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Trend Report: The Future of Trucks – Connected, Proactive and Data Driven

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My son and I in front of one of Volvo’s newest trucks. “The typical truck now generates 3 gigabytes of diagnostic and other information every month!”

It was quite a thrill to be the opening speaker a short while ago for the annual Dealers Meeting of Volvo/Mack Trucks North America, in Dallas, Texas.

My role was to talk about the future of transportation and trucking, and put in perspective how the reality today and going forward that for trucks, connectivity is the new horsepower!

My talk focused around several broad themes; the evolution of trucks into a world of predictive diagnostic maintenance; data-driven hyper-connectivity that leads us into future efficiencies and opportunities; the increasing skills challenge that comes with the shift; and the opportunity that this presents to dealers as we move into an era of sophisticated, post-sale, connected service and support. That was a mouthful!

Going in, I already knew I’d be speaking in the exact same conference room where a few years ago, I was the opening keynote speaker for the Texas Municipal League.

In the audience at time I had more than 2,500 mayors and other elected officials of cities and towns large and small from throughout the state of Texas. And it’s just a few days after President Obama swept to his second term in office – and so I needed to move these folks into thinking about the opportunities of the future! Here’s a clip from that talk, in which I was speaking how quickly the intelligent infrastructure of the 21st — including intelligent highway technology — was becoming a big part of our world.

That’s part of the approach I took for the Volvo / Mac Trucks event as well, opening with a quote from their CEO which really summarizes the connectivity being built into the next generation of transportation technology: “We are rapidly approaching the point at which no trucks will ever really be ‘offline.’ ”

Part of the big focus of the meeting, and the focus on my keynote, was the opportunities that come from building predictive maintenance technology into a truck. This provides for fascinating reductions in overall fleet downtime — we’ll know when a vehicle is going to have a problem, and can call it in for preventative maintenance before it gets worse. Volvo already has 80,000 trucks on the road with remote diagnistics buit in.  The typical truck now generates 3 gigabytes of diagnostic and other information every month! And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

This is just one trend that is underway with all kinds of vehicle technology. We’ve also got an acceleration in all kinds of trends that is leading us to vehicle autonomy — that is, self-driving cars.

Already, we are seeing rapid advancements with :

  • collision avoidance
  • pedestrian and object detection
  • spatial awareness and GPS
  • V2V (Vehicle to Vehicle) communications for lane, distance, time compression
  • remote vehicle control
  • predictive fuel efficiency routing
  • intelligent highway technology
  • lane, distance, time compression

Noted Volvo, “We think that a few years from now the vehicle will have a 360-degree ‘awareness’ of what’s going on around it, and will even be able to predict what the moving entities it is scanning might do next.”

Of course, all of this leads into a fascinating new skill set requirement throughout the dealer support network as well for trucking/automative companies. This includes:

  • engineering and technology staff that can predict & prevent failure
  • marketing that can optimize the customer experience in terms of new opportunity
  • maintenance and warranty staff who can work with the new prognostic capabilities and realign their efforts
  • …. and the leadership who makes it go

How quickly will this come about? Pretty fast: consider this observation”

 “It is early spring in 2018. Most major fleets have become such sophisticated users of data to do prognostics or predictive maintenance these days that they don’t even use the predictive word anymore. It is just part and parcel of routine maintenance—business as usual” Maintenance in the cloud, 16 March 2015, Fleet Owner

The potential impact for truck dealers could be significant; according to Frost & Sullivan’s Fleet Dealer Magazine

  • parts, servicing and maintenance will grow as the “pillar” of successful dealerships
  • profit margins of 40-50% growing an additional 5-10% by 2020 (do the math!)
  • telematics, prognostics and remote diagnostics represents a new potential revenue stream of 10-15% of profits by 2020
  • (and as I noted on stage, anyone asking about, um, loyalty?)

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