How Artificial Intelligence Will Move Trucking


Companies in trucking have kept their eyes on developments by major players in ridesharing as they took steps towards entering the industry, particularly by leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning logistics. Though these moves might not have panned out, the potential consequences raised deeper questions about how AI in transportation would move the trucking industry in years to come.

The predicted shifts in the fleet industry that will be made possible by AI within the next ten years are leaving many owners with more questions than answers, new obstacles to overcome and with more worries about the viability of their businesses. But not everyone agrees that change is so rapidly approaching on the horizon. U.S. Secretary of Commerce Steve Mnuchin said in a recent interview with Axios that the effect of AI on the fleet industry, in terms of jobs and overall operations, won’t be heavily felt until the next 50 to 100 years.1

No matter how far into the future people speculate that a paradigm shift in the way we move freight might be, it’s plain to see that AI, even in the past few years, has had a massive impact on the way fleets operate and are monitored by owners.

Although autonomous vehicles are the hot topic of conversation and many companies in trucking are internally counting down the amount of time until their drivers are made obsolete, this change is far from a near-future scenario. In the meantime, how is artificial intelligence already impacting transportation today? Machine learning is already making its mark on the trucking industry We’re taking a closer look at investigate how artificial intelligence is already impacting trucking today and how owners and operators can prepare their fleets for the future.

Small changes with big impact

Owners aren’t the only ones worried about the prospect of large technology companies entering the commercial trucking industry and crippling their chances at being competitive. Drivers fear that self-driving trucks might be a close reality versus a problem future generations would have to handle. Major changes in the transportation industry due to AI are already happening and in regular practice, although they might be more subtle than self-driving vehicles.

The truth is that driverless vehicles aren’t the only use for AI in transportation. For instance, it wasn’t long ago that owners only had vague insight to interpret critical events reported from telematics monitoring systems. Today, video safety surveillance gives the context necessary to reach a well-evaluated understanding of a driver’s actions – an understanding that might not be possible if relying simply on data from an alert triggered in a complex situation. Transportation machine learning currently helps businesses improve driver behavior and mitigate liability and risk to their business by providing them visual context of harsh driving events occurring with their vehicles. While it might not seem like a paradigm shift from previous protocols, in-cab video is having a significant impact for many companies.

Machine learning, which is the type of AI that “learns” based on historical data by identifying patterns like harsh braking incidents and other driving behavior, are already having a positive impact on the safety of operations across the industry. The additional technology offered by in-cab video can help increase operational efficiency and make a positive impact on the bottom line.

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Data drives better decisions

Statistical analysis of driver behavior and operational efficiency data is as much an art as it is a science. With so many variables to consider, including human and machine elements, refining the way owners and operators manage their people, as well as their equipment, in real time is imperative. Understanding behavioral changes and having the opportunity to engage the problem directly with a driver to course correct before infractions mount up, or accidents happen, is a major benefit of machine learning in transportation. 

Some of the best business lessons come from seeing how companies handle the same challenges you face every day and how they currently solve common distribution problems to keep their business sustainable through industry changes by increasing productivity, optimizing routes and keeping drivers accountable. The drivers that use available data in an actionable way will be the survivors and those who ignore industry progress through technological integration will slowly lose out on new opportunities

AI isn’t the future, it’s now

Advances in AI and its impact on every industry show no signs of slowing down. The International Data Corporation (IDC)   that worldwide spending on cognitive and artificial intelligence systems to reach $57.6 billion dollars by 2021.

With consumers expecting same-day delivery and updates en route, the new normal in transportation is over-communication, transparency and complete visibility. While many operators are sticking to time-honored methods of customer relations, the expectations of what constitutes “above and beyond” service are evolving as quickly as the technology that plays an integral part in day-to-day workflows.  To offer excellent customer service, businesses must evolve as quickly as the definition of that term.

AI is making businesses smarter and trucking more efficient, cushioning the bottom line for many companies and helping them proactively avoid problems instead of reacting to incidents that could otherwise have been avoided, such as unexpected downtime and consequential delays.

Overall, companies in trucking that can adapt their technologies and day-to-day work as artificial intelligence continues to become more ingrained in the industry will have a much easier time keeping up with the best-in-class competitors or will risk losing out on valuable business.


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