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Industry Pros Explore Artificial Intelligence in Transportation Management

It’s a concept often misunderstood and even more frequently misapplied. Artificial intelligence (AI)—the premise by which computers perform functions that once demanded human engagement—is a science that delivers significant, across-the-board advantages to users of transportation management services.

Data Scientist and Trimble Vice President Chris Orban joined Covenant Transport’s VP of Sustainability & Innovation Matt McLelland, and Idelic Founder and CIO, Hayden Cardiff, for a meeting of the minds in “Artificial Intelligence: What It Is and How to Use it.”  The deep dive into the AI world and the benefits AI offers for the transportation management industry discussion was part of the Idelic “Week of Webinars” series.


The Why Behind Artificial Intelligence in Transportation

Despite inaccurate characterizations, primarily within the pop culture and entertainment sectors, the theory behind AI is specialized yet surprisingly straightforward: computers gain knowledge to complete tasks by capturing, analyzing and learning from large amounts of data. Identifying points not discernible to a live programmer means more accurate and extensive results. 

“Examples of AI might be truly understanding human speech, interpreting what a human says, and more importantly, recognizing that speech and understanding the meaning behind it,” said Orban.

The analytics preferences that comprise artificial intelligence deliver discrete capabilities:  descriptive AI offers problem identification; diagnostic isolates the predicament’s underlying cause; and prescriptive (the favored approach) gives solutions to address the problem’s core. General AI (not yet available) is being developed to accept any task assigned; narrow AI targets a specific purpose and is already widely in use. Noted McLelland, “An example of narrow AI is route-optimization software: it’s a specific use case in the scheme of trucking...All of us in the trucking industry use some form of that.”

Intrinsic to the discussion were the dynamic results being generated by Idelic’s Safety Suite, a configurable driver management platform that allows transportation management companies to wholly organize their fleet data, expand awareness of emerging driver problems through methods not possible with traditional dashboards, and use that information to make critical business decisions, Cardiff explained: 

“You’re leveraging additional insights into building an understanding of actual patterns and behaviors. One thing we’ve seen that offers a big differentiation and distinction between score carding or logic trees and true artificial intelligence is really leveraging technology like machine learning... where you see and understand those patterns from the past to then be able to identify those patterns and predict into the future.”

McLelland observed that Safety Suite doesn’t simply digitize a scorecard or drive focus to certain employees, but rather to all drivers without pause or limits to data. Giving credit to the impact Idelic and Safety Suite are having in the trucking industry, he said, “Your technology is doing it all the time for everybody...because it’s not just about what you’re doing, it’s the capacity and the volume that you’re working on.”


The Reach for ROI

Also discussed in detail was the potential achievable through AI’s “reach”— that is, the science’s ability to effect change for transportation management’s essential teams, among them fleets, internal operations, safety, and maintenance. Said Cardiff, “It’s aimed at doing more with less, and that’s where the ROI comes in. That’s something you have to take into account as a fleet, or an eventual buyer or producer:

  • What’s the investment?

  • Is it worth my time or money or resources to invest? 

  • What is the benefit on the backend? 


It’s that further reach to prevent accidents, reduce turnover and maintenance costs, for better efficiency, and improved profitability through route optimization--all these things are fantastic benefits.”


Real Intelligence for Future Transportation Technology 

Orban agreed that an enormous part of AI’s value is that it allows fleets to do more with what they have, before addressing the prevailing reality: the trucking and data industries are evolving continually, and it’s the companies willing to collaborate and adapt that will find it easier to transition to the new methods.

“We don’t have infinite time in the day,” he explained. “We need these tools to target the right action to the right driver at the right time. That’s the kind of thing that I think AI will be able to help us with as we advance in technology.”

He continued:  “Autonomy and machine learning are here—not just for this industry but for the entire economy. We can’t be scared of it but also can’t just go with the flow. We have to make our claim as to what we want it to do.”



How Trimble Solutions Leverage AI in the Transportation Industry

While the benefits of AI and machine learning are clear, it is important to know how and when to apply it to your business. At Trimble, we continue to look for new ways to harness these emerging technologies to help customers streamline processes and improve decision making. One recent focus is the area of dispatching and trip planning with the launch of Trimble Dispatch Advisor.

Check out a case study on Paper Transport to see how they rely on Trimble Dispatch Advisor and its automation capabilities to enhance the load planning process to benefit their drivers, back-office personnel and bottom line.