It is thought that about 70% of truckers on the road are actually hauling air because they don’t know the exact dimensions of the items they’re carrying. Antony Savvas considers what the Internet of Things (IoT) can do to solve this wasteful problem.

Trucking firms will often know the weight but not necessarily the exact size of their cargo, so trailers often end up with a lot of unused space. But IoT can certainly be used to change this in a variety of ways.

Distribution centres (DCs) with smart automated systems installed can automatically assess the dimension of goods as they arrive on site and recommend a loading pattern that optimises the loading of truck space.

As the goods move through the supply chain, fleet planners can have real-time visibility of what’s coming so they know how many trucks to position at the DC doors and how to load them more effectively.

Lost in space

In the US, around $2.5 billionn (€2.02 billion) is thought to be lost because firms can’t accurately size the cargoes they carry. Through IoT and smart analytics, such losses could be returned to the bottom line while also reducing the carbon impact.

One of the sectors in which this issue might resonate most is food and drink, as it’s fair to say that a lot of food perishes in transit, even though that still doesn’t stop some dodgy market stalls trying to sell it to peeps not inspecting inside their brown paper bags.

But, by attaching sensors to the food containers or, in some cases, the actual foodstuffs, its temperature and status can be traced all along its journey. Drivers can take readings on mobile devices at pre-set times along the route or they can be taken by their depots automatically by wireless networks.

Mr Nosy

The availability of real-time data enables fleet managers to better manage the condition of food consignments, and make more informed decisions as they move through the supply chain with a view to reducing waste and ensuring food arrives both on time and in good condition. Such data should be vital for compliance purposes and arguably more useful than some of the red tape data that businesses are usually forced to collect by nosy mandarins.

It is this sort of visibility that gives transport & logistics (T&L) teams access to real intelligence about the assets they’re moving, and it can be used to refine every aspect of the journey, including route planning, driving style, customer communication and loading/unloading processes.

Peter Laplanche

IoT will transform many areas of the T&L sector and Zebra Technology research shows that firms are ready to embrace it.

Zebra found that 58% of T&L firms were planning to implement load dimensioning to optimise space and reduce the need for more trailers. And 61% were preparing to use IoT to locate assets and 76% to improve business data management.

Just do it

Peter Laplanche, a director of mobile solutions firm Datatrade, which provides technology to a number of industry verticals, including the haulage sector, says: “Complete visibility enables organisations to make more effective, timely decisions and reduce delays by detecting issues faster.”

He says many T&L companies using RFID-based solutions today are reaching nearly 100% shipping and receiving accuracy, 99.5% inventory accuracy, 30% faster order processing and 30% lower labour costs. There’s not too much to argue about there, which then makes you wonder why some trucking firms aren’t deploying IoT!

The author of this blog is Antony Savvas, a freelance IoT and technology writer

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