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How AI adoption will impact the trucking industry in a post-COVID-19 world

July 16, 2021

AI can help decide which drivers, vehicles, and terrain combinations are more efficient in order to save money.

Fictiv's Christine Evans

By Christine Evans, director of product marketing & content strategy for Fictiv 

Artificial intelligence (AI) has become increasingly popular in the trucking industry. As logistical needs become more complicated due to globalization and the COVID-19 pandemic, AI-driven systems have already begun stepping in to help multinational operations run more smoothly.

While there is a lot of focus on how AI in logistics functions will remove the human role from the process, let’s explore some of the applications of AI in the trucking sector that can entirely transform the industry.

1. Efficient fleet management

AI can make fleet managers' jobs much simpler and more successful. Since trucks use telematics sensors and other IoT-enabled devices to monitor operations, machine-learning services may use this data to increase productivity, security and cost-efficiency.

AI-based systems can be employed to measure driver performance and create a scorecard detailing driver safety. One example is that AI may give an accurate rating of how well a driver applies brakes in poor weather conditions, which could then lead management or trainers to recommend training for driving in these scenarios.

2. Self-driving trucks

Likely the most significant impact of AI on the trucking industry will be the widespread use of autonomous trucks. Several states in the US have approved legislation that allows self-driving trucks to travel in groups with coordinated movements. Tesla, for example, is at the forefront of making autonomous trucks, describing their Tesla Semi as the most intelligent and safest self-driving truck ever built.

The trucking industry will likely be the first in line to have automated driving, before passenger cars begin employing the technology. This is because trucks mostly operate on open highways, making autonomous driving safer and easier than roads with stop lights or city streets where traffic jams constantly happen due to one-way roads.

Simply put, a self-driving truck has the advantage of requiring less complex software as it drives on a highway—and with the pandemic fresh on everyone’s minds, the ability to ensure the supply chain runs uninterrupted even during lockdown will be ideal for any fleet.

3. Predictive maintenance

Predictive maintenance has the ability to help drivers avoid vehicle breakdowns while lowering maintenance costs. Based on the information from various sensors installed in the vehicle, sophisticated AI systems can forecast which parts will malfunction.

For instance, by changing the oil every 10,000 miles you can prevent engine problems. However, analyzing telematics data from your vehicle's engine and creating a predictive maintenance schedule for each individual asset will give fleet managers more insight into the condition of their vehicles and how long before they need maintenance or repair, and if they soon will need CNC milling or turning for new parts.

AI may prove to be a powerful resource in fleet management and can make your life easier and more efficient. It can monitor the health of vehicles with frequent diagnostics that send you alerts when something may be wrong or before it becomes an issue. Allowing for predictive maintenance reduces downtime and keeps vehicles on the road.

4. Smart safety features to prevent accidents

AI will add more safety and security features to autonomous trucks in order to prevent traffic-related incidents. In most cases, there will be no human drivers and this will drastically reduce the safety hazards and room for human error.

The most important safety features are automated braking and speed control. While these may seem like minuscule changes, they will save lives. Not only do these processes help make sure drivers can pay attention to other matters rather than focusing solely on their vehicle’s position at all times, but they also provide more stability for trucks, so there isn't as much skidding or rollovers when accidents happen.

Moreover, autonomous trucks will be able to make quick decisions and react faster in order to prevent accidents.

5. Improved fuel consumption

Since fuel is one of the most expensive items for fleets, the truck's condition and internal workings are critical. AI algorithms can be employed to identify issues in the vehicle that can be the cause for poor performance.

For example, AI can help decide which drivers, vehicles, and terrain combinations are more efficient in order to save money. Once you know what combination creates least fuel consumption, it's easy enough to change those variables to minimize the amount of gas your vehicle requires.