In a length study, Continental has found evidence that transport companies fear being behind the grain in digitalisation while maintaining a critical attitude to automated driving, even though the environmental and economic benefits are gaining momentum.
Digitalisation Continues to Drive the Industry
Continental has discovered a growing concern with German transport companies who believe they will start to fall behind in digitalisation. In “The Connected Truck” paper, carried out by infas (Institute for Applied Social Science, headquartered in Bonn, Germany) and commissioned by Continental, analysis was taken on trends and developments within the transport industry, for only the second time since 2016. Between February and May 2020, infas surveyed the first and second management levels of small, medium-sized and large companies in the German logistics and transport industry, including trucking companies, as well as logistics and transport companies. A total of 45 companies took part in the survey. The companies were surveyed on topics such as digitalisation, automation, vehicle technologies and general conditions in the industry. A key takeout was the sustained growth of environmental protection, while surveyed logistics specialists now see new players in transport as another future challenge to handle going forward.
The core pointer from the paper, however, was that that digitalisation is changing the industry, with logistics experts seeing a need for action within digitalisation. A larger proportion of logistics professionals were surveyed than in 2016. The consensus was that digitalisation has definitely changed the industry, and while digitalisation is perceived as positive, companies fear being left behind. The transportation industry is in the midst of a major transformation process. The players have seen that digitalisation has continued to accelerate in recent years, and now they see a need for action that will position them solidly for the future,” explains Gilles Mabire, Head of the Commercial Vehicles and Services (CVS) Business Unit at Continental.
While Skepticism with Automation Persists, Satisfaction with Software is on the Rise
The logistics experts surveyed still take a critical view of automation in the transport industry. Compared with the 2016 study results, the number of those who are particularly sceptical or positive about automated driving has fallen slightly at both ends of the scale. However, only a small minority of the study participants still believe that automated driving offers opportunities for the industry or drivers. In a nod to the changing industry, the study did have good news for the industry’s IT and telematics service providers: logistics companies are clearly more satisfied today with the software they are using. Compared to the 2016 study results, the respondents gave consistently better marks to software solutions that support drivers, dispatchers and fleet managers.
Vehicle connectivity is also becoming an increasingly important topic for the future, especially for larger fleets. “Commercial vehicles are now the most connected vehicles anywhere. Logistics experts are looking for solutions that will make the best use of new technologies for them,” says Mabire. “Transport and fleet companies have already had experience with relevant software solutions, and they appreciate the clear gains in efficiency. The immediate benefits outweigh the distant vision of autonomous driving.” The industry’s attitude will hardly change as long as automated driving remains an abstract concept in discussions. “Only when the legal framework becomes clearer and the first projects in automated zones such as port terminals or hub-to-hub logistics show that automation can bring a very tangible benefit to companies will automated driving gain supporters,” he notes.
How Competition is Shaping the Market
Like the 2016 survey, increasing cost pressure and competition for well-trained drivers continues to be the prevailing changes within the market. However, logistics experts also see new challenges ahead for the industry. Just under half of those surveyed fear that new players will intensify the competitive situation in the transport industry. “Large shippers and online retailers that used to be customers of the transport companies are now building their own logistics infrastructures. The result of this is that logistics companies are not only losing their existing customers, but new players are entering the market,” Mabire explains. In the study results, the logistics experts attribute greater importance to these new competitors than to shipping or rail transport.
Environmental protection has definitely gained increased importance in future challenges for the industry. “Due to the global discussions about climate change, the logistics industry simply cannot push this topic aside. This study result also reflects specific policy measures, such as EU legislation to reduce CO2 emissions from heavy transport, that are having a real impact on the industry. The big questions are how much the issue will be regulated by politics in the future and how logistics companies will act in terms of investment decisions,” says Mabire. “If shippers’ willingness to invest in environmental protection doesn’t increase, policymakers must focus on incentives to ensure the transport industry does its part to achieve climate change goals.”