In this week’s edition, trucks are becoming computers on wheels, electric looks to overcome its chicken-and-egg infrastructure problem, and a new report suggests the driver shortage is mostly fake news. To get future editions of Freight News in Cartoons sent directly to your inbox, you can subscribe here.
Throwing a (technical wrench into things)
Trucks are quickly becoming computers on wheels. According to Juniper Research, by 2023 there will be 775 million vehicles on the road connected by telematics or in-vehicle apps.
As fleets become more electronic, digital and connected, fleet maintenance managers are finding ways to reduce downtime, and avoid roadside breakdowns, with remote diagnostics. Mack Over The Air updates, that allow fleets to fine-tune engine and vehicle performance with software updates, claim to have already saved customers 1,900 days in the shop.
Similarly, telematics providers are leveraging the increased connectivity and real-time data to increase visibility, improve driver safety, and learn valuable insights for better fleet management. One fleet claims to be saving $90,000 a year on better fuel tax reporting alone.
At the 2019 Technology & Maintenance Council Annual Meeting & Transportation Technology Exhibition, BlackBerry unveiled the Radar H2, its newest asset-monitoring device, that “collects up to 100 times more data than conventional GPS-based track and trace solutions and provides this information in near real-time through an intuitive online dashboard.”
Still, according to data from fleets participating in the TMC and FleetNet America roadside repair benchmarking program, breakdowns still happen once every 10,000 miles. A result that Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing for FleetNet America, Jim Buell, finds unsatisfactory, “The truckload vertical should not be breaking down every 10,000 miles.”
What the chicken was looking for this whole time
While many continue to fret over the lack of charging infrastructure for electric trucks, the Executive Director of NACFE, Michael Roeth, reminds us that “there were no gas stations when Henry Ford started building automobiles.” In his view, the chicken and egg problem has been overcome before and will be again.
WiTricity, a Massachusetts-based startup, is one example of a company tackling the problem head on. They’re using something called magnetic resonance to create systems that charge car batteries wirelessly. Here’s an interesting interview with their CEO, Alex Gruzen.
Hyliion, a startup out of Carnegie Mellon University, is another interesting example of how electric technologies can be combined with more traditional means. They’re using an e-axle setup to save fleets 12% on fuel. Thomas Healy, their founder and CEO, explained at TMC, “The way it works is that when a truck is slowing down or going down a hill, the electric axle kicks in and does regenerative braking that captures energy and charges up the battery pack. When the vehicle accelerates or goes uphill you still use diesel power but we also kick in the electric axle and help take some of the load off the diesel engine to reduce fuel consumption.”
Unsurprisingly, Mark Russell, Nikola’s new President, is the most bullish on electric. He recently spoke to FreightWaves about why Hydrogen fuel cells will allow them to create a truck that competes with diesel in the long-haul segment, how they’re tackling the challenge of hydrogen fuelling stations, and why he believes Nikola is leading the electric race.
Fascinating study or...?
The Bureau of Labour Statistics put out a riveting report on the driver shortage, or lack thereof, concluding: "there is not, and has never been, a serious shortage of people willing to work as truck drivers."
In other interesting news, the “co-opetition” dance between UPS, FedEx, and Amazon continues, Bumble Bee Foods plans to use blockchain to put an end to tuna fraud, and Tom and Judy Love make a strong case that the best place to play in the trucking and logistics industry is the truck stop—they came in at #209 on Forbes’ list of billionaires. With holdings estimated at over $7 billion, they’re the richest couple in trucking.
Round and round we go.
Steele Roddick is a Content Specialist at Microdea where he creates content that helps transportation companies drive their business forward. He’s endlessly fascinated by technology trends, chess, and discovering new places to travel with his wife.