As with all businesses, stakeholders in the transportation industry—from trucking companies to rental semi trailer providers to companies that transport their own goods—are continually looking for ways to operate more efficiently and cost-effectively. For many, the answer is to implement new technologies as they become available.

If that’s your business, you’re in luck! It seems that transportation is currently experiencing a technology boom. New equipment, new apps, better leveraging of “big data” and other advances are improving operations in many areas including safety, maintenance and business administration.

What’s New in Truck and Semi Trailer Technology?

It seems like every day a new type of technology is announced as being in development, in testing, or ready for rollout. From our perspective at Boxwheel, here are some of the top advances that people driving trucks, renting semi trailers, or coordinating business activities should be aware of:

  • Semi trailer “smart tech.” Historically, if a driver suspected that there was a problem of some kind with their semi trailer, they had to stop, get out of the cab and do a physical inspection. Even then, the component in question might be hard to get to and difficult to assess. Understandably, as long as there wasn’t a safety concern, drivers often figured, “I’ll have the mechanics check it out after this trip.” Needless to say, in cases where a repair or some type of maintenance was needed, putting it off was not a good thing.

    Today, drivers are increasingly benefiting from integrated “trailer health monitoring” systems. Sensors associated with tires, hubs, brakes and other components provide data that can alert the driver (or someone else monitoring the rig remotely) to a minor issue before it becomes a major, costly problem. Plus, the details can be compared to data from other monitored trailers to help maintenance teams make better decisions on how and when to address issues.

  • Self-driving trucks. As we blogged about previously, so-called “autonomous vehicles” have gone from being the stuff of science fiction to logging thousands and thousands of test miles with no input from humans in advance of the deployments that will follow.

    While the growing availability of self-driving trucks will surely have an impact on the transportation industry, few believe it will result in a sudden, massive decrease in the need for human drivers. Many industry observers believe autonomous vehicles should be thought of more like airliners, where the pilot is always monitoring the situation, than self-driving cars, where there is less of a risk if the driver gets distracted while the vehicle is in self-driving mode. In other words, experienced truckers will still be needed to oversee a truck’s operations for the foreseeable future. And even if trucks are, someday, allowed to drive with no human aboard on rural interstate stretches, it’s likely that drivers will need to take the wheel at designated connection points on the way into urban areas.

  • Freight matching and other apps. In much the same way that car services match available drivers with people in need of rides, new apps are available that help connect shippers with carriers who have space in their semi trailers for additional goods and materials and can take on more freight.

    These apps provide a tremendous benefit to both parties. Companies get their shipments where they need to go, potentially with fewer delays from having to wait for a carrier to have availability. And carriers can minimize situations where a driver heads home after a long trip with an empty semi trailer because the company couldn’t find freight for the return trip.

    And this is just one example of a powerful new transportation app. There are digital tools for everything from getting real-time road conditions to locating the best truck stops and lowest gas prices. What all these apps have in common is that they help trucking and semi trailer companies operate more profitably and also make life better for the drivers.

  • Electric trucks. Electric cars have become commonplace, with virtually every major manufacturer offering them. So, it’s no surprise that companies are designing and developing electric trucks. How and when it will make financial sense for stakeholders to convert to electric vehicles remains to be seen, but there is no doubt at this point that gasoline engines are on their way out and that cleaner-running, quieter rigs are on the horizon.
  • Truck and semi trailer tracking. GPS tracking has been around awhile, but the tools and systems continue to evolve. So does the use of the data they produce. Truck and semi trailer companies are increasingly sophisticated in how they leverage this information to improve their operations.
  • SaaS administrative systems. In addition to advances in truck and semi trailer technology, the systems used to coordinate transportation services are improving as well. In particular, SaaS (Software as a Service) programs that “live” in the cloud and are used on a subscription basis are giving business administrators access to leading-edge functionality and eliminating the need to update or replace outdated software. With a SaaS offering, you’re getting the latest release of the software and all the new features every time you log in. Many trucking companies are finding it’s a convenient and cost-effective way to manage their business.

The Future is Bright for Trucking and Semi Trailer Companies

It will be some time before all these advancements and others are available to trucking and semi trailer companies. But it’s exciting to see what’s “coming down the pike” and to envision what the transportation industry will look like in the years ahead. It’s a safe bet that trucks, semi trailers and the systems for operating them will change more in the next decade than in the several decades prior.

For our part at Boxwheel, we closely follow the evolution of semi trailer technology so that we can make innovations available to our customers when they have been fully tested and are available at a reasonable price. If you have questions about our inventory of dry van trailers, liftgate trailers, flatbeds and refrigerated trailers for rent or lease, and our hassle-free, three-step process for getting the top-quality equipment you need, please contact us at your convenience.

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