Trucking industry sifts through an abundance of tech options

technology in the trucking industry

As the transportation industry adapts to a digital world, owner-operators to large fleets are all grappling with how to adopt new technology.

"There are more technology choices than ever. Bob's trucking, Sue's trucking, Mario's trucking are hearing from nine million different sources, trying to sort that out," said industry consultant Randy Mullett of Mullett Strategies during Transparency19 on May 8.

Matt McLelland, innovation strategist at Covenant Transport (NYSE: CVTI) and Mario Pawlowski, CEO of iTrucker.com, joined Mullett in a discussion with FreightWaves Associate Editor John Paul Hampstead about how technology trends are affecting the transportation industry.

The wide-ranging conversation included the current struggles among some owner-operators to adapt to electronic logging devices (ELDs), to the ultimate implications of 5G wireless technology and green trucking.

"If drivers and small fleet owners don't adapt, they are going to be out of business," said Pawlowski, whose company provides ELDs and other tech solutions.

At Covenant, McLelland is tasked with identifying emerging technology and working with executives to incorporate it into the fleet.

"We're figuring it out. We don't have a lab or a testing facility," McLelland said.

The company will be taking delivery on a 2020 Freightliner Cascadia, which includes Level 2 automation, largely covering safety features.

The adoption of 5G networks may not deliver any immediate benefits to the industry. But it will open the door to bigger breakthroughs in technology because of the additional bandwidth.

"That may translate into someone who can drive a truck with a joystick sitting in a room somewhere," Mullett said.

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Nikola Rolls Out Trucks for Zero-Emissions Future

Nikola Trucks

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Nikola Motor Co. CEO Trevor Milton, 28 months after unveiling a prototype Class 8 sleeper, presented to about 2,000 attendees and a global audience watching online two heavy-duty trucks and three other specialty vehicles he said are ready to spark a zero-emissions future.

The heavy-duty trucks that drove out from behind the curtains one at a time, amid swirling lights and loud music as people put their cellphones on video, were the stars of the event.

As a bright red Nikola Two day cab took center stage, Milton said, "This is a real truck. This is a real [hydrogen] fuel cell," seeming to speak to those who doubted the emerging truck maker would ever get this far.

Nikola introduced a hydrogen fuel cell Class 8 prototype Dec. 1, 2016, in Salt Lake City, its former headquarters. It is now based in Phoenix.

The day after the presentations here, Nikola offered the public a first look at the trucks as well as two zero-emissions power sport vehicles and another one designed for special forces operations, which included the ability to be operated remotely like a drone.

"We want to transform everything about the transportation industry. With Nikola's vision, the world will be cleaner, safer and healthier," Milton said.

The flat-front Nikola Tre, bound for Europe, and the Nikola Two day cab will be available either with a hydrogen-electric fuel cell or battery-electric power. As battery-electric vehicles, customers can order either one with 500 kilowatt-hours, 750 kWh or 1 megawatt hour battery-pack options.

The U.S. truck is slated to go into initial production in 2022, after field trials. The Tre is expected to reach fleets by 2023, although Milton said during a later press conference he is looking to partner with a European truck maker to reach that market.

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