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Going Digital and the Green Future of European Logistics Companies

Going Digital and the Green Future of European Logistics Companies

Published on: 03 Apr 2023 6 min read

An argument for operationalizing real-time enterprise, market, and route data with next-generation digital tools to smoothen the bumpy road ahead for Europe’s truckload Carriers transitioning to hydrogen and electric-powered fleets.

Road Freight, a Bumpy Market 

The truckload market in Europe has seen quite a staggering amount of volatility by frequently spiking and dropping on the demand side (shippers) over the past several years due to shifting economic conditions (Covid and, more recently, the War in Ukraine). During the same time, the supply side (with roughly half a million road freight carriers in Europe) has remained constant in numbers and capacity.

For those carriers, the hard-to-predict asset utilization, overall inflation, driver shortage, spot price volatility, and newly implemented regulation (second phase of the EU Mobility Package and new cabotage rules) had and will continue to have a negative compound effect on business performance. It gets even more challenging for the carriers to have net-zero emissions on their roadmap by adopting more and more hydrogen and electric-powered vehicles into their fleet.

Hydrogen, Electric & Hybrid Fleets 

The move towards hydrogen and electric heavy goods vehicles becomes more mainstream, driven by increasing awareness of the environmental impacts of traditional transport vehicles and technological advances in both hydrogen and electric vehicles supported by increasing availability of charging infrastructure.

This, of course, doesn’t mean that carriers will swap entire fleets overnight. While subsidies for greener fleets, such as the ones introduced in the Netherlands, may offer financial incentives to speed up the transition, operationalizing those new types of assets brings a whole new set of challenges for fleet management operations, transport planning, and execution.  

  • Fleet Management – As if service and maintenance of traditional heavy goods vehicles wasn’t a pain already, introducing electric, hydrogen, or both new types of vehicles to the fleet means upskilling fleet managers, acquiring new tools, adhering to new safety requirements, and of course relying on digital tools to support categorically different service and maintenance needs. 
  • Transport Planning & Execution – Route cost calculation and stop-over planning just got a lot more complicated with electro and hydro HGVs in your fleet, as vehicle range, corresponding charging infrastructure, and due stop-over time all need to be considered.

Transport Management Platforms vs Transport Management Systems 

A transport management platform or TMP is an integrated platform for coordination and control of transportation operations – from shipment and vehicle planning and scheduling to customer relationship and payment management. Its features also allow companies to monitor and ensure compliance with various regulations.

But what is the difference between TMP and TMS software? TMPs are multisided technology platforms that enable logistics players to operationalize internal enterprise data next to a relevant external partner, market, and route data to achieve as much or as little automation and autonomous process execution as they feel comfortable with.  

  • Internal Enterprise Data – Next-generation TMPs aim to be a holistic enterprise solution, encompassing all carrier departments, processes, and use cases. All enterprise data is being created, stored, and orchestrated as part of daily operations, thus making it available in real time for optimal data-driven decision-making automation. 
  • External Partner Data – With the high degree of integration, partners along the transportation chain can exchange information in a proactive event-driven manner (ETA changes, smart document collaboration, vehicle availability for subcontracting. Etc.) 
  • External Market Data – Platforms such as Timocom and Transporeon enable TMPs to serve market-relevant data for any lane of choice, supporting carriers to utilize capacity more efficiently to maximize the returns assets. 
  • External Route Data – Parking spots, road restrictions, and charging infrastructure for Hydro and Electric data flowing into transport planning and execution is fundamental to making dispatching operations much more reliable and easier to handle. 

Hence, the demand for transport management platforms (TMPs) that can support the operations of hybrid fleets is rapidly increasing to enable higher productivity and boos carrier profitability.

What does a TMP need to bring to the table for Carriers with EVs?

Carriers that use electric vehicles (EVs) have unique requirements for managing their operations. A software platform for transport management must provide functionalities and capabilities that cater to these requirements. 

Route Optimization – Electric vehicles have a limited range, which presents a challenge when planning routes. The TMP must provide route optimization capabilities that consider the battery range of electric vehicles. The platform should be able to suggest the most efficient routes that avoid areas with poor charging infrastructure and plan the routes so the vehicle can recharge at the most convenient and efficient locations.

The TMP should also consider traffic conditions, vehicle capacity, delivery time, and cargo type. To optimize routes, it needs to reduce the distance driven, energy consumption, and use of charging infrastructure. 

Energy Management – Electric vehicles rely on battery power, so reducing energy consumption is critical to extending the vehicle’s range. The TMP should track the vehicle’s energy consumption and give real-time updates on the battery status. It also needs to recommend charging strategies to ensure the batteries are fully charged.

The TMP should be able to advise drivers on how to drive more efficiently, accelerate and brake smoothly, and avoid abrupt stops. Feedback on the drivers’ behavior and suggestions on how to reduce energy consumption are also important.

Charging Infrastructure Management – Electric vehicles also rely on charging infrastructure to recharge their batteries. A transport management software platform should be capable of managing the charging infrastructure and recommending the most convenient and efficient charging locations. It must provide real-time updates on the charging stations’ availability, status, and the time required to recharge the vehicle’s batteries.

The platform should also offer recommendations on the most efficient charging strategy, such as fast versus slow charging, depending on the vehicle’s battery and available charging infrastructure. The platform must be able to manage the billing and payment for charging and provide alerts when a vehicle’s battery is running low and needs charging. 

Fleet Management – for electric vehicles, it is a crucial part of transport management. Real-time updates on the location, status, and travel routes should be available through the software platform, as well as information about battery life and notifications on when to recharge.

The platform tools also need to schedule routine maintenance, track maintenance history, monitor the vehicles’ performance and provide insights into areas that need improvement, such as driving behavior and energy consumption.

Conclusion

The advanced features and capabilities of the TMPs help transportation and logistics companies remain competitive, ensure compliance with regulations, optimize operations, and improve customer service. They enable companies to take advantage of electric fleets’ cost and environmental benefits. As the demand for electric vehicles keeps growing, the need for advanced TMPs is only becoming more urgent. 

Scalefocus boasts a next-generation TMS and ERP based on no-code technology that encompasses all logistics-related workflows and functional areas. These include freight forwarding, dispatching, yard and depot management, hr, payroll, finance, accounting, reporting, and analytics.

The system is already in use by large Trucking companies in Europe and has helped them transition from a legacy siloed system landscape to a unified system, digital workplace for their entire operations.

Do not hesitate to contact us and let’s discuss how you can utilize it and leverage its functionalities, too!

About the Author:

Krasimir Kunchev

Krasimir Kunchev

Senior Content Writer

Kras is a true musical force-turned-copywriter. What can we say? Multitalented people do exist, and we got them! He’s been on stage since the mid-nineties when punk rock was alive and kicking. Fittingly, he started his writing career as a rock journalist and later learned his chops in advertising.

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