Technology impacts practically every U.S. industry, including transportation. Yes, even an industry like trucking is subject to major changes with technological advancements, as these predictions from Andrew Schmahl's latest Forbes article demonstrate.
Here are three of the biggest trends and predictions for transportation right now:
1. Same-day delivery
Even though same-day delivery already exists, it isn’t going to be the most popular form of transportation until companies can figure out how to make it more economical. The high fees and limited geographical availability deter consumers from using it. Most people don’t need the majority of their goods the same day. Do they want them that quick? Sure, but not enough to pay a hefty fee; many of today’s online shoppers expect free shipping.
A better short-term solution? Low-cost, next-day delivery. This delivery mode suits most consumers’ time constraints as well as what they’re willing to pay. Companies need to continually analyze their supply chains to maintain low next-day delivery costs.
2. 3D Printing
First of all, what is 3D printing? Simply put, it’s a process in which thin layers of material are laid down in succession to ultimately form a solid object.
3D printing has been a hot topic in the tech and supply chain spaces. Did you know that scientists are claiming the potential of 3D-printed human organs? While that technology may be a little farther down the road, what we know now is that plastics, metals and other organic materials are the main supplies that 3D printers use to replicate goods. The cost of these printers for consumer use is dropping – some cost as low as $250.
This is going to affect scale production in low-cost countries, especially as wages continue to rise. (Chinese wages rose 12% in 2012.) The biggest sector predicted to feel the effect of this technology is intermediate or finished goods. Also, transportation companies should be aware of the transitions their clients will make between 3D printing and the traditional manufacturing process.
3. Autonomous commercial vehicles
Yes, driverless cars. This is a real conversation that companies – Google in particular – are having. The economic value for residential use is low, but it could solve a huge pain point in long-haul trucking. Fleet owners would see the benefits of saving money on driver wages, 24/7 asset utilization, and optimized driving performance.
The downfall of autonomous commercial vehicles? Job loss! Thousands of truck drivers would lose their jobs over time. Whether carriers could find a way to transition drivers into autonomous vehicle operators is yet to be seen.
We obviously won’t be seeing some of these advancements next week, but smart executives should keep their ears to the ground.
What do you think about these predictions? Leave a comment below.