Will drones open New opportunities in trucking?

Posted on Thursday 5th September 2019

 

Meanwhile, in Canada. Many traditional fleets already recognize the emerging opportunities around the ‘final mile’ and are looking beyond traditional Class 8 tractors to tap into the market.

 

When asked about the most significant change they expected to make to their fleets in the upcoming year, about one in five (17%) of carriers surveyed by TD Bank said they would adjust the makeup of their fleets to support last-mile deliveries.

 

“For years and years, sales of Class 8 trucks far outpaced any other category of trucks, and what we’re seeing is a continuation of strong growth rate in medium-duty, whether it be Class 5, Class 6, or even Class 7,” says Anthony Sasso, who oversaw the survey. “What we see from an asset perspective also lends itself very well to a movement towards ‘last mile ‘delivery.”

 

While some people associate last-mile deliveries with the courier or parcel business, the shipments don’t necessarily imply e-commerce orders heading for homes, says Sasso. “Last mile has always been defined as going from the hub or a distribution centre, and transporting it to the brick and mortar,” he says.

 

Claude Robert, the retired president but active advisor for Boucherville, Qué.-based Groupe Robert, thinks the trucking industry is at a turning point. “It’s going to be organized, integrated operations,” he says of the future business, referring to the growing role of companies like Amazon and other major online retailers that are building their own transportation networks. That will force carriers to restructure their own businesses, he says.

 

The drones, while interesting, are still well into the future because of challenges ranging from software to regulations and the need for a specialized workforce to fly them, he adds. But Robert expects them to be used for tasks like yard surveillance or managing inventory before making airborne deliveries.

 

It’s already happening in that sense. Renault Trucks, part of the Volvo Group, once relied on employees and binoculars to monitor inventory at its Lyon Saint-Priest axle centre. The drone that does it now will do the work 10 times quicker than people ever could.

 

TD’s Sasso puts drones in the same category as autonomous vehicles, both destined to gain traction as they become more cost-effective and establish safeguards. “At some point it will be inevitable. As people look for different solutions for delivery, [drones] certainly can be a viable option,” he says.

 

 

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