Technology and automation will define the future of road transport

3 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineNovember 7, 2018

Technology and automation will define the future of road transport according to new International Road Transport Union (IRU) research, but significant obstacles stand in the way.

This topic tops the agenda of the IRU World Congress, a new global event for transport, logistics and mobility, being held this week in Oman.

Based on interview data from across Europe, the GCC and Asia, 57% of 450 transport companies from 19 countries view geopolitical uncertainty as the biggest threat to their development.

About 76% expect autonomous trucks to become a viable option on the roads within the next decade, and of these, 29% believe they will be a reality on our roads in the next five years. Transport companies believe the primary benefit of automation will be boosting productivity (50%), followed by helping to cut costs (19%).

The risk of global recession and the challenge of keeping up with changing customer demand are jointly seen as the second biggest threats to transport companies at 52%.

Transport companies recognise that developments in technology and innovation will be key to building a safe, successful and sustainable industry in the future.  One in three (33%) transport companies across every region believe that improving safety will be the biggest innovation opportunity, while one in five cite automation.

Barriers to adopting technology persist – with transport companies citing the major challenges to adopting technology driven innovation as cost and investment (71%), followed by a limited understanding of the range of emerging technologies available (50%).

This suggests that pockets of the industry have yet to embrace new technologies and processes, and that there is still work to do to fix the digital foundations of the industry before technology-driven innovation can be optimised properly.

Similarly, while many transport companies believe autonomous trucks are just around the corner, the reality is that there is still some way to go before they become a safe, secure and sustainable option on our roads.

 The IRU says a lack of infrastructure investment risks holding back technology developments.

“There is no question that autonomous trucks will eventually be transformative for the industry – helping boost productivity, create efficiencies and enhance driver working conditions,” says Boris Blanche, IRU‘s managing director. “But drivers will not become obsolete any time in the future, and in fact the industry must continue to encourage more drivers into the profession. Proper and responsible adoption over time is required, and we must see full cooperation from all industry stakeholders.”