How AI can mitigate the imminent shortage of truck drivers

by Vusi Melane
Photo: Justin Coetzee
CEO for GoMetro, Justin Coetzee, suggests fleet management technology can help keep truck drivers happy – and goods moving. GoMetro is a B2B SaaS fleet management company, headquartered in the UK, founded in 2014. Its first version was built by Coetzee for South Africa’s Rail agency.

The trucking industry is essential for moving goods, but it faces a significant shortage of skilled, reliable truck drivers. By 2028, the global shortage is expected to reach 7 million drivers, posing a threat to the efficiency and sustainability of this sector. This is according to Coetzee.

The disparity between the increasing demand for trucking logistics and the availability of experienced drivers is a significant concern. Moreover, the average age of qualified and experienced truck drivers is following a troubling trend, indicating that the industry is not replenishing talent quickly enough to meet current and future demands.

“It’s easy for companies to increase their fleet size to meet business needs or take on opportunities, but nothing moves without a driver. To address this shortage, the logistics sector focus really needs to urgently address the retention of current experienced drivers and their expertise and training young drivers with technology. This is where telematics data and supporting driver training technology can play an important role in profiling good driver performance and training drivers on what is good performance.” says Coetzee.

Digital technology creates better working conditions

In South Africa, trucks handle 80% of freight, which is ten times more than rail. This underscores the critical importance of experienced and reliable drivers to business operations. Management solutions that enhance driver satisfaction and fleet efficiency are highly valued. Without a consistent supply of skilled truck drivers, the South African economy is at risk of stagnation.

Effective driver training begins with reliable and consistent data. Route and trip data set benchmarks for exemplary driver performance, encompassing nuanced elements like throttle position, hill climb entry speeds, brake management, and handling road hazards. Therefore, comprehensive driver education must be tailored to specific routes.

“The way a driver drives area combination of situational decision-making, route knowledge, muscle-memory and vehicle understanding. Having the right data on trip performance and driver adherence is key to efficient operations.” continues Coetzee

Route data can be shared with drivers to demonstrate their performance against benchmarks and provide insights for improvement on future trips. This feedback can be provided through PDF printouts, leaderboards, or detailed reports within a driver roster and performance application. Additionally, several telematics companies offer edge-AI driver cameras that provide real-time feedback to drivers on their performance.

Experience counts

“Experienced drivers are invaluable because of their mechanical intuition and ability to handle emergencies, which helps to prevent vehicle damage.” adds Coetzee

“AI and in-cab technology now has the potential to turn your bottom quartile performing drivers into the mean, and your average driver performance into your fleet to achieve top quartile performance. However, there are no silver bullets – it is a journey that carriers can start with companies like GoMetro, who offer support in digitalisation journeys.” adds Coetzee

“Technology platforms provide simple solutions to future-proof the industry across three integral areas of the value chain: talent retention, operational excellence and great customer experiences. Building technology into your fleet management isn’t just a temporary fix, it’s a strategic investment in the future of your company.” concludes Coetzee.

Republished with permission from IT News Africa
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