Carriers will have to adapt to avoid losing market share in a radically different market

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Redefined by the boom in digital technology, delivery methods will require road transport to rethink their very short-term traditional model.

How delivery is revolutionising transport

It’s an evolution wrapped up in a revolution: delivery methods are about to disrupt the traditional world of logistics and transport. Four of them, in particular, are clear examples of this new development: the Uberization of the transport sector, 3D printing, delivery by self-driving vehicles and finally, delivery by drones. Let’s take a look at them in more detail.

At UPS, 3D printing on demand will be based on the SAP logistics chain management solution, credit: Sculptéo.

At UPS, 3D printing on demand will be based on the SAP logistics chain management solution, credit: Sculptéo.

The “Uberization” of road transport

This is the most obvious very short-term development. Already operating in the general transport sector, Uber has now directly targeted road transport by launching Uber Freight at the end of December 2016. The principle? Carriers link up with customers and pick up goods, limiting their “empty” journeys. Revolutionary? Not at all, since various companies including Chronotruck, uShip and Cargomatic already apply this principle which is largely based on… Uber – for transporting people. Except in this case, it’s Uber itself getting in on the action. And this transport giant’s clout leads us to believe that this platform will attract its target market quickly, reaching out to carriers who are not professionals, in basic terms. Like taxis, road transport professionals will have to fight against competition from private individuals who certainly cannot take on all shipments, but could take a large chunk of market share… without having the same constraints as these traditional carriers.

3D printing

In a few years time, all companies and many private individuals will have their own 3D printer. This would certainly not meet all needs. But it will cover a large part, and this will equate to even more market share escaping traditional transporters. Some of them have already anticipated the trend, such as UPS which offers its own 3D printing service.

Delivery by self-driving vehicles

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This is the most “futuristic” vision… But it is already a reality, even if still in a test phase. Self-driving vehicles for two very different roles. Firstly there would be trucks playing the current role of “traditional” vehicles; initially, a driver would be in the cab, at least to load and unload and to drive when the vehicle is not self-driving, in particular in the last kilometre. Except that over time the truck will become self-driving from A to Z, from its loading to unloading in an area dedicated to bulky goods. To deliver smaller items to the final customer, other self-driving vehicles could appear on the scene. Generally in the form of small robots which can knock on the door of companies and private individuals…

Delivery by drone

This is also already a reality, including in Europe, particularly in France where La Poste has launched this service. Whether the drone takes off from the roof of a delivery building, from a seller to their customer or from a vehicle, all of these solutions are being tested. Manufacturers are also getting involved, including Mercedes with its Vision Van. We can therefore imagine that in the future, a company could manufacture an item using a 3D printer and deliver it using a drone, since, of course, these solutions are complementary. In this scenario, traditional carriers are left out in the cold…

30 min: autonomy of drones used by UPS, which can carry a 4.5 kg package.

Credit: UPS.

Further reading:
> Les drones, nouveaux opérateurs logistiques pour les entreprises ? (Drones, new logistics operators for companies?)
> Drones and the transport revolution
> Self-Driving Trucks, Big Data Top List of Disruptive Freight Tech

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