"The trucking industry will become significantly more efficient."

We are fortunate to live in an exciting age of rapid technological innovation. Unfortunately, this means we must adjust to the re-inventing of business processes with a frequency once reserved for presidential administrations.

Though trucking has made great strides in productivity, reducing its overall percentage of GDP, it is still inherently inefficient. Empty mile ratios, suboptimal trailer space utilization and poor time utilization of assets are still the reality. Application of existing technologies will enable the trucking industry to become significantly more efficient.

Two converging technological trends will profoundly and permanently alter the trucking industry: low cost, ubiquitous communications and the Internet. Soon, all trucks will have GPS devices and mobile communications capabilities. Drivers will carry personal productivity devices (PDAs) connected to the Internet in addition to having on-board applications. The entire network of assets and shipments will be Internet accessible, completely eliminating the need for core carriers and EDI.

Scenario: The life of a shipment in 2010 A shipper's demand forecasting system determines that a shipment needs to be delivered tomorrow in Chicago. An intelligentagent program within its ERP system "tenders" this shipment to the Internet. The agent scans carriers' performance statistics and asset availability and selects a number of carriers to negotiate with.

Carriers' information systems have intelligent agents constantly scanning for tendered shipments. Each shipment located is analyzed and assigned a value based on its fit into the asset utilization plan. The agent programs then "negotiate" a rate. This process happens simultaneously at dozens, hundreds or even thousands of carriers. Once the agents have finished negotiating, all shipment data (including SKU level data) is transmitted to the selected carrier.

The carriers' system optimizes the assignment of the shipment to its controlled drivers and tractors. At the same time the shipment is sent out for bid to all owner-operators with tractors at or inbound to the pickup location. The bid is sent only to those drivers who fit the desired profile.

Next, the owner-operators' PDAs notify them of the shipment. After automatically calculating the cost of handling the shipment, it recommends a rate. The bid is sent back to the carrier's system, which consolidates, analyzes and determines which, if any, to accept.

Once the driver is assigned, all shipment and customer data will be downloaded. When the driver makes his pickup, the space detection system in the trailer determines any available space. The capacity is tendered to the Internet where an agent program looks for and selects a shipment, and the truck is routed appropriately.

While en route, the GPS device determines the driver's arrival at the consignee. The carrier, shipper and consignee are automatically notified. The consignee's inventory system is updated. Funds are electronically transferred from shipper to carrier for the negotiated rate and from carrier to driver for the settlement amount.

The entire transaction is completed without one paper document and without human intervention.

All the technology to accomplish this is already available today. The reality of trucking in the new millennium will probably be even more automated than this, involving technologies not yet dreamed of.