Skip to main content

Editor’s Note: Today’s blog comes from our friends at Barrington Freight where they give us a glimpse as to what the next 10 years will look like for automation in the freight industry.

Autonomy and artificial intelligence are two of the hottest tech ideas being integrated into modern industries. And the freight industry is no exception to that rule. New technologies are being experimented with and tested all of the time and the worry for many people in the industry is that, sometime soon, human intervention won’t be necessary at all. As freight and logistics solutions are getting smarter, it begs the question as to what will become of the automated freight industry in the next ten years.

Self-Driving Trucks

One of the biggest pieces of freight news that most people recognize is automated freight trucks. While the testing of these automated trucks has already been given the go ahead, there is a lot of concern around what this technology could mean for the 1.7 million truckers in America. For the company owners, however, self-driving trucks could massively cut down on costs, which means that more profit can be put towards improving other operations and developing on already existing technology to enhance its capabilities. However, it may still be some time until this technology is actually put to use as tests are still in the very early stages. Some professionals have predicted that it will take 30 to 40 years until self-driving trucks to brought into operations, and even longer for them to replace drivers completely, if ever.

Automated Freight Ports

While automated ports might be cutting down on jobs, they are potentially saving lives and increasing the efficiency of operations tenfold. Gantry cranes, transport vehicles and stacking cranes can be operated all by software, which means that a number of errors can be reduced and human workers need not be present in more dangerous areas of the port where goods are being loaded and unloaded. Typically, gantry cranes which pick up containers from the ships that carry them require a person present to unlock the container before it can be picked up. However, many ports have started to use equipment that can be automatically locked and unlocked, which means that no employees need to put themselves at risk by climbing the containers and getting in the way of the crane.

The port of Rotterdam, in particular, is a great example of an almost fully automated port which is almost completely run by software. Rotterdam is a huge port with almost 450 million tons passing through it per year and with software running the show they have a more consistent pace for loading and unloading and regular errors have reduced significantly.

Freight Drones

Drones are being used for everything these days and the possibilities of their capabilities are being explored all over the board, including air freight. Two Swiss companies, in particular, are experimenting with drones for air freight solutions. Swiss Post and Swiss WorldCargo are expecting to use drones to deliver to more remote locations that can’t be accessed by road. While these types of drones won’t be able to deliver around the world, local delivery seems more than feasible. The online retailer Amazon has been conducting similar experiments with drones, although they expect to replace a significant portion of their logistics services with drones. As well as delivering to remote locations, they expect to use drones for fast-track delivery.

Time will only tell how successful these new technologies will be and while they all seem very impressive in their development stages, there is a lot of work left to be done before we start seeing drones knocking on front doors and human-free ports. Until that time most freight forwarders are finding the most up-to-date technologies to help customers find the most efficient and cost effective means of transporting their goods.