Digital technologies can open up considerable potential for optimising urban logistics. Current research for the Innovation Laboratory’s Transport use case shows that truck drivers’ job descriptions will change considerably in future.

Permanent transport and information chains, more transparency in the supply chain and links between short- and long-distance transportation as well as networks between different modes of transport are not only the components for intelligent urban logistics, they also form the information technology basis for dynamic delivery scheduling. This in turn creates the conditions for vehicles to drive autonomously to logistics centres and navigate their way through city centres – which will make a considerable contribution to greater efficiency and environmental sustainability for the transport of goods. As soon as transport volumes and shipment details can be presented transparently for logistics service providers, automated vehicles will also be able to run along these optimised routes. Humans – and in particular the truck driver – will still be irreplaceable for these processes because customer contact and many other processes can only be managed by them. Their flexibility and experience are also required for loading and unloading and for tricky driving situations. But they must be integrated into the digital processes and interact with new technical devices.

Automated driving connects companies and helps employees carry out their daily work processes.

The most important smart device for the truck driver will be the truck itself: vehicles can already be equipped with smart technologies for accomplishing the actual driving tasks (such as at intersections, construction sites, navigation, etc.) or specific processes (for example approaching loading bays, loading and unloading, complex positioning). Interfaces for data communication create a connection between the vehicle and the factory premises (e.g. for registration or route and loading bay allocation). Like smart watches, smart trucks have long ceased to be some sort of nightmare for drivers. On the contrary: the new technologies actually increase the attractiveness of the job – and can also counteract the lack of drivers. In a study by the Innovation Laboratory with 76 truck drivers, the respondents showed great interest in automated driving and smart devices. Those who had already had some personal experience with the new technologies were particularly open to future developments and more confident with respect to the benefits of the technologies. With this in mind, it is important to integrate the use of smart devices in driver training programmes.

The SmartWatch supports the truck driver at work. The real smart device, however, is the truck….