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Top Technologies & Innovations Transforming the Courier Industry

Nov 15, 2022
  • On top of reduced fuel costs, improved delivery times and better access to remote areas, drone delivery technology also calls for minimal contact, something that's especially crucial at the peak of the global pandemic.

  • Video-based telematics allow courier fleet managers to monitor the behavior of their drivers while on duty, ensuring that they remain compliant with company rules regarding speed, acceleration rates and more.

  • Cargo tracking through RFID tags and QR codes ensures that goods are delivered to the right destinations within the set time frames.

  • Crowd-sourced delivery enables retail companies to cut down on the cost of running their businesses as it helps them overcome traffic gridlocks and lack of drivers.

  • Truck platooning optimizes transport by using roads more effectively, helping deliver goods faster and reducing traffic jams.

As e-commerce purchases continue to increase in popularity, there is an increasing demand for retailers and couriers to deliver large amounts of products faster and more efficiently.

To meet this challenge, couriers are turning to a variety of groundbreaking solutions to improve their services. Technology is leading the way in this quest, as companies invest in research and development of cutting-edge supply chain management solutions. 

In addition to cutting costs of operations, these solutions allow courier companies to improve delivery speed and efficiency, enhance tracking capabilities, and improve customer service. In this article, we examine the latest technologies and innovations for carriers, including a new way to monitor truck deliveries, RFID technology, and QR codes.

Unfamiliar with the industry? Check out the ultimate guide to shipping & logistics now (exclusive to Parcel Monitor members).

Unmanned Delivery Using Drones

Drones are relatively new on the scene as a delivery method, but the many advantages that they provide for courier service providers have seen them grow rapidly in popularity with industry giants such as Amazon using this system. They are used to delivering a wide variety of items ranging from food and drinks to phones and other items, moving them directly from distribution centers to the clients’ homes or other delivery locations.

As compared to traditional vehicle-based delivery methods, drones can deliver goods at a 70% cheaper rate – much to the surprise of many. As most drones are electric vehicles, this means courier companies avoid fuel costs and make cleaner and more environmentally friendly deliveries. 

Moreover, drone delivery has also been hailed for its efficient and fast delivery. In particular, drones provide an alternative method for delivery involving minimal human contact. This system is particularly important in situations such as the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Even so, drone usage is far from perfect, with several issues limiting its extent. For starters, it requires the use of costly infrastructure such as launching pads and control by highly trained crews. This means that this system is inaccessible to small-scale startups. Furthermore, bad weather also limits the capacity of drone use and they are only permitted to fly at heights under 400 feet.

Video-Based Telematics

Video cameras have long been installed on drivers’ dashboards to ensure that they comply with regulations. Long hours on the wheel can often result in distracted driving which can result in road accidents. Evidence from “dash cams” are used to investigate such cases in order to determine liability and to make insurance claims.

Video telematics, however, takes this a step further, integrating the use of sensors besides traditional cameras to monitor the actions of drivers. Some video telematics includes technologies that monitor the environment around trucks, getting valuable information on the positions of other objects and vehicles on the road. This system allows courier fleet managers to monitor the behavior of their drivers while on duty, ensuring that they remain compliant with company rules regarding speed, acceleration rates and more. 

Additionally, managers can watch live streams of their delivery drivers’ performances from a variety of camera positions in the delivery vehicle. This makes for greater accountability on the part of the drivers. Furthermore, management can use video telematics data to improve their service delivery by showing areas of lapses such as unnecessarily long idle times.

An increasing number of truck drivers are turning to video telematics to help protect them against false accusations in post-crash litigation. It is even speculated that information gleaned from records of video telematics will be used to improve the efficiency of unmanned delivery vehicles.

RFID Tags and QR Codes

RFID tags and QR codes are key features of today’s courier services. Introduced in 1994, QR “Quick response” codes linked to company websites appear on all kinds of products. Although the QR code had to compete with the barcode at first, the QR is now the widely preferred option due to its large storage capacity and ease of readability. RFID codes use radio signaling technology to track shipments or product parcels.

Cargo tracking ensures that goods are delivered to the right destinations within the set time frames. However, this can be problematic especially when a company deals with large amounts of goods that move in and out of their warehouses regularly. RFID and QR codes help courier companies solve this problem. With these codes on a product, the product can be tracked from anywhere. This is done by having the products scanned when they are checked in and out of warehouses, which in turn helps to reduce the risk of human mistakes, making it easier to keep an eye on your products. 

One of the main concerns of customers is the possibility that their goods have been altered en route, especially when the product in question is of a perishable nature. To tackle this, RFID codes can actually be placed on a product’s seal for security. As soon as a package is tampered with, the RFID signals are destroyed, and customers are sent a message to warn them about the matter. Last but not least, QR codes can be used for fast and efficient payment for goods upon delivery.

“Whether it’s a taxi company in the UK like Sky Taxis, a resort in the Maldives like Park Hyatt...or a merchant in Vietnam, the business always has the same pain points - which means every company can benefit from using QR codes,” said Simon Verraest, co-founder of Pomelo Pay.

Crowdsourcing Delivery

Last-mile delivery is a particularly challenging task for e-commerce retailers around the world. Traffic gridlocks and far distances are just two of the problems that face retailers in getting goods to customers. This is where crowdsourcing delivery – an approach that relies on non-professional gig workers – comes into play.

Crowd-sourced delivery helps retail companies reduce the cost of running their businesses. First, the delivery drivers are not hired on a permanent basis but are paid for each delivery. The companies are also spared the costs of buying and maintaining delivery fleets and fueling them. The gig drivers use their own vehicles which they fuel, maintain and repair when necessary. In most cases, the courier company does not have to cover the driver’s costs of going to the warehouse or store to collect the goods for delivery.

These advantages mean that the company spends less while getting full value for its deliveries. In addition, retailers can choose from a wide pool of gig workers based in the vicinity where an order is made who are ready to respond to orders for quick deliveries on minimal notice. Gig delivery workers use a variety of means to get to their destinations. These may include bicycles or motorbike or foot in areas with heavy traffic which would have been difficult for conventional delivery vehicles to operate.

Customers can monitor their products in real-time through GPS tracking apps and devices which show the delivery drivers’ routes from their point of departure at the store to their arrival at the customer’s house. As gig workers are hired on a temporary basis, companies can either use them regularly or only in cases of unusually high demand. This helps them prevent the problem of overstaffing. Furthermore, startup companies that are yet to develop their own delivery systems can temporarily use crowdsourced gig drivers until they acquire a delivery fleet of their own.

Truck Platooning

Freight trucks play a vital role in moving large amounts of cargo. In recent years, innovative efforts have been made to improve trucking systems. One of these innovations is truck platooning. Truck platooning refers to the linking of several trucks in a single column by digital means. Information such as braking and speed rate is shared between the trucks and their actions are synchronized. This means that the other trucks do exactly what the lead truck does and are able to move in a coordinated fashion.

The use of truck platooning presents several advantages to retailers and delivery service companies. First, fuel costs are of prior concern for people in the trucking industry. Minimizing the amount of fuel used up in making deliveries means increased profitability for the trucking company. Tests have shown that truck platooning significantly decreases the amounts of used fuel by up to ten percent in the last truck in the column and by lower percentages in the others. This also means fewer greenhouse gases that pollute the environment are released into the atmosphere.

Furthermore, truck platooning uses artificial intelligence to avoid colliding with objects and other vehicles on the streets, with the trucks moving in a stable and efficient manner. For truck drivers, this system means less stress and a reduced workload.

Importantly, although the vehicles are controlled automatically, they are by no means fully autonomous vehicles. Drivers stay at the wheel, watching the truck’s movements. The drivers can assume control of the vehicle whenever necessary.

The Future of Courier Services

Courier companies are increasingly adopting technological innovations to boost the quality of their services and improve customer experience. These innovations are helping to reduce the risk of human errors and improving delivery speed and efficiency. As research into these technologies and more continues to advance, these innovations can only get better. We cannot wait to see what the future holds for freight and logistics technologies!

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