Safety’s Focus in COVID-19 Response Spurs Tech Evolution in Transportation

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Human safety is a major focal point during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A variety of methods, including social distancing and wearing masks, can improve human safety. Taking these precautions, we expect to slow the spread and keep people safer. It’s easy for us to get caught up in the impact we feel in our personal lives and forget the turmoil it has caused for our industries and businesses.

Transportation as an industry has traditionally been more manual and antiquated when it comes to technological advances. In many organizations, transportation has long been viewed as a necessary activity, but not a place of focus or investment. Some joke that it’s the tail of the dog for a lot of large companies. This has been changing in recent years with the focus on the customer delivery experience, along with desires to drive costs down. Many leaders in the industry expect that this focus on safety — and the technologies that help improve safety — could be a catalyst to propel the industry into a more modern technological state. Maybe this could be one of the good things to come from this otherwise awful pandemic.

With calls for precaution and the desire to protect employees, companies in the transportation and supply chain industry are being pushed to find safer methods for interaction. With the less mature technological state overall, transportation is traditionally a business requiring interaction between drivers and employees at shipper or receiver locations. The interactions could be for drivers to check in for arrival or departure, get signature for bill of lading (BOL) or proof of delivery (POD), or even for drivers to find a place to rest. In order to maintain social distancing and increase driver safety, many companies are turning to technology to help.

Some technologies that have become more important or more desirable in order to help maintain employee and driver safety:

  • Telematics or safety solutions in cab or fleets to monitor driver behavior and proactively detect incidents
  • Vehicle routing and scheduling tools to enable better planning or rerouting as needed
  • Real-time transportation visibility platforms to get predictive and more accurate ETAs
  • Virtual check-in kiosks and processes to allow drivers to check into facilities without person-to-person interaction
  • Electronic BOLs or PODs to transmit through life of shipment, avoiding the requirement for someone to sign and hand over paper or sign tablets

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Maintaining and improving employee safety is a goal of many types of organizations that participate in transportation activities. Companies like commercial carriers must focus on how to keep their drivers safe, along with their customers’ employees. Companies that participate in shipping or receiving activities such as distributors, stores, warehouses and distribution centers also have to focus on how to keep their employees safe, along with the drivers coming into their facilities. Many are turning to these types of technologies to help monitor and facilitate interactions along the supply chain.

The good news for companies is that in addition to keeping employees safe, many of these technologies can be used to help drive costs down and improve operational efficiencies. By increasing operational efficiencies using these tools for safety, driver wait times are reduced and drive time is increased, which can lead to improved capacity on the road. That’s a win-win.

Sometimes a catalyst is required to spark innovation. In this case, oddly enough, a worldwide pandemic with horrible impacts and outcomes may be driving great improvements in the transportation world simply through a focus on human safety.

Carly West,
Director Analyst,
Gartner Supply Chain
[email protected]

 

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