Trucking Looks to Bundle Up Technology
By Jennifer Smith
Putting a computer in the cab of a big rig was a radical step
back in 1988.
Trucking companies since then have added as many as 10 separate
devices into vehicles, tracking everything from location to the
time drivers spend behind the wheel and how often they pump the
Taking a page from the consumer electronics playbook, Daimler
Trucks North America LLC plans to take the technology clutter out
of truck cabs by installing a single platform right on the factory
The software operates with the truck-maker's touch screen,
streaming data back to fleet managers and enabling drivers to
manage the tech in their 18-wheelers the way they might handle a
smartphone, even as they are hauling 80,000-pound industrial
The idea is to help harness the torrent of data and reduce the
clutter and duplication that has come as layers of technology have
been bolted onto trucks. That should streamline work for drivers
and fleet managers who now cope with a mounting pile of
transportation apps and telematics equipment.
The technology from transport startup Platform Science works
something like Apple Inc.'s App Store. The open platform lets
trucking operators to add a customized mix of third-party software
and connectivity services without having to install an array of
aftermarket hardware. It also enables the apps to talk to one
another, pulling data from the back end so drivers don't have to
keep entering the same information, such as their name or vehicle
"We are taking the model applied in the consumer industry and
putting it on the truck," said Anil Khanna, director of
connectivity for the digital vehicle solutions division at Daimler
Trucks North America. The company will begin rolling out the
technology next year.
The truck-maker's parent company, Daimler AG, is the largest new
investor in Platform Science's recent $42 million Series B funding
round, which was led by the venture-capital arm of industrial
real-estate giant Prologis Inc., an existing investor. Venture firm
8VC, NewRoad Capital Partners, Schematic Ventures and Cambridge
Capital also participated in the round.
La Jolla, Calif.-based Platform Science was founded in 2015. The
company, which has about 160 employees, plans to use the funding to
hire more staff in the field as it looks to expand its market
share. Founder and Chief Executive Jack Kennedy said the startup
expects to turn a profit by 2022 but declined to disclose annual
The widespread consumer adoption of smartphones and tablets is
pushing more logistics operators to incorporate similar technology
into their businesses. Managers say user-friendly systems that
resemble mobile apps can simplify operations and help cut training
time for workers who have grown up using such devices.
Even highly manual operations like driving trucks are ripe for
such advances. Trucking companies increasingly rely on software,
sensors and other tools to manage routing, vehicle maintenance and
regulatory compliance for fleets that haul goods thousands of miles
across the country.
"They employ technology so they can continue to get bigger.
There's no way you can move the economy on a legal pad and a
clipboard anymore," said Mr. Kennedy, who previously served as
president of Qualcomm Enterprise Services, which later became
fleet-management software provider Omnitracs LLC, and was an
executive at News Corp., parent company of The Wall Street
Having trucks arrive with the technology already installed will
save time and money, said Shaleen Devgun, chief information officer
at Green Bay, Wis.-based trucking company Schneider National Inc.,
which uses Platform Science's technology.
"The idea here is not to surround the driver with apps a mile
high and a mile deep," he said.
Write to Jennifer Smith at email@example.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
May 24, 2020 09:14 ET (13:14 GMT)
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