The Intelligent Transportation System Market

Global transportation concept between hands of a woman in background

Technology is impacting every area of our lives. However, certain facts of life remain frustratingly difficult to solve. Traffic jams are a good example. Even with all of the technology embedded in our vehicles, real-time speed sensors on our roadways, and the location-aware smartphones we have with us at all times, many of us still struggle with traffic every day.

Unfortunately, the situation only seems to get worse. Wouldn’t it be great if technology could rescue us from traffic? Traffic engineers over all the world are working on intelligent transportation systems that promise to reduce traffic.

Today, intelligent transportation systems are big business. If current transportation market trends continue, the global market for these systems is projected to grow beyond $80 billion by 2027, changing the future of domestic freight forwarding in the process.

The Case for Intelligent Transportation Systems

The term Intelligent Transportation System may refer to any hardware or software that helps drivers and driverless vehicles use the roadways more efficiently. The goal is to make our roads safer, smarter, and more systematic.

Why is there so much focus on intelligent transportation systems? The Economist estimates that traffic jams cost every driver in the U.S. nearly $1000 in lost productivity every year. Furthermore, over 3000 people worldwide die in traffic accidents every day. Engineers hope that intelligent transportation systems and other future freight forwarding technologies can reduce this number.

Intelligent Transportation System Examples

There are many examples of intelligent transportation systems. Here are three promising technologies in use now and on the horizon:

  1. Adaptive Traffic Management
    In this technique, engineers alter traffic signals, metering lights, and speed limits in real time based on current conditions. The idea is to route cars away from the most congested areas. Many smartphone apps are intended to accomplish the task on the single vehicle scale. Engineers hope to implement these technologies for the entire transportation network.
  2. Predictive Traffic Modeling
    Reacting to traffic is useful, but predicting traffic jams and ideally stopping them before they start is much more useful. This may sound like a drain, but it is the ultimate goal of predictive traffic modeling. These software programs combine real-time data from road sensors and smartphones with weather forecast and historic information on traffic patterns. These different sources combined with adaptive traffic management aim to dramatically improve traffic.
  3. Connected Vehicles
    Adaptive traffic management systems can really pay off in congested urban areas—however, deploying these systems nationwide isn’t yet economically viable. In the meantime, connected vehicles can use short-range radio to share information to coordinate cars, trucks, and other vehicles and improve traffic.

For as long as there have been automobiles, traffic has been an issue. Could intelligent transportation systems be the solution? According to the investors and those who study freight forwarding trends, the answer may be yes.

The Impact of Automated Trucking on the Workforce

Interior of a self-driving truck on the highway

As automated self-driving vehicle technologies continue to evolve, many wonder what the future of trucking looks like for the 1.9 million heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers employed in the United States—the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has an answer.

According to a recent report issued by the GAO, two factors will determine the role of truck drivers and operators in a post-automation world: the level at which technology progresses and government regulatory decisions. These elements are expected to develop slowly over the next 5 to 10 years, leaving time for both the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Department of Labor (DOL) to continue working together alongside key stakeholders to prepare for changes within the trucking industry.

The Role of Truck Drivers and Operators in an Automated World

Cindy Brown Barnes, a director in the GAO’s Education Workforce and Income Security team, predicts that technological and federal advancements within the trucking industry will lead to one of two possible scenarios for truck driver jobs in the U.S.

Fewer Long-Haul Drivers

In this scenario, local drivers transport goods from factories to designated drop-off areas, where an automated truck picks up the loaded trailer and drives the rest of the route. The trucking industry is experimenting with technology that makes long-haul automated driving possible: GPS, cameras, accelerometers and gyroscopes, radar, light detection and ranging (LiDAR) sensors, and platooning.

As tech companies push for more advanced automated trucking technologies (in spite of a growing distrust for self-driving cars among the American public), long-haul truckers may become a rarity.

More Skilled Truck Drivers

In the second scenario, truckers are still needed to perform tasks technology can’t: navigating urban environments, fueling the truck, changing tires, or loading and unloading the truck. Partial automation technology will be used as a tool for truck drivers rather than a replacement—trucking will be less stressful and physically demanding, decreasing turnover rates and encouraging more young workers and women to enter the workforce. Partial automated technologies could also produce more specialized driving roles that require technical know-how and engineering skills, creating more opportunity for drivers to continue their educations.

As outlined in the GAO report, workers both inside and outside the trucking industry aren’t currently feeling the impact of automation. It’s the responsibility of the DOT and DOL, the report argues, to use the next decade to prepare for potential mass layoffs and develop educational programs for training a new workforce of specialized truck drivers.

According to the government watchdog, full automation isn’t an immediate concern, but preparing for a future in which driverless trucks are the norm requires anticipating big economic changes now.

The Growth of the Rail Freight Industry

rail freight train with blurred motion

Like many industries, the rail freight market has fluctuated throughout history. During the great recession in 2008, rail freight transportation had negative year-over-year growth for the first time. The growing need for crude oil, coal, and natural gas and the booming energy industry have improved rail freight’s profitability since then: In 2017, Class I freight volume in carloads increased by 4.5% year over year, and regional railroad volume grew by 4.9% according to the Railway Tie Association. Learn more about the biggest contributors to today’s rail freight market health and trends that may impact the industry in the future.

Contributors to Rail Freight Market Growth

Coal is the largest contributor to the growth of Class I freight volume, with a 20% growth year over year. Other positive rail segments include nonmetallic minerals (8% increase), metallic ores and minerals (4% increase), and intermodal shipments (2.3% increase). Regional roads also helped fuel growth, with coal, stone, sand, petroleum, and intermodal transportation all increasing. Some segments, like chemicals, forest products, and lumber, are still under-performing and will need to concentrate on growth initiatives to remain competitive and profitable.

Rail freight traffic is strongly linked to overall economic health. According to the Association of American Railroads, Class I railroads carried 37.9% of the total freight moved during 2016 and generated $12.9 billion in revenue. The rail freight industry is also a huge economic driver of high-paying job creation—in 2014, America’s major freight railroads supported 1.5 million jobs and $88 billion in wages (freight employees are among America’s highest compensated workers). The healthy U.S. economy is expected to generate more profits and jobs for the rail freight industry in the years ahead.

The Future of Rail Freight

The future success of the rail freight industry depends on its ability to adopt environmentally sustainable solutions and consolidate the supply chain through technology. Rail freight has been slow to incorporate digital advancements, but the industry is likely to place a greater emphasis on real-time predictive data, automation, cybersecurity, and other technology that will increase profit margins by streamlining operations and offering a better customer experience. The rail freight industry must also generate innovative solutions for minimizing emissions to keep up with regulatory pressures and the trend toward clean operations.

Global Shipping Services’ Solutions

Global Shipping Services is an experienced global freight forwarder knowledgeable in forming comprehensive transportation solutions. We can help you streamline your logistics process, minimize costs while complying with all regulations, meet tight deadlines, and ensure that your freight arrives at its destination without incident. Our expertise spans a variety of industries, including large freight contributors like the oil and gas and energy sectors—we’re confident we can provide reliable transportation services for your needs. Contact Global Shipping Services today to get an accurate, comprehensive freight shipping quote.