Why It’s Time to Upgrade Mobile Technology in Transportation

Mobile technology is an essential part of transportation, one that allows truckers to do their job more efficiently. The trucking mobile app business alone is expected to be worth around $35.4 billion annually by 2025.

Although the transportation industry was among the earliest adopters of mobile technology, upgrades have been lagging for the last decade. Fleets and transportation companies have invested far too much in legacy technology, creating a major barrier to innovation. As a result, truckers are consistently frustrated and inconvenienced by the very mobile technology that’s there to help them increase productivity. In 2021, the industry must prioritize empowering drivers with modern mobile solutions.

The In-Cab Experience: What Isn’t Working

Even with mobile technology at their disposal, drivers are still turning to the age-old pen and paper option far more than most people realize. They’ve learned that the load information they’ll need to reference later will be long gone in the mobile system by the time they need it. With legacy mobile tech, even fundamental processes have separate applications or processes that can’t interact with each other or enable the sharing of key data. There’s no concept of “enter data once, use it everywhere.” As a result, truckers continue to rely on pen and paper so they can easily reference crucial information. This lack of data accessibility is preventing fleets from acting on essential insights, and creating operational inefficiencies.

Another major challenge for drivers is information overload. Excessive information typically comes in the form of rules-of-the-road content, training guides and operational procedures. No driver has the bandwidth to sift through all that material, especially when so many are already pressed for time and juggling other non-driving-related job tasks.

Additionally, many over-the-road trucks are equipped with dash-mounted mobile data terminals that come with a keyboard. This is the case even though nearly all current tablets and smartphones are touch-based. Having to type out large amounts of text is a tedious and time-consuming task, and slows communications and data flow to back-office systems. Delays in communication can lead to lost income; it’s not uncommon for a driver to show up to a pickup location, only to find that a load has already been picked up by another driver. There needs to be a fundamental shift in which technologies are provided to drivers, in order to improve the in-cab experience.

Is Mobile Technology for Everyone?

There are endless benefits to modern mobile technology for fleets of all sizes. Mobile dispatching, for example, can improve operational efficiency by allowing drivers to input data easily from the road. This improves customer satisfaction, enabling the tracking of deliveries and arrivals in real time. Advanced mobile solutions also provide deeper visibility into important logistics processes, such as route planning, cost monitoring and tracking driver behavior.

Adopting modern mobile technology is typically easier for larger fleets, which have the financial stability to invest, as well as large I.T. teams for longer-term strategic projects. Still, early adoption is a good practice for smaller fleets. It’s better to start with new technology, as opposed to paying more and adopting later. Drivers typically find mobile tech intuitive and easy to use, so it’s a technology investment that increases productivity without requiring too much time-consuming training.

What’s Next for Mobile Technology?

As mobile continues to evolve, there will be new opportunities to deploy it both inside and outside the cab to deliver real-time insights. One example is location intelligence, which builds on geographical information to provide data-driven insights for multiple use cases. This could include sending the driver an alert via mobile about incoming bad weather or long wait times at a loading dock. Location intelligence draws on artificial intelligence to alert the driver only when the insight is timely — for example, when a storm is brewing half an hour ahead. It gives drivers more information when it’s needed, so they can make safer and more calculated decisions on the road.

Mobile technology currently being deployed across the transportation industry is resulting in higher rates of driver turnover. The inefficiencies associated with more archaic systems motivate drivers to switch jobs to where they can rely on technology instead of pen and paper. The time is now to prioritize digital transformation in transportation — because when it comes to mobile technology, the solutions to improve drivers’ quality of life already exist.

Gary Blohm is vice president at Omnitracs.

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