How will truck fleets be shaped by developing technology?

All businesses will be aware of the developing technology trends fast taking over established operating procedures, but how many know they will be finding their way into vehicles as well? 

The Internet of Things and big data will be just as important in connecting cars as they currently are in linking devices in the office, ideally providing increased efficiency and safety for vehicles on the road. Combining this with driving behaviours unique to autonomous vehicles should result in smarter and safer highways for the future. 

Trucks embrace big data

According to Frost & Sullivan, the growth of big data trends will have a noticeable effect on the trucking industry as manufacturers look to harness the potential of analytics software

Big data enables these companies to track, analyse and report on the behaviour of vehicles and their drivers to enhance their safety, fuel use and time management. This trend is also necessary for a number of other developing technologies that are soon to be implemented in road-ready trucks such as autonomous driving and vehicle-to-vehicle connectivity. 

Sundar Shankarnarayanan, Automotive and Transportation Research Analyst said this is likely to cut costs for fleet managers in the long run. 

"In the future, OEMs will use big data analytics to deliver cost reduction benefits to fleets," he said.

"Although the present advantages of big data analytics are enjoyed by research and development, product planning, production and supply-chain functions of OEMs and tier-1 companies, marketing and sales will benefit from the most profit when vehicle and systems manufacturers embrace big data analytics."

Platooning to change highway behaviour

Long-haul trucks in particular are expected to benefit from autonomous technology - even in its infant state. Thanks to a driving technique called platooning, trucks will be able to follow nose-to-tail at highway speeds, allowing the following vehicles to greatly benefit from the slipstream the lead truck creates.

Driving in this manner provides a massive boost to fuel efficiency, as only the leading vehicle has to force its way through the air. While this could technically be replicated now by human drivers, it simply isn't safe enough as the following distances are too close for people to react safely in an emergency. 

ABI Research is expecting fleet managers to rapidly adopt these systems, predicting that around 7.7 million will be sold by 2025. 

Research Analyst James Hodgson believes the market has potential due to the number of benefits platooning can offer. 

"The emerging market for platooning is promising; in no small part due to its relevance across a considerable spectrum of vehicle automation," he said. 

The premise stretches all the way from a platoon comprised of two vehicles whose drivers seek to narrow the interval between them in a safe manner, through to scenarios which involve more vehicles than they do drivers."