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The digital transformation of the commercial transportation industry is setting the stage for further innovation that promises to unlock new levels of freight efficiency, technology executives said.
“If we look at trucking and logistics today, I fundamentally believe that we are at a crossroads,” Lior Ron, CEO of Uber Freight, said at an Oct. 23 educational session during American Trucking Associations’ online 2020 Management Conference & Exhibition.
Ron made the case that the ongoing digitization of global logistics and the freight economy is “equivalent in terms of potential” to the most important innovations that have redefined transportation throughout history — from the first roads constructed thousands of years ago to the invention of the steam engine and the rise of standardized shipping containers.
While each of those breakthroughs greatly improved the flow of goods, today’s technology developers are focused on addressing the pain points and inefficiencies that continue to afflict the industry, such as empty miles, underutilized assets and drivers losing hours of productivity while waiting at logistics facilities.
Uber Freight, for one, has set out to reduce waste in the trucking industry by automating manual processes and more efficiently matching trucks and loads in its freight network, which has expanded to more than 60,000 carriers, Ron said.
Lior Ron (left) and Cameron Ramsdell by Transport Topics
“Our network is just one example of what digital innovation can enable,” he said.
Asset-based companies also have been harnessing technology to reinvent trucking.
Variant, a “digitally orchestrated” fleet and subsidiary of truckload carrier U.S. Xpress, relies on its fleet optimization software to more efficiently plan loads, dispatch trucks and manage its operations.
“To us, trucking, philosophically, is really just a series of exceptionally complex math problems mixed with a profound human element and … a series of very intricate relationships,” said Cameron Ramsdell, president of Variant.
The Atlanta-based fleet has grown to 550 trucks since beginning operations in June 2019.
Scott Ausland by Transport Topics
Recent advances in technology have created new opportunities for fleets to better connect their assets and streamline their businesses, said Scott Auslund, CEO of Gulf Relay, a trucking and logistics company operating out of Clinton, Miss., and Coppell, Texas.
“You don’t have to build the iPhone anymore. It’s been built for you. Now you can build applications on top of it in a much more surgical way,” he said. “To me, that’s transformational.”
Right now, the biggest barrier to implementing technology is the lack of clean data that has been stored in the cloud to leverage.
As technology continues to remove inefficiencies in logistics, the trucking industry will be primed for further consolidation, said Jack Kennedy, CEO of fleet telematics provider Platform Science.
But he disputed the notion that only the big will get bigger.
“Not true,” he said. “The innovators will get bigger.”
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