The Future of the American Trucking Industry

September 30, 2017

The United States trucking industry moves in excess of 10 billion tons of cargo every year. When the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) issued its ‘2016 Pocket Guide to Large Truck & Bus Statistics’, a number of interesting statistics were revealed that could be utilized to help reduce accidents involving trucks as well as attempt to streamline the current infrastructure surrounding the US trucking industry. By 2014 there were close to 11 million large trucks registered and in operation in the USA, stressing the significance of the trucking industry as a source of employment in the country.

Countless reports have been doing the rounds since as early as 2014 stating that the future of trucking is autonomous. A United States Senate committee is currently deciding whether the legislation pertaining to the future of self-driving cars should also make provision for self-driving trucks, taking into consideration the impact such a technological advancement will have on millions of workers. While the fate of the trucking industry as we know it lies in the hands of the decision makers of the country, technological advancements in the field keep making headway in terms of the efficiency and reliability of trucking services.

Where is trucking technology headed and how will truckers be affected by it?

Trucking Technology

Lars Stenqvist, appointed executive Vice-President of Volvo Group Trucks Technology, held a roundtable discussion regarding technology and trucking with industry editors at the Swedish Embassy in Washington DC on 18 September 2017. Stenqvist stated that three types of technologies possess the most potential to change trucking including data connectivity, electric power, and the very controversial autonomous driving. It was pointed out that although all three branches of technology were being researched and developed independently, their true significance will only become apparent when converged to the benefit of the overall trucking industry and consumer market.

Stenqvist went on to say that although he does not know what the future of trucking will look like he does have a clear view of where it is headed. He explained that the one thing that can truly drive trucking into the future is the work that will allow for both ‘smart trucks’ and ‘smart infrastructure’ to work hand in hand. He furthermore expressed concern that such developmental and groundbreaking work can be hindered by transport operators, government representatives and industry suppliers who cannot come to an agreement on what should be developed first: the smart highway or the smart truck?

How will data connectivity boost the trucking industry?

Turning his attention to the value of data connectivity along the supply chain Stenqvist said that he expects seamless integration will lead to the real-time connection of cargo-related data which will go a long way towards boosting productivity and efficiency. Connectivity is absolutely everywhere with electric vehicles making great strides in a forward direction – the actual game changer will be the development of fully-autonomous driving technology.

An application built by truckers for truckers

One technological development that has the ability to change trucking as we know it is the HWY Pro mobile application developed by Bill Busbice Jr, Paul Svindland, and Harry Hover.

The purpose of the HWY Pro app is to streamline product transportation for truckers, similar to what Uber is doing with computers. The app can increase the effectiveness of the way in which truckers can access products and deliver cargo to its destination. The application’s intention is to eradicate time wastage related to conventional industry methods and to improve the overall well-being of truckers. The HWY Pro was launched during August 2017 and has been expediting proficient methods for truckers ever since.

The application makes use of various digital operations such as ‘load insight’ to accelerate actual product loading and dispatching. Truckers can utilize the app to tackle thousands of cargo loads at the same time and plan the dispatches almost instantaneously while eliminating tedious paperwork such as invoicing, allowing them less time sorting out logistics and more time with their families. By making use of the HWY Pro, a trucker can plan his entire trip long before starting the engine. 

Are full-electric drive systems the way of the future? 

In an attempt to best describe the inclusion of hybrid and complete electrical drive systems for trucks Stenqvist cited the term ‘electromobility’ which is commonly used around the globe.

He quickly stressed that the upsurge in electric power would not mean the end of the internal combustion engine especially because technology such as automated transmissions and truck aerodynamics are helping to increase IC engine efficiency.

The development of buses, trucks and other commercial vehicles using electric power will also go a long way towards restructuring urban design. Due to the fact that electric vehicles do not produce any exhaust secretions and the noise level is barely audible, the design of structures such as indoor bus stops, etc. will not only be made possible but easily achievable as well.

Regardless of the rate at which technological advances within the trucking industry, self-driving trucks will not arrive at a uniform transport solution. Automation will occur in various stages with many of the technologies such as automated emergency braking already available. Regardless of what fearmongers are trying to achieve, the aim of trucking technology is not to replace truckers but rather to assist them in being able to operate a truck more safely and efficiently.

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