January 11, 2023

5 Transportation Tech Trends We’re Tracking in 2023

Sure, nobody can predict the future, but we’re humans, and the desire to do so seems to be coded into our DNA. We want to understand our current situation in order to prepare for the future. And while the world of transportation and technology is perpetually in flux with no certainties, there are some trends we’re keeping an eye on that we think are worth bookmarking.

Trend #1: Evolving Port Strategies

The call for American companies to reduce their reliance on Asian factories has been heard loud and clear. Though the west coast ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have been the main entry point for decades, there has been a drastic increase in trade between the United States and Mexico. In fact, "$27 billion worth of freight moved through Laredo in October [2022], exceeding the flow through the twin ocean ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, Calif., the primary gateway for American imports." Why?

For starters, American retailers are looking to reduce their reliance on China, so they’re now working to find suppliers in the same hemisphere as their customers. More notably, according to a CNBC supply chain survey, the formation of an International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) may have a larger impact than anticipated.  “Nearly a third of logistics managers at major companies and trade groups say they do not know how much trade they would return to the West Coast once an International Longshore and Warehouse Union, or ILWU, labor deal is reached.”

With this change alone, shippers have to be more agile and flexible in their supply networks and port strategy. It means moving beyond rigid infrastructure and execution to a more digital model that can flex up and down as needed to ensure resources, trucks, and inventory are there when and where they’re needed. This is especially true during this transition phase, as shipments come from both the west coast and Mexico.

Trend #2: Improving Transportation Management System (TMS) Technology

One benefit of the unstoppable passage of time is the continued improvement in technology. While TMSs were adopted from the get-go to provide freight savings through network design, load consolidation, and lower-cost mode selections, they can be further enhanced to offer even greater value today by incorporating data and insights from not only the internal network but external transportation networks.

Improvements in artificial intelligence (AI) mean TMSs can both learn about capacity constraints to more efficiently plan shipments and also optimize fulfillment to meet customer needs, without exceeding budgets. Real-time visibility either through a standalone application or when a TMS is part of a multi-enterprise transportation network will empower transportation teams to keep track of every shipment’s touchpoint, throughout its journey. Finally, a fleet enabled by the Internet of Things (IoT) can improve performance with better visibility into asset utilization, reducing wait times at destinations, and providing insight into maintenance needs before any issues arise.

When a TMS has the technological capability to communicate with the right multi-enterprise platform, trips can be planned and executed across transportation networks to optimize inventory, assets, and labor in a way that generates value for all players in the freight ecosystem.

Trend #3: Optimized Warehouse Planning

Warehouses are often overflowing with inventory and are under a lot of pressure to remove friction and optimize space. This is where collaboration and time slot management come in, as it helps warehouses organize themselves in preparation for an incoming truck. Solutions can alert warehouses of a truck’s ETA, details on when the truck is loaded, information on what paperwork is necessary, and what needs to be signed, all in the interest of making a warehouse stop as efficient as possible.

Of course, traffic jams, missed appointments, and unforeseen delays will happen. In these instances, services and support are still essential. A multi-enterprise network wrapped in services and support will help with planning and executing across transportation networks.

Trend #4: Unlocking Self-Driving Trucks

While we’re still a ways off from unmanned semis driving down highways making all our deliveries, there has still been quite a bit of progress made on the autonomous side of driving. In fact, autonomous vehicles are already capable of providing some relief to the driver shortage, though it is not a comprehensive solution.

We believe the autonomous hybrid approach to trucking is an excellent step in the right direction and that we’ll be seeing a lot more of it in the coming year. With a human driver inside the autonomous truck, driving duty would switch between the driver and the AI. The truck would cover all highway driving, and the human driver would take over if any issues arose, or for any portions of the journey that are more complex, like in urban areas or navigating warehouse facilities. This allows trucks to travel further distances without exceeding hours of service regulations.

Trend #5: Unhindered Collaboration

With a transportation network as vast as the one in the US, it's vital that all participants work together to improve the efficiency of the network as a whole. The goal is to have a network that accurately matches loads with available capacity, provides reliable ETAs, and plans optimal routes. As we look into the aforementioned trends, it’s clear they all benefit from a multi-enterprise environment where demand and capacity are aggregated. A multi-enterprise platform can analyze, plan and execute across transportation networks to optimize inventory, assets, labor, etc. in a way that generates value for everyone: improving service levels, eliminating costs and empty miles, and delivering data and execution to fulfill orders at the optimal cost.

These trends point to a lot of change on the horizon, all of which promise to improve freight efficiencies for the entire network. But these aren’t guaranteed, it requires work on our part to ensure they come to fruition. We’re certain that by working together we can achieve so much more, and industry experts agree. Check out this Forbes article with insight into visibility and planning from Steve Banker, a logistics and supply chain management technology analyst, and reporter. He posits that with the right technology, we can all work together and reap the benefits, and we couldn't agree more. And don’t forget to follow us on LinkedIn for our insight into all things transportation.


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