We once lived in a world in which a light-weight aluminum trailer meant a “high tech” trailer, but these days, trailer manufacturers are upping the ante by infusing the latest technologies to bolster trailer performance and safety. Some of these technologies are now being slowly integrated into fleets the world over, while others are simply emerging. But, all have one thing in common – they incorporate tools that allow for streamlined delivery, heightened adaptability, and better visibility throughout supply chains.
Here are some of the best and brightest emerging trends in trailering:
- A Larger Variety of Trailer Sizes
- Autonomous Truck and Trailer Combos
- Electric Tractor-Trailers
- More Smartly-Designed Asset Management Tools
A Larger Variety of Trailer Sizes
It’s plain to see that the e-commerce behemoths of the world, such as Amazon, are using their power and influence to continuously find ways to deliver goods to their customers in as speedy of a manner as possible. This is great news for trailer manufacturers and trucking companies, as it means that the need for delivery is going up, but it also poses a unique problem for e-commerce firms.
Because these companies have grown to offer lightning-fast fulfillment times to their customers, they can no longer rely upon the traditional freight-carrying trucks to deliver the goods. Instead, experts believe that e-commerce companies will begin demanding more flexible options, such as fleets with smaller sized trucks that run on tighter delivery schedules. Naturally, this strategy requires the companies to invest in customized trailers that fit their changing needs, particularly during busy and unpredictable peaks.
Autonomous Truck and Trailer Combos
Arguably, the biggest vehicle trend to come out of the past decade is automation. As described above, the need for streamlined and flexible distribution methods is increasing, which means that fleets must be adaptive and safe – hard feats to pull off in terms of hiring, maintenance, and investment.
These are the exact reasons why many industry insiders feel that autonomous vehicles, including truck and trailer combos, are the answer to the issue that’s currently plaguing the distribution world. In an interview with Trailer Body Builders, Colin Holthaus, technical director for the National Association of Trailer Manufacturers, shares some of his predictions.
Though Holthaus admits that there are many safety “challenge(s) as we move forward with the whole autonomous vehicle thing,” he also says that truck and trailer manufacturers are also making great strides. He describes specialized trailer-towing technology that includes “ultrasonic sensors” and “radar and lidar-equipped vehicles,” all of which can be utilized with a cell phone app.
At the end of 2017, Walmart announced that it had preordered a fleet of 15 of Tesla’s newest electric tractor-trailers. It was a telling announcement and one that provided unfettered insight into one of the biggest companies in the world – it was committed to implementing green technology into its distribution model.
In an interview with CNBC, a representative from the company confirmed this sentiment: “We believe we can learn how this technology performs within our supply chain, as well as how it could help us meet some of our long-term sustainability goals, such as lowering emissions.”
Although Tesla’s electric tractor trailers won’t be hitting the roads until next year, experts estimate that companies will save an impressive $25,000 on fuel costs alone per vehicle.
In comparison to its massive fleet, 15 electric tractor-trailers may seem woefully inadequate, but there is a good reason for this small number: these vehicles can only be driven a grand total of 500 miles on a single charge, a number which can easily be sliced depending on factors such as freight weight and driving conditions. Because electric tractor trailers are very much in their nascent phases, it is likely an emerging technological trend that could take decades to perfect.
More Smartly-Designed Asset Management Tools
Some might argue that asset management tools, such as GPS systems, are not necessarily an emerging trailering trend, but as technology becomes more sophisticated, these implements are swiftly following suit. In the most basic form, trailers that are outfitted with GPS systems allow fleet managers to keep track of their vehicles as they move across the country. But, with more advanced options, fleet managers can remotely access pressing details, such as rises and dips in temperatures on refrigerated and heated trucks, as well as driver safety data. Taking it even further, these asset management tools can also track weight, which allows for heightened strongholds on theft prevention and compliance.
As you can see, trailers manufacturers are embracing technology just as much as any other of today’s innovators. For fleet managers and business owners, it’s important to stay abreast of the latest trends to see how it might affect competition and help bolster efficiency.