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Trucking will need to take a holistic approach: analysts

Posted: October 12, 2017

MISSISSAUUGA, ON – When adding new and emerging technologies to their businesses, fleet should look at their impact on the whole ecosystem of the trucking industry, analysts say.

Speaking to a crowd at the Surface Transportation Summit Wednesday, an industry panel emphasized that the future of trucking will not lie in just one or two new technologies.

Rick Geller of Marsh Risk Consulting said that technology often depends on other technology, and the successes of incorporating emerging technology depend on three factors: timing, cost for value, and the necessity of replacing the technology that came before it.

“Act too soon, and you end up exhausting resources, wait too long and you miss the evolution. It really is about timing,” he said, noting that when weighing the decision to adopt new technologies, companies should ask “what are the challenges in bringing the new technology to market, and how much room for improvement is there in the existing technology?”

Geller likened the amount of emerging technology in the industry to the early dotcom boom, calling it an exciting time, but warning that if companies adopted new technologies too soon, they may burn out before they are tested by the market. If they wait too long, however, he said they may end up like Blockbuster – missing the change entirely.

Panelists all agreed that automation is the wave of the future, with Paul Kudla, regional vice president for Volvo Trucks North America saying fully-automated truck technology isn’t coming – it’s already here.

He said the technology exists today to bring fully-automated – also known as Level 5 or driverless vehicles – to the road, but indicated that the market wouldn’t support driverless trucks.

“I grew up watching the Jetsons on TV as a kid, and we’re almost there,” Kudla said. “Now do I want 80,000 pounds coming up behind me with the driver in the sleeper? No.”

Kudla said the automation technology could not exist solely on its own, but must be adapted and operate within the trucking ecosystem as a whole, taking into account the concerns of legislators and the public.

The panel also talked about the coming mandate for electronic logging devices, and platooning, among other new technologies.

Geller said that even though it’s an exciting time with all of the new systems being introduced to the market, there were still some kinks to be worked out.

“It’s hard not to get excited,” he said. “There’s a whole host of things that have to be put into play, not the least of which is improved communications. When that truck has to make a decision I don’t really want to see that hourglass spinning.”


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