HDAW workshops tackle digitalization, how technology is evolving the trucking industry

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Updated May 17, 2019

Ram Chandrasekar with Phase Zero says it’s time to transform the aftermarket customer experience. After a century of business as usual, aftermarket distribution is changing. The good old days have passed, and they’re never coming back.

Presenting one of four workshops Tuesday at Heavy Duty Aftermarket Week (HDAW) 2019 in Las Vegas, Chandrasekar says technology has disrupted all corners of distribution. He says the growth of not only Amazon, but also companies in other industries, such as Uber, Lyft, Airbnb, Netflix and Nest, have disrupted their markets not through better products or lower prices, but by creating a customer experience that maximizes ease of use. Chandrasekar says now that those experiences are out there, customers have started searching them out in all corners of their lives. Including parts ordering and finding service providers.

He says aftermarket businesses hoping to remain profitable in the face of these challenges need to adapt, and quickly. He says the Amazon isn’t stocking truck parts (they are leaving that responsibility to you) but it has started collecting data on how truck parts customers search for and purchase parts online. Chandrasekar says that data is the framework on which the aftermarket can build a new customer experience. He says Amazon uses the data it harvests to identify products and capabilities it needs to add to its website and then finds partners it can work with that can supply those products.

Chandrasekar says distributors can do the same, using data acquired through customer interactions, surveys, website data and other fact-finding missions to determine value-added services it can add to its business to aid its customers. He mentions programs such as managed fleet services and real-time order confirmation and status updates as examples.

“Our culture has to evolve,” Chandra says, “we have to improve every day, every month, every year.”

The transformational shifts of trucking

Fleet Complete’s Sandeep Kar addressed other transformational shifts driven by technology and digitalization into the trucking industry during another HDAW workshop Tuesday.

Kar introduced eight megatrends during Tuesday’s presentation: Digital Transformation; Autonomous Trucking; Rise of Value Trucks; Platformization; Urban Trucking; Beyond BRIC; Rise of Asian OEMs; Dealership Evolution. Kar says four of those trends in particular — digital transformation, autonomous trucking, urban trucking and dealership evolution — are being enabled by digitalization in business.

Kar says the lowest common denominator driving these trends are urbanization. He says by 2035 the global population will surpass 10 billion people and 70 percent of those people will be found in urban centers and their vicinity. Kar says this will force change throughout the trucking industry. He mentions how Amazon and e-commerce businesses are changing customer expectations for when their purchases will reach their front door. Kar says his 11-year-old daughter expects a package from Amazon to arrive in 24 to 48 hours. By the time his 3-year-old son is that age, Kar says the expectation will be one to two hours.

Kar says telematics will become increasingly important in this region. For-hire fleets and private carriers are investing heavily in connectivity so they can better monitor how those Amazon products Kar mentioned will reach their customers. And this level of connectivity doesn’t just apply to tractors. Kar says in the future trucks will be viewed as a cost center; it will be trailers that will be viewed as revenue centers because they are the units that truly carry the product to the end user.

But that doesn’t mean fleets or OEMs will suddenly neglect the driver experience. On the contrary. Kar says as driver shortage deepens, fleets are continuing to invest more in driver comfort tools that will keep younger employees engaged. Young people desire connectivity, Kar says, they will not consider a career in trucking — even running a semi-autonomous truck — if they feel disconnected from their friends, family and the world.

Says Kar, “How can we enable that person to be connected to the world outside?”

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