is in its infancy and being used in areas like prototyping. It will become more viable over time. Businesses may not have to move a product from one place to another, apart from the raw material itself.
Drones have been flavour of the month for quite a while and look likely to become a reality in the near future. Autonomous trucks are also part of the mix as the enabling technology is now available and under test. Government legislation should follow to allow the extended use of the technology.
In Stockholm, the city has built an entire logistics facility to handle all of the goods in and out of the city. There are no satellite locations of all the different players competing with each other, everyone’s in a single facility, with the aim of eliminating waste and creating efficiency.
Amazon is also an elephant in the room; experts reckon it will disrupt logistics. Amazon is a logistics business, which happens to have a retail front. It already handles goods on behalf of people who don’t even use Amazon to sell or buy product, and on a massive scale.
“You will see by 2050 a completely different landscape for this sector. That doesn’t mean to say it’s all doom and gloom. More than anything, it’s about opportunity. The great advantage anyone in the sector has today is incumbency. Nobody knows it better; nobody is better positioned to think through how we tackle the change and morph into a future-ready business.
“By the same token, it’s yours to lose. The only thing which is going to keep everyone relevant into 2050 is through understanding what the opportunity might be, keeping an increasing level of education about it and thinking laterally. It’s not about doing the same thing on a different scale. If you scale up on a current business model, you probably are not thinking about it the right way.
“When it comes to fleet and property investments, think about it in terms of how the economy is changing, what future needs will be and your vulnerability to change. You might be creating a bigger problem for yourself in terms of agility. Investment may be better spent in IT, intellectual property and, particularly, the right people.”