In the latest Paragon UK customer survey, we asked transport operators what the most significant road transport developments will be in 2019 and why. Here are the top five predictions – according to more than 100 industry professionals using our route planning software – and some thoughts about how they may contribute to or alleviate some of the pressures facing the sector:
Unsurprisingly, the uncertainty around Brexit is seen by many of the respondents as a major challenge in the coming months. Multiple concerns about the UK’s planned departure from the EU were raised within the survey such as the potential requirement for increased border checks; the worsening of the current skills shortage; and the risk of increasing transport and route planning costs.
A significant impact is expected on the road transport sector due to the “current lack of clarity, unknown complications and unclear outcome”. As a result of the “current lack of clarity”, “the labour market is in limbo until we know 100% whether there is a deal or not”, while international shippers will potentially have to “contend with a raft of new trading rules and agreements”.
There was an overriding feeling that pressure to comply with emissions-based legislation and cleaner air zones in urban areas will impact deliveries to retail stores, business locations and the home. As towns and cities look to reduce pollution levels, transport operations will need to focus on environmentally-friendly fleets. This is expected to speed-up innovation in alternatively-powered vehicles including the development of “suitable electric delivery vans in late 2019” and “fully-electric 18-and 26-tonne vehicles”.
With rising fuel cost and greater focus on the environment, one respondent felt like the most significant development would be “the transition of vehicle engines from diesel to hybrids or to natural gas and further advances in fuel cells and electric batteries”. However, there were some words of caution about the introduction of stricter urban requirements, with one claim that it will “force everyone to update or retro-fit their fleet at significant cost and may further reduce the available haulage pool”.
Digital technology is playing a greater role than ever in the road transport sector as logistics operations seek to reduce costs, make better use of available resources and enhance customer service. With advances in artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotic process automation, digitisation is “expected to grow dynamically over the next few years, generating even larger benefits” for the industry.
The feedback from respondents reinforced findings elsewhere in the survey, which had found that most transport fleets are now using vehicle tracking (95%) with over half (52%) also utilising electronic proof of delivery. The demand for telematics solutions is now widespread and businesses are now looking to IoT-based solutions to “utilise data from vehicles and other data sources”. There is also a belief that digital technology will help automate and simplify processes to “support greater efficiency” and even “reduce the talent gaps”.
The last annual Paragon survey highlighted mixed feelings towards driverless vehicles within the UK, but it seems that many respondents still expect further advances, or at least trials, during 2019. Some felt that autonomous vehicles and robot delivery technology could provide a useful way of mitigating rising transport cost and driver shortage pressures faced by the road transport sector.
While one respondent did state that “we will not be much further ahead with autonomous vehicles”, another believed there would be “advancement of assisted driving and delivery, which will provide a half-way, stepping stone to significant use of automation” within the road transport sector.
Highways England’s delivery integration partner framework programme – worth up to £8.7bn between 2018 and 2024 – has led to many within the road transport sector anticipating a sharp growth in investment for the road network. One respondent explained: “Road construction is widely expected to expand in 2019 as improvement contracts under the new regional delivery partnership arrangement translate into a much-welcomed increase in output.”
Several already completed or imminent improvements are also expected to have a positive effect on “traffic levels, journey time reliability and operational overheads”. Respondents were hopeful that the completion of smart motorway upgrades on the M5 and the M6 would ease congestion, especially during peak travel periods, while the removal of the tolls on the Severn bridge was expected to reduce the cost to serve customers in South Wales.
Only time will tell how these predictions will play out, but what will remain constant is the importance of flexible route planning tools that allow transport operations to respond to the continuous changing environment. Whether it is the ability to efficiently plan hybrid fleets; tackle congestion by making best use of the road network; streamline internal processes by integrating technology systems, this will help them deal with the challenges and opportunities ahead.
Whether you’re looking to manage external pressures such as environmental issues or internal challenges such as growth then talk to Paragon about how route planning can help.
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