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IBM sees overhaul coming for trucking industry

The growing significance of fuel efficiency and telematics are opening doors for new players in an industry struggling to change, an IBM report says.

Fuel efficiency is the No. 1 factor in equipment purchases within the trucking industry, a new report from IBM says.

At the same time, brand name has fallen to the bottom of the criteria list and "faces the risk of slow death," according to the report.

The combination of those two factors means that new players in the trucking industry will give established brands a run for their money.


"The truck ecosystem will thrive because of--rather than in spite of--a chaotic introduction of new players," the report said.

"Truck 2020: Transcending Turbulence," which came out of IBM's Institute for Business Value, was based on interviews of 91 executives from 13 countries and from across the industry, including truck and bus original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), suppliers, regulators, and industry associations.

The trucking industry has been faced with financial hurdles, higher energy costs, and the image as a polluter in recent years, according to IBM. And the necessary advances for the industry are not restricted to strides in fuel efficiency.

Telematics will also be key, the report said. Evaluating and diagnosing vehicles remotely and in real time will be a useful tool in preventative maintenance. It will cut down on unexpected breakdowns that disrupt service and that cost trucking companies time and money, according to the report. Telematics tools that collect real-time data can also be useful for curbing litigation over accidents, the report noted.

While the growing significance of telematics may be entirely true, it should be noted that IBM has a vested interest in that field.

Big Blue has said it sees automotive computing as the company's next frontier and has been actively developing telematics and infrastructure technology for at least the last six years.

As far back as 2003, IBM began developing XML-based data retrieval architecture that would allow vehicles to receive real-time traffic and speed data from highways. In 2005, it signed a $125 million telematics deal with United Arab Emirates. And in 2006, it began partnering with manufacturer Magna Electronics to develop smart car parts.