Carriers send their drivers out on the road with a set of strict transport orders. Transport planners specify exactly which route the driver is to take. But is that really so smart? With traffic being so uncertain, who is in the best position to make the best decisions: the planner at his desk or the driver behind the wheel.
Increasing urbanization means more and more freight traffic in cities. About a third of all freight kilometers are driven inside cities. The other two-thirds are driven on the highways. But kilometers driven in the city obviously take longer –as much as two-thirds of the driver’s time. Wouldn’t it make sense to optimize much more in terms of time rather than kilometers
The city is also a source of unpredictability for transport planning. In the week before Christmas, traffic in the center of Amsterdam came to a complete standstill due to all the visitors who came by car. Streets may be closed off due to construction works or events. When children are heading to school in the morning and when schools let out in the afternoon, it makes sense to avoid driving in the surrounding streets. And anytime a head of state visits the seat of government, the capital is hard to reach.
Transport planners take that unpredictability into account and simply schedule extra vehicles and drivers – as much as 10 or 15% more than is strictly necessary. That’s a serious margin killer.
The Amsterdam metropolitan area already set aside €10m to improve the flow of traffic by using new and smart technologies. Innovation in traffic management ensures a better natural distribution of traffic, for example after an event or a major traffic jam. Until now, the project has focused on passenger mobility. A logical next step is to roll out this project – in collaboration with carriers – to improve the flow of urban freight traffic.
Using smart mobility technologies to reduce the door-to-door travel time – as well as to improve the reliability of the predicted travel time and ETA – is good for traffic flow and safety. It also ensures more efficient transport, less risk of accidents, more economic benefits, less fuel consumption and fewer harmful emissions, and a better use of space. By making open data available and enabling dynamic traffic management, the government can support companies with better and more reliable transport planning.
More freedom for the driver
With smart, real-time traffic data, planners can plan better, both operationally and tactically. This all sounds great, but what is the driver in the cabin going to notice of it?
The question is: who gets to determine the actual route in the city? Will the driver do that, using real-time traffic information? Or will the central traffic planners do that for the driver? Or is information technology going to become so fast that the driver won’t need to worry about the route because the on-board computer will take care of everything? I’m inclined to want to give the driver a lot more freedom to decide how he brings the shipments in a smart way to the right customer at the right time. I wonder what drivers, planners and other experts think about this.
Walther Ploos van Amstel.