What does the future hold for truck fleets in 2018 and beyond?

In-cab technology may be the theme of 2018 for truck drivers and fleet managers

While I don’t have a crystal ball, it’s fun to think about what’s happening in the truck industry and how it might affect fleet management in the future. I looked at a couple of these last year when writing about driverless trucks coming to Brisbane and discussing the era of the Executive Truck Driver.

Now, many believe that driverless trucks will never take off. Not me. I think they could be closer than we think. They’re already being used in mines here in Australia, and road trials are taking place, too. However, for commercial fleets, we’re probably three to five years away from driverless trucks on Queensland’s roads. The technology is here, but laws must be changed. Insurance companies must come on board. Then there are the livelihoods of truck drivers to consider, too. Much work is to be done.

But this year, I think that we could see technology playing an increasingly big part of fleet management, as we move towards a driverless truck environment.

5 trends for truck fleets in 2018

1.    Trucks will ‘connect’ with fleet management

Trucks will be equipped with a lot more technology. Every aspect of the truck’s engine and infrastructure will be monitored in real time. Weather, road, and traffic conditions will be transmitted between vehicles, with drivers alerted in real time. Simultaneously, the same information will be sent to fleet managers.

This type of connectivity will begin to prepare drivers and fleet controllers to work in the new environment, where trucks become autonomous and drive themselves.

2.    Fleet managers will have more control

Advancing technology has helped fleet managers have better control over their vehicles for decades. Once upon a time, when a driver left the depot it would be hours before the fleet manager discovered the driver’s progress on the road.

Today, trucks can be tracked. Technology will allow fleet managers to monitor driver behaviours as well as the condition of the truck. It should enable fleets to retrain drivers who have slipped into bad habits and reduce costs incurred because of those bad habits.

3.    Truck drivers’ jobs are going to start changing

Truck drivers will need to adapt their working practices to encompass new in-cab technologies. Cabs are likely to become more like aeroplane cockpits, with bells and whistles alerting the driver to engine and truck issues, as well as road conditions ahead of them. They will need to interpret data received from other fleet vehicles and take remedial action to ensure their truck keeps moving.

4.    Fleet managers will become data crunchers

Technology advances will make more data available, and fleet managers will need to learn how to analyse and interpret the information that is flooding into the central system hub. New ways of working will, therefore, affect controllers and managers as well as drivers.

Effective analytical skills should enable fleet managers to manage fleets to increase efficiency. Fuel costs should be reduced, and delivery times cut. Vehicles should be safer on the roads.

5.    Fleet safety will become a technology issue

Fatalities in the haulage industry are still too high. It is one of the reasons why the industry is embracing driverless technologies. Before we get to this nirvana, increased technology is likely to become not just accepted, but expected. We already have safety features in trucks (such as lane departure alarms and rear view cameras). Expect more technology in trucks as the industry strives to increase safety on the road and eliminate accidents and fatalities.

The future of fleets is being created in 2018

Some fleets we work with are already embracing the newest technologies. Without a doubt, these technologies are changing the way that fleets work. Driver safety is already being positively affected, as technology reduces human error.

As autonomous, driverless trucks enter the industry and become commonplace in the future, the jobs of truck drivers will change. Many will probably disappear. But the success of autonomous trucks may depend on the success of the technological advances in trucks’ cabs and fleet management in 2018 and 2019.

A certainty is that changes are on their way. 2018 could be the year when we see the fastest change yet in fleet management. It could be the year that sets the scene for a move towards driverless trucks on our roads within a few years.

To find out about our comprehensive services for truck owners and fleets, contact Darra Tyres. Never be stranded on roads in and around Brisbane again – even when most of your trucks are driverless.

Keeping your business and fleet safely on the road,

Kevin Wood

About the Author

Kevin has been at the forefront of the tyre industry for over 20 years. Kevin's speciality is in industrial and commercial tyres including the management and upkeep of fleets. Kevin has worked with vehicles his whole career from painting, mechanical, suspension and panel beating he has also spent time in the Australia Army as a driver. He has driven all size of vehicles throughout his career so understands the demands placed on drivers.