One-fifth of the freight truck’s route is covered without load. Artificial intelligence wants to fix it

  • 13

You will have noticed it when you drive to the office in the morning, when walking your dog or while jogging through the streets of the city. To the extent that e-commerce has been gaining weight, so have vans and delivery trucks. If you look out onto the balcony and spend a couple of minutes on it, you’ll probably see one labeled, buzzing against the clock from one point to another. The logical thing is to think that they go to the top of packages, but… Is it always like this? The data says no. What’s more, they show that, at least the trucks that are responsible for moving goods along highways and expressways, often carry nothing but air. Nothing more.

Now technology is determined to fix it.

Some data to boot. It’s no secret: the e-commerce enjoy an ever-increasing pull. And more you will have. Although online commerce is no stranger to the effects of inflation and there is someone waiting to suffer in the coming months, its evolution in recent years, especially since 2020, has been remarkable. When the INE asked in 2014 how many people had made an online purchase in recent months 27.5% agreed; in 2021 they were already 55.2%.

According to A study of the NASDAQ stock market, in 2040 95% of purchases they will be done at the click of a button and there are analysts who calculate that in 2026 online orders will mean 25.3% of trade National B2B, transactions between the companies themselves.

The challenge of efficient logistics. The increase in demand requires better oiled logistics, with a polished distribution system. One of the great challenges that the sector has on the table is, in fact, dealing with the so-called “empty mile”, which is nothing more than the kilometers traveled by a truck with an empty trailer after having dispatched all its cargo.

“Empty miles mean less revenue for carriers. It means higher costs because an empty truck on the road consumes fuel, needs a driver and requires regular maintenance,” recognizes Robb Porter, from the firm Loadsmart, to the CNBC network. In short: “If the operator is not making money, it means that he is losing money. And a lot”.

Andrew Stickelman 4zsqhtix8h8 Unsplash

A more serious problem than it seems. How serious is the matter? The sector manages different statistics that dimension it and, although its diagnosis is not always the same, there is something in which they do coincide: the “empty” routes are not isolated cases. At the end of the year they translate into thousands and thousands of kilometers in which trailers and porters circulate without goods.

Let’s review. According to data from the European Commission, in 2021 trucks accumulated 34,000 million kilometers of “dead” distances in the EU. It has been slightly more than a fifth (21.2%) of the total distance registered in the block by freight carriers.

The percentages change, not the global photo. The TruckNet firm draw a picture even more devastating in the US, where, he assured in an article from 2021, 36% of heavy trucks circulated without merchandise. “The Bureau of Transportation Statistics reveals that in 2019 one in four trucks operating in the US was empty, two were nearly empty and one was 51% full,” points out the company. The values ​​of the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) improve this picture and leave it at “only” 14.8% of the distances traveled in the US.

Don’t say kilometers, say money. Whether one statistic or another is chosen, they all end up drawing a similar picture: trucks circulating many, many “empty” kilometers, with a load level well below its capacity or even without merchandise on board. Beyond percentages and studies, these distances translate into hard cash. Especially in a scenario marked by the skyrocketing rise in fuel prices and inflation that, warns the industrycan break the boom enjoyed by the e-commerce since 2020. If efficiency is always good, now it seems key.

What picks up CNBC, pressure from rising fuel prices has already forced carriers to cut their “dead miles” level to the lowest levels in years. If in 2020 the distances traveled by empty trucks represented around 20.6%, at least according to ATRI statistics, last year they were already 14.8%. In the case of the US, the increase in the price of fuel is added the increase of national freight rates.

The fever of the logistics park: there are already 270 distributed throughout Spain in what is its new great industry

Money… and pollution. The other key. In addition to euros or dollars wasted on gasoline, vehicle wear and hours of unproductive driving, “dead miles” also translate into polluting emissions. And that collides squarely with the demand for more sustainable transport and the sector’s own efforts to reduce its carbon footprint. The data is also disparate in this case but, beyond the figures, they indicate a more than sensible contaminant incidence.

What do the studies say? In 2018 the International Energy Agency calculated that the movement of goods as a whole generated 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Most of that percentage, about 62%, was carried out by land transport, especially trucks and vans. The government estimates that the group as a whole adds up to 25% of greenhouse gas emissions and blames 95% on roads.

the international road transport association lower the incidence of the activity dedicated specifically to the movement of goods by road to 4.5% and insists on its efforts to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by more than 20% in just one decade.

technology to the rescue. Minimizing or even ending the kilometers without load is not an easy task. It is necessary to square routes, organize the services to have clients on the way out and return and also guarantee that these services are provided with adequate vehicles, equipped for example with refrigeration if perishable goods. Facing the challenge does not help the lack of digitization.

In recent years, companies have emerged that want to take advantage of technology in search of greater efficiency. TruckNet introduces itself for example as a digital platform for artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and business intelligence to organize shipments with cost savings and “optimizing processes in the supply chain”. It’s not the only one.

The involvement of the sector, crucial. Something similar looks for the 3GTMS transport management software. DigiHaul leaves another interesting example: a platform that links shipments with carriers and aspires, as it points out on its website, to provide an “intelligent cargo solution” that helps “expedite orders”. In the case of Flatbed Messenger, launched by Loadsmart, the objective is to communicate empty trucks with loaders that need to transport goods. The underlying philosophy is always the same: make use of technological tools to optimize logistics and costs.

To achieve this, the attitude of the sector will be essential. Those responsible for Flatbet Messenger assure that this year their platform has already managed to save 1.9 million kilometers traveled by empty trucks, but the companies warn that delving into that path requires certain changes, such as getting competing companies to collaborate with each other or a further digitization of the supply chain. “We need to change as an industry,” admits a veteran from the industry to CNBC.

Images | Nigel Tadyanehondo (Unsplash) Y Andrew Stickelman (Unsplash)

You will have noticed it when you drive to the office in the morning, when walking your dog or while…

You will have noticed it when you drive to the office in the morning, when walking your dog or while…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.