By Gino Fontana
Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President, Transervice
As originally appeared in FleetOwner Magazine’s IdeaXchange
If a recent study from Escalent is to be believed, fleets’ interest in adopting new technology has waned a little in 2021 compared to 2020. On some level, I suppose that is to be expected given all the challenges fleets are facing with supply chain issues, delayed truck orders, high fuel prices, and rising inflation.
The study did find that the company’s Fleet Advisory Hub Index for 2021 was above that of 2019, meaning companies are still more interested in new technologies than before the pandemic—a promising note.
The survey asked about technologies like artificial intelligence, battery-electric vehicles, data analytics, telematics, autonomous vehicles, blockchain, drones, and mobility services. Escalent says the index looks at fleets’ readiness to adopt these technologies.
The reality is that trucking is faced with a multitude of technology choices, and it can be overwhelming to determine which of these technologies make sense in your operation—especially given that some of them are in nascent stages of development.
When it comes to technology there is an S curve that breaks adoption down as follows: innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggards. Where you fall on the S curve likely varies to some degree by the type of technology, although there seems to be some fleets that are consistently on the innovative or early adopter end of the curve.
Since new technology usually comes with a significant price tag, it is best to assign a person or team to gather knowledge about any new technology you are considering bringing into your operation. Have that person or team thoroughly research the technology that is under consideration. The goal is for them to separate the reality from the hype and to understand what the benefits and challenges of each new technology is. Every new technology has its pluses and minuses. It is important to remember that the minuses don’t necessarily rule out a technology if they can be overcome easily or if the pluses outweigh the minuses.
Of course, the return on investment needs to make sense for your fleet as well. When doing your ROI or total cost of operation analysis, you obviously want to include all the hard costs like the purchase price of the technology and the cost to install and maintain it. However, remember to include some of the soft costs like the impact on training, driver recruiting and retention, how it fits with your sustainability efforts, etc. Those things can be hard to quantify, but they should be included.
Once you have all the facts and understand the ROI and TCO, then you can decide if you should bring the technology into your operation. You don’t necessarily need to go all-in with technology and order it for every truck in your operation. Run a controlled pilot on a strategically-selected subset of your equipment to see how it performs in your real-world, day-to-day operation. If it lives up to your expectation, you can roll it into the whole fleet. If it doesn’t, you can consider it a lesson learned and move on.
When it comes to technology, you don’t necessarily need to be an innovator or even an early adopter, but you don’t want to be a laggard. If you wait too long to adopt new technology, you will lose any benefit it may have offered.
While we may be enmeshed in the day-to-day challenges we face, we have to continue to look forward and focus at least some of our efforts on these new technologies that are coming into the market. If we fail to do that, there might not be a future for us.
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