There is no denying there is an increasing number of stories about automation within the transport and trucking industry – autonomous bus trials, trucks that don’t require driver intervention and even aspects of the supply chain.
However, Isuzu Australia boss Phil Taylor is warning operators against getting caught up in the inevitable hype that goes with it.
“Presently, the media coverage of our industry seems to focus on very controlled demonstrations that are often hailed as the future of freight transport,” Taylor said.
“But these stories always carry the same caveat: all these technological advances are entirely subject to regulatory approval, and that approval would need to occur in many different jurisdictions for the technology to be of use to any large-scale consumer base.”
According to Taylor, Australia’s level of autonomy on the widely-recognised Society of Automotive Engineers’ scale, which is a 1-5 scale with five being full automation, Australia is still a long way off.
“The vehicles on our roads are currently hovering around SAE level 2 or below, and they’re going to stay there for a while too,” he said.
“Technology can keep increasing at an exponential rate, but there’s no computer chip in the world able to speed up the bureaucratic process.”
Taylor believes the more pressing adaptation the industry needs to conquer is the rise of business to consumer trade, rather than the traditional business to business model, which is being driven by the exponential rise of e-commerce.
“In days past, the transport of goods was being carried out primarily under the Business to Business (B2B) model and, as such, required a traditional, mass-scale transport solution,” he said.
“Operators would pick up goods from a manufacturer, drop them to a wholesaler. Another truck would load up the goods and take them to a brick and mortar retail store.
“That model, while still accounting for the majority of consumer spending in Australia today, is increasingly being challenged by B2C trade, where companies are selling products directly to the end user.”
“A business model that worked well in the past won’t be enough to keep transport operators competitive when people are flocking towards e-commerce in droves. The transport industry needs to become more agile to capitalise on the opportunities presented in the B2C age,” Taylor added.
Taylor said the answer lies in flexible business models and innovative approaches such as pop-up delivery hubs and greater emphasis on the final part of the logistics chain.
“This is something that’s happening already – major transport operators are adapting their business models in response to B2C trade to try and stay ahead of the curve,” he said.
“By offering innovative logistics solutions, these transport operators are increasing the attractiveness of B2C selling for both business and consumer. This, in turn, will only accelerate the uptake of B2C trading.”
“It’s vital that transport operators are thinking about factors such as these, asking themselves the question, ‘how are our customers’ needs changing?’, and investing in the processes required to make their business stand out from the pack,” added Taylor.