, Volume 23, Issue 3, pp 375-395

Technological innovation and the trucking industry: Information revolution and the effect on the work process

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Conclusion

The trucking industry has experienced a drastic change in competitive forces in the past 20 years. These changes have led to longer hours and lower wages and arguably to greater risk to drivers' health and safety. They have also led carriers to implement new technologies, especially information technology, to compete successfully. While basic freight handling has undergone marginal changes (manual fork lifts giving way to powered fork lifts; drag lines and hand carts giving way to conveyors), and various truck technology improvements have led to greater safety (anti-lock brakes and collision avoidance technology), the basic work process has not changed greatly. The greatest changes have come from the introduction of information technology. Carriers use sophisticated routing and scheduling algorithms to increase the efficiency of their dispatch systems and hence the efficiency with which they use labor. Modern computing systems, with processor speed and storage capabilities hundreds of times greater than those of the biggest and fastest computers a human generation ago, allow carriers to process information efficiently and maximize their use of resources. Satellites and other modern telecommunications devices have made it possible to communicate with the truck and driver, monitoring both the truck's mechanical activity and location as well as driver practices. With the advent of the Internet, carriers can attempt to track shipments and vehicles to provide nearly real time information management, overcoming one of the greatest transportation problems.

The University of Michigan Trucking Industry Program, funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, provided funding for this research. Additional researchers who participated actively in data collection include Stephen V. Burks (University of Minnesota-Morris), Peter F. Swan (Pennsylvania State University), and Margaret Shackell-Dowell (Notre Dame University).