Telematics is now undeniably an asset for road haulage companies. It is even becoming essential if such companies wish to remain competitive, as the very model of the sector is in the process of changing. Many private companies have already understood this. However, the public sector is also now jumping on the bandwagon and becoming aware of the importance of focusing on digital technology in general and telematics in particular. This is especially the case in the road haulage sector: some city centres are already “intelligent”, letting hauliers know in real time which parking areas are available, the traffic conditions, etc. However, there are regions that are implementing general policies using telematics as a genuine enabler, making it more than just something ‘nice to have’.
Ohio – pioneer of its kind
This is the case of Ohio, in the United States. Up until the 1970s it was part of the “Manufacturing Belt”, which was the pride of a decidedly modern country. Then the crisis arrived and Ohio took on the mantle of a “Rust Belt” symbolising the decay of its industry. An unwelcome label, considers its governor, John Kasich, who wants to make Ohio part of a “Knowledge Belt” and a leader in new technologies, especially telematics.
By learning about it, and by strengthening education, but above all by using it, the Governor wants to exploit telematics to improve the lives of his constituents. In other words, John Kasich intends to retrieve the data collected by his departments as well as by the private haulage companies that use the highways in Ohio. A delay somewhere, a road temporarily closed? Immediately and in real time, diversions are put in place, speeds are decreased or even increased and everything is indicated by road signs. The traffic thus becomes more fluid, in a state where traffic jams abound and weather conditions are sometimes difficult, particularly as a result of snowfall.
An “intelligent” motorway
But Ohio is going a lot further: it has therefore transformed 35 miles of one of its main highways into an “intelligent” motorway section, able to accommodate driverless cars in total safety. Investment cost: 15 million dollars. Better still, John Kasich is going to allocate 45 million dollars to the construction of a driverless vehicle research centre. The long-term goal? “In road transport, we have to change our mindset to adapt to the real needs of the population”, explains the Governor. “We must think about the best way of using big data to understand where people want to go and where it makes no sense to take them. Over time, we should no longer see any empty vehicles”, expects John Kasich.
Whether it involves transporting goods or people, we understand that telematics will be used to pool requirements and come up with a better match between supply and demand. And Ohio is not an isolated case, since its example is already being studied by many other states. At a time when road transport is going through almost unparalleled changes, the example of this innovative state is instructive insofar as it can give companies in the sector some avenues to explore, so that they can, at least partially, reinvent themselves.