Not only have we just started a new year, but also a new decade. Many reflect on what happened over the past 10 years, but I would like to takeout my crystal ball and “predict” what will happen in the year to come. Although the year is still fresh, I have been talking with people in the industry and gotten a feel for what is likely to happen in the coming months.

Quo Vadis UD?
I remember it clearly: Tan Chong’s representatives discussing the change of the brand name of the trucks (from Nissan Diesel to UD) after Volvo purchased the truck division from the Japanese owners. Coming as a surprise to many in the industry, UD is now shifting again, this time to Isuzu. I have been trying to get more answers about this deal, however, the people I spoke to were just as surprised as anyone else. As the proposed move is to be concluded at the end of 2020, this topic will be one that is going to be hot all year around.

Your Daily Date with Diesel
Electrification of vehicles is omnipresent. Every established brand is working on it and new players are mushrooming, all vying for a piece of this exciting new market. Here in Malaysia, the government has recognised the signs of the times and budgeted for 500 electric buses. Sadly, for the trucking industry, it is the buses that get the limelight (again). As it stands now, the technology is still a long ways off from being fully commercially viable for long haul operations or even inner city work as the infrastructure is missing. What we will see this year are further improvements in the technology, more pilot projects, however, we can still expect diesel engines to dominate.

On Autopilot
Tesla may have had the most bombastic launch of a self-driving vehicle two years ago, but in the meantime others have also revealed their autonomous vehicles. While some are more cautious with showcasing Level 4 autonomous vehicles, others are going all out with concepts that are fully autonomous. However, even the most optimistic makers of trucks would maintain that for now, the uses are limited and restricted to very controlled environments. Truck drivers will surely continue to see these vehicles as a threat; however, infrastructure needs to be set up first before these vehicles become viable, just like electric vehicles. For 2020 I expect more and more concepts to be introduced, showing where the journey goes in combination with the caution, that for now, this is still very much a dream.

Eye in the Sky
Connectivity is being hailed as one of the issues that makes the job of fleet operators easier. However, without clever usage of telematics systems, there is no point even having it. Recently, I was told that drivers of a particular company were instructed to avoid tolls whenever possible. Personally, I think that truck drivers already have a very demanding job and besides that, it is not their job to ponder on the most cost-efficient route in view of commitments to customers. Leave that to the algorithm and let the PC tell the driver which way to go. As transporters are further pressured, I expect more companies to expand the usage of telematics beyond merely monitoring idling times. In that connection, I am still looking for evidence that applications that allow for easier backhauls are working and are actually offering a way to make more money for the transporter. Essentially, the idea is great, but I wonder if the implementation has borne any fruits.

Will 2020 be a revolutionary year? It could be, but I see it as a year where existing technologies are further developed as we continue to move towards their optimum use.