The future of technology in freight is a hot topic on blogs, at expos, and around freight terminals worldwide. The potential for electric vehicles, self-driving trucks, the advent of the blockchain and others has the industry fluttering with guesses and predictions. But we are already at a point of great evolution in freight technology. For what seems an archaic trade, many improvements are already here.
So the question becomes, has technology made the freight industry better or worse?
In 2018, for the first time drivers were mandated to adopt Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs). Work and travel logs – which were once maintained by hand on a piece of paper – are now standardized with electronic devices. As with most change, the ELD mandate has garnered criticism. Its detractors point to initial acquisition fees, as well as annual maintenance costs, as obstacles for smaller fleets and owner-operators. The added costs may impact profit.
Blockchain for Beginners
But much of these gripes seem a bit exaggerated. Even the capacity shortage many thought would bring the world of freight to a halt has largely been avoided. For drivers, fleets, and companies with a well-designed process, 2018 has been business-as-usual. The good has far outweighed the bad when it comes to the ELD mandate. Safety has improved, and privacy standards and faster roadside inspections have assuaged the fears of “big brother” watching drivers.
Similar to the buzz words of the winter – bitcoin, and cryptocurrency – the “blockchain” has risen to the top of search engines. What does it mean for the freight industry? Better visibility, accountability, and speedier transactions across vast distances. Utilizing the blockchain in supply chain management will help bridge the divide between air, land, and sea, to connect shippers to data about their goods. Easier tracking and permanent visibility and linking of items to code will cut down on lost product, pallets, and revenue. Early adopters of blockchain technology will see impressive results and will position themselves as leaders for a new way of doing business.
It’s All in the Data
Already we see the positive effects of better data through tracking, tracing and inventory control. Most elite warehouses will have systems and technologies in place to help shippers maintain inventory and keep track of their freight. For instance, a company in the auto parts industry can now know exactly how many items of a particular brand, make, size of a tire they have available for retail, from the comfort of their office screen.
Knowing when and how much to replenish stock, fulfill orders, and give accurate timetables for arrival are key in designing an efficient supply chain. A 3PL’s space becomes a virtual warehouse for the shipper – where he or she can pick and distribute their orders on demand. Powerful stuff for those who cut their teeth on fax machines!
Always Moving Forward
We live in a culture that requires on-demand access to all things. The way we watch (or don’t watch) TV, browse library shelves, replenish our paper towel stock have all been disrupted by new technologies. The transportation and logistics industry plays a huge role in how successful this new way of life will be. For old-school freight workers, giving shippers 24-7 access to create orders and request orders, might seem like a nightmare. But to grow and stay relevant, logistics companies must embrace the new, and outpace the demand of the consumer.