In a decade, trucking will be a completely different industry

Trucking logistics costs will fall by 47 percent by 2030, largely through reduction of labor, delivery lead times will fall by 40 percent.
3 October 2018

Logistics is headed for a very autonomous future. Source: Shutterstock

Even though nobody is really saying it out loud, we all know that the logistics industry is headed for a very autonomous future — and trucking logistics is going to get there first.

We already have the technology, it’s all about perfecting it right now, and building highways, regulations, and business and operating models to support the paradigm shift that the industry is headed towards.

According to a recent study by PwC, trucking logistics costs will fall by 47 percent by 2030, largely through reduction of labor, delivery lead times will fall by 40 percent, and trucks will be in use on the road for 78 percent of the time, rather than the current industry average in Europe of 29 percent.

Further, the consulting giant’s analysts believe that significant stakeholders in the current system, such as long-distance truck drivers and freight-forwarding companies, will disappear.

That’s a massive shift from existing practices where sales/bookings largely driven by freight-forwarding companies leveraging long-standing relationships with importers, exporters, manufacturers, and traders.

Automation will transform supply chains

In the coming decade, the process of matching the goods to be delivered and the available trucks will be fully automated.

In a fully automated end-to-end supply chain, a product on a digitized assembly line will be built with the digital capability to send a signal and book transport for its delivery when it is close to being completed.

The order will already be coded with the address of the customer it is being shipped to. The freight-matching system then will simply need to look for available capacity on trucks going in the direction of the product’s destination.

While still in the factory, the smart product would get back a list of available options and use an algorithm to pick the best one. Once delivered to the loading bay of the factory, the product can be picked up by a robot and loaded onto the right truck, which can drive itself to a distribution hub and navigate to the right delivery bay.

There, another robot can unload the product and take it to an electric vehicle that will carry it the short distance to the customer, to be delivered at an agreed on time and location.

This fully automated model would mean shorter waiting times for delivery, less inventory stored in warehouses, and fewer loading and other types of errors.

However, according to PwC, in order to stay competitive and leverage automation, original equipment manufacturers will need to expand their product portfolios to include new powertrains and focus production on autonomous long-haul trucks.

Analysts also imagine that large tech companies will become a bigger feature in the delivery market, with new technologies.

To be honest, the future of trucking seems like something out of an Isaac Asimov novel right now, but when it finally arrives, businesses (and life) will be much better. Cost efficiencies alone, which when passed on to customers, could make the whole transition worthwhile — but efficiencies could also mean reduced emissions — which is something the industry has been chasing for a long time.