Uber-challenging role for start-ups in the fleet industry

Truckers are saying ’10-4’ to new technology as the younger generation of logistics professional takes the reins in a rapidly changing digital landscape.

The Connected Fleets USA 2015 conference reflected the rise of new players in the industry that spearhead the opening up of data-led innovations.

Clem Driscoll opened the conference proclaiming that the trucking sector is entering a period of exciting change with the impending ELD [electronic logging device] mandate, which cleared White House review on day of the conference, bringing in a wave of new players using innovative low cost models such as freemium.

Couple this with a positive M&A review of the industry and its clear to see that the connected fleet industry is on the up. Jonathan Hubbard, CEO of SpeedGauge, took to the stage to address just how you can increase the profitability for your business in the connected fleet space through collaborations and smart partnerships.

He said: “I’m really excited about the connected fleet space and the potential of a shared customer ecosystem.” Hubbard showcased examples of how sharing customers has led to innovation outside of the fleet industry arguing that lessons need to be learned from industry collaborations such as between airlines and credit cards and salesforce and what they have been able to do with their app exchange which has allowed for an extension of their platform. He argues that “with so much of innovation coming on because of connectivity, collaborations that come on the periphery of solutions will need technical investment and collaboration but also an ability to manage human relationships.”

High on the agenda was discussion around the possibility of a so called ‘Uberfication’ of fleet services which could be explored as a way of optimising carrying capacity and reducing costs just as the Uber service has worked in the consumer taxi environment.

Four of the new-generation trucking services companies, Cargomatic, Transfix, Truckpad and 10-4 debated this and president of the appropriately named 10-4 Systems, Travis Rhyan, led the discussion claiming‘Uberfication’ of the fleet industry could reduce unused trailer space to relieve the stretched supply chain.

He also said the model can be integrated into existing systems, such as tracking, to provide additional value top services and help exploit the fragmented local shipping market and to give a competitive edge in a crowded market.

Launched just two years ago, TruckPad has developed a marketplace that matches truck drivers and companies that need products delivered where drivers can find truckloads on their smart phone, thus increasing revenues.

CEO Carlos Mira spoke on the panel Uber for Fleets using an example where companies could enter data about their loads, and when and where they want them picked up and delivered, as well as the type of truck they want to hire. An app then locates drivers that will be close to the company at the required pick up time, have availability and the type of truck required.

“We have created a new model for the transportation industry. It puts the power of shipping products in the hands of companies and drivers,” said Mira. “We are building the Uber of trucking fleets and are eager to meet with investors who can help us expand.”

Navigation is another area where the new tech-savvy trucker is finding an extra edge in keeping their offering competitive and navigation specialist Magellan showcased its Return to Route (RTR) technology.  Designed specifically for commercial fleet services where it is important that a single stop is never missed, Magellan's RTR technology claims its customer drivers never miss a single stop. 

"There is a substantial segment within the fleet industry where it is essential that drivers make every stop, no matter the road conditions.  In the US alone there are over 470,000 school buses and 70,000 municipal buses in addition to sanitation collection trucks, snowploughs and other vehicles," said Stig Pedersen, associate vice-president of product.

“The connected fleets show confirmed for us the trend towards the deployment of smart devices and the specialisation of apps such as our return to route (RTR) navigation application.”

Data was a buzz word of the conference kicking off with ATG’s Chris Carver who argued that new generation of Millennials are needed to fully understand the power of data in the fleet industry. This was followed by a dissection of the Association of Equipment Management Professionals (AEMP) telematics standard and how it can be applied to the on road fleet industry and how data from the engine is going to be key to future freight efficiency.

Cole Edmundson for Kore Telematics said from long haul trucking to auto rental tracking applications, data can be used to power M2M applications and connect industry solutions through strong partnerships. 

“Trucks may be furloughed and so monthly network fees should be minimised, and cross border services need dependable roaming support at attractive rates.  We provide technical support and certification services which add value in every phase of product development from early design stage with a test and trial programme, all the way through certification testing to commercial deployment.”

While there was a lot of positive talk around data, the question of cyber security of the connected fleet still loomed. This was tackled in a panel led by MiT featuring experts from various levels of the value chain from tier 1 to telematics service provider.

Edmundson warned: “Over 70% of connected devices are able to be exploited and are vulnerable to hacking. What gets siloed is ultimately the question and what systems can intermingle and talk to each other, ultimately it’s not safe to have everything on a flat system… it comes down to what can talk to what.”

Naturally, connectivity brings the industry in to the wider IoT field where linking the data from right along the logistics chain can be seen as a way forward to boost efficiencies and revenues.

Dave McCarthy director of products Bsquare Corporation said: “In the world of fleet management, uptime is a key business success metric. Unscheduled downtime disrupts the supply chain, resulting in lost revenue and other negative business impacts. To make matters worse, truck repair times are often measured in weeks owing to the time it takes to diagnose a problem and obtain the needed parts. Not only does this affect the fleet owner but truck manufacturers must manage growing warranty costs owing to these inefficiencies.

“This is a market where smart management through an IoT strategy holds great promise for maximising uptime and keeping trucks in service. A combination of remote diagnostics, an optimised repair process and advanced data analytics can virtually eliminate unscheduled downtime by proactively monitoring sensors on the truck, automating the diagnostic process, and identifying service facilities best equipped to solve the problem quickly.”

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