The trucking industry changes very quickly, as technology marches on, higher and higher. Ask anyone working in trucking about the biggest changes in their career and they would all be technology related.
The last twenty years have seen engine technology go from mechanical fuel pumps and injectors from way back when, to precise, computer-controlled fuel injection from a high-pressure common rail – not one injection but a burst of them. As a result the engines are not only burning fuel more efficiently, they are also producing cleaner exhaust emissions. In fact, the common adage is the air is cleaner when it comes out than it was when it went in.
The badge of honour for most truckies was their ability to be able to handle a constant mesh gearbox in any circumstance. The ability to handle an eighteen-speed Roadranger was a vital part of a truckie’s armoury. Now the automated manual transmission (AMT) is becoming more and more ubiquitous, while at the same time becoming smarter and smarter.
Telematics and tracking have come from domes on the cabin roof plus a black box the size of a VCR (where are they now?) with an LED readout, to apps built into the trucks’ entertainment systems. Tracking, ring-fencing, monitoring and coaching can all take place as the driver heads down the highway. It’s not unusual for a truck to have a selection of sim cards on board communicating various bits of data.
Many heavy-duty trucks can now be specced up with adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping warning, reversing cameras and fatigue-sensing devices. These are the initial stepping stones on the journey to platooning and autonomous trucks. Other technologies are available but not currently allowed on our roads.
We have barely scratched the surface of the tsunami of technology that is about to hit us. The pace of change looks set to accelerate even faster than we expected. If you don’t keep up you are in danger of being swept away. We only have to look at the massive impact the introduction of Uber has had on the taxi industry.
Taxi owners were sitting there making plenty of money, resisting change and not particularly bothered about service levels. Now they have woken up to a new dawn and they are fighting to survive, just because of one app on a smartphone.
Everything is up for grabs in the brave new world. Nothing is sacred, every technology can be superseded. No one is going to be able to rest on their laurels, entitlement will be a thing of the past.
Diesel power is under threat from electric power; it will only take one breakthrough in battery technology to completely change the picture. The whole Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) technology is just about to arrive and looks set to transform transport and traffic completely.
There’s a lot of talk about the pros and cons of autonomous vehicles, but they will come and they will come faster than we think. Once ITS is commonplace and trucks are being told by the street lamps where they are, and the cars around them communicate their status continuously and directly, then autonomous driving is only one small step away.
In terms of running a business, blockchain is being seen as one of those cut-through technologies, already threatening the importance of the banking sector and share markets. The logistics supply chain is also expected to be transformed by blockchain, as deals and transactions happen automatically in cyberspace without any human input.
Are we ready for this? No, of course not. Is it going to happen? Certainly. Do we need to start thinking about this? Absolutely, we need to be getting ready for the next big thing now, whatever it is.