With the move towards zero carbon transport many of our current understanding of trucking will have to change as future road transport services will have to change the way the industry goes about its business.
“We have a rolling platform as a truck, which our customers use to run their transport services transporting goods,” said Alexander Vlaskamp, Global MAN CEO. “Actually that rolling platform, we are digitalising it heavily, where we have adaptive maintenance and different care products in place depending on the operation. There’s also technology where we can support the driver to operate efficiently and safely.
“At the same time, we are going into electrification, a whole new era for us and, of course, the next step will be autonomous trucks, which will also be close by the end of this decade. We see autonomous developing in confined areas. Most likely, mines will be first, we are also testing autonomous vehicles in some of the container ports in Europe, where the truck is delivered to a gate, and the truck itself goes into the dock area and picks up its exchange containers and comes back.
“These kinds of confined areas are there but definitely autonomous is a complex undertaking, especially where safety has to be 200 per cent secure. It’s about safety and operational fit with the logistics. Second step will be in operations whether traffic is not too complex, and where the weather situation is also pretty stable.
“If nobody is in the truck then it will take some time to get that up and running. But but you have to work on that as well, because this is very much a learning system. It has to learn to drive and anticipate the traffic, that’s what an autonomous system has to do as well. You cannot wait until the ultimate situation where there will be a perfect autonomous platform available, because you have to work with your own trucks and own data recognition and algorithms on the platform.”Source: MAN
All of this technological change is going to change MAN’s relationship with its customers. They used to come in, buy a truck, take it away and then come back and get it fixed every now and again. More sophisticated technology means the manufacturer has to develop a closer relationship to the freight task.
“This started, probably 10 or15 years ago and we see this development in Australia as well, where where small, medium and large fleets, more and more rely on our service network when it comes to repair and maintenance,” says Alexander. “Let’s be clear, 25 years ago, you all had your mechanic in the fleet and you were doing it on your yard. That has been changing a lot. Infrastructure and cooperation is in place, where the servicing is done by our dealerships.
“The next step, is to ask how can we jointly operate an autonomous system? But that’s a long way away. Also the roles of the driver will also change over to operating maybe five or10 autonomous trucks in a certain area, where the driver has a role more like an operator, instead of being in the vehicles themselves. That’s far into the future, but this is definitely where our thoughts and our practical tests are already heading.
“Trucks as a service is developing, from both sides. We believe that the markets will require this and we are investing in the building blocks for that. When it comes to Penske Leasing, this is the way they’re operating, when it comes to short term rental, what we have available in the fleet to cover for peaks in demand. We have that in place, all these building blocks which go towards transport as a service solutions.”
These discussions illustrate the philosophy which runs through the MAN organisation, as a whole, where there is a lot of looking to the future, but this is strongly informed by a very clear idea of what the industry is looking for in the here and now, at the same time.