When people talk about automated or self-driving vehicles, the conversation is usually about cars for personal use. They’re also the most popular at the moment, including the automated cars from Tesla, BMW, and other brands.
But corporate industries can use self-driving vehicles too if they choose to. One industry that will greatly benefit from using automated vehicles is the logistics industry. Logistic companies are responsible for controlling the movement and storage of goods in several industries.
It’s unimaginable how many trips each logistics company takes per day to move and deliver goods to businesses. But not every trip is successful. There will always be delays, especially on long-haul trips, as there’s always a limit to what humans can do.
Thus, logistics companies will greatly benefit from using driverless vehicles. And it’s safe to say that these vehicles will be inevitable and will become the future of shipping and logistics. Here’s why:
Faster Transport Time
Truck drivers follow the rules set by the U.S. Department of Transportation. A trucker must always have 10 hours without work before coming in for a shift. Each shift can last up to 14 hours. And a truck driver is only allowed to drive up to 11 hours for each shift. They’re also required to take a 30-minute break after 8 cumulative hours of driving. These rules can cause delays in shipment.
Driverless trucks will help logistics companies transport their goods faster. For example, in May 2021, a self-driving truck transported goods from Tucson to Dallas. The truck drove for 14 hours and 6 minutes. This is 10 hours faster than the estimated time it would take for a human truck driver to travel the same route, which is 24 hours and 6 minutes.
If driverless trucks become more mainstream, shipping and logistics companies will move goods in a shorter time. And this will allow them to work more efficiently.
Driving large trucks can be dangerous. So it requires amazing driving skills and extensive knowledge in road safety. For example, flatbed hauling companies require drivers to have a commercial driver’s license and make them undergo rigorous training. These requirements ensure the safety of truck drivers on the road.
But no matter how careful a truck driver is, accidents do occur. And these accidents can be fatal. In 2019, there were 4,119 deaths due to large truck crashes. And these crashes affect truck occupants, other vehicle occupants, and pedestrians alike.
Most road accidents are caused by human error. Thus, the risk of fatal truck crashes can be reduced if shipping and logistics companies use self-driving trucks. These vehicles use cameras, radar, and LiDAR sensors. Combining these technologies allows driverless vehicles to run smoothly on the road, avoid road accidents, and prevent injuries and fatalities.
In the long term, using automated vehicles in the logistics industry will help companies save money. For example, since companies don’t need many truck drivers, they can save on labor costs.
They can also save on fuel costs. One way this is possible is through platooning. This is the strategy where several trucks take the same route and follow each other. Currently, this is done by having a truck driven by a human take the lead. The driverless trucks tail behind it in the same speed and direction. With this strategy, the lead vehicle can save up to 4 percent on fuel while the follower vehicles can save up to 10 percent.
Limited Social Interactions
During the pandemic, employees of logistics companies are considered essential workers. And they interact with many people throughout their shift: when loading and unloading trucks, discussing paperwork, and so on. Thus, they face a high risk of becoming exposed to COVID-19.
Self-driving vehicles can help reduce this risk and allow workers to observe social distancing as much as possible. This will be an important factor in the post-pandemic era, where people are expected to be still apprehensive about physically interacting with others.
Self-driving trucks aren’t perfect. For one, many people will lose their jobs if these trucks become more mainstream. There are also safety concerns on automated trucks. Some roads are not optimized for these vehicles. So automated trucks are still at risk of getting into accidents.
Automated trucks are also expensive. Their purchase price and maintenance fees might not convince logistics companies to push through with the acquisition. They have to wait until the technology needed for self-driving vehicles becomes more affordable to acquire.
Self-driving vehicles are convenient and can improve work efficiency in the logistics industry. It’s fair to say that these vehicles will take over the industry in the foreseeable future.