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Introduction to road transport technology

Technology captures a wide variety of topics, products, and innovations and can be full of complicated jargon and buzzwords. This blog provides a broad overview of the general areas of technology relevant to road transport operators.

Vehicle Technology

Much of the technological change in the past decade has been driven by the change in trucks themselves. In-vehicle technology can be broken into two broad categories, although there is some overlap between them.

Original Equipment

There are many technologies focused on safety which are now available in trucks, these include advanced braking features such as Anti-lock Braking Systems (ABS), Automatic Traction Control (ATC), Electronic Braking Systems (EBS), Electronic Stability Control (ESC). It also extends to more recent appearances in trucks which fall under the umbrella of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) such as Blind Spot Monitoring, Lane Departure Warning Systems (LDWS), Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) and Advanced/Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB).

What sets these technologies apart is that in the majority of cases, it is not viable for these to be fitted once a vehicle is in service. As a result, operators need to be investing in new vehicles to be able to select such technologies.

Aftermarket

Aftermarket vehicle technology lends itself to broader adoption, being available for fitment at any point in a vehicle’s life. Some technology available in this space includes fatigue and/or attention monitoring systems, Tyre Pressure Monitoring Systems (TPMS) and Collision Warning Systems (CWS).

While the ability to retrofit technology into an existing fleet has the benefit of allowing implementation without having to buy new vehicles, this does come with some risks of its own.  Firstly, truck manufacturers undertake extensive validation and testing prior to offering a new feature, so you may experience more issues during implementation with aftermarket technology.

Care must also be taken in selecting and monitoring equipment installers, poor quality modifications and additions to truck wiring create a risk of reduced reliability and even potential fires. 

Telematics

Starting as relatively simple systems to track and report vehicle locations, telematics have progressively added additional functions. Now, numerous different features come under the telematics banner.

In addition to vehicle location tracking telematics may offer fuel tax credit calculation, pre-start checks, work-diaries, fuel consumption tracking, driver behaviour scoring, route planning, and consignment/task tracking.

While telematics was originally associated with a hardware ‘black box’ in the truck, telematics providers are repositioning themselves as software companies with flexibility around whether their systems run on their provided hardware, hardware factory fitted to trucks or on other devices like tablets or mobile phones.

Business Technology

The final area of technology can be grouped as business technology, this might include accounting packages, rostering/timesheet systems, inventory management systems, HR/payroll systems, training management platforms, and maintenance tracking systems.

Some of these systems may have been designed specifically for transport while many will be generic and used across a range of industries.

Convergence

There is a strong trend towards convergence of the various features mentioned in this blog, with more features being incorporated into the offering of a single vendor (where this includes the vehicle manufacturer).

This convergence provides significant benefits, firstly it may see a reduction in the proliferation of black boxes and displays that have been appearing on dashboards over the last two decades. Second, it can result in better integration between the operational and administrative parts of a business.

There is however a risk that needs to be considered, by adopting one package to deliver so many critical functions within your business, it becomes very difficult to migrate away from that package for any reason. This could include future changes in pricing, poor support, or that supplier ceasing operations.