The digital platform from Volkswagen Truck & Bus will prevent many unnecessary truck kilometers in the future
When trucks are rolling down the road the cargo space is not necessarily full. In fact, one fifth of all truck journeys are empty, as the forwarding agent was unable to secure an order for the return trip to the central office or to the next customer. For the average truck, this amounts to 100,000 unnecessary kilometers being driven each year. Emissions, costs, working time – all senselessly wasted.
"Better information for everyone involved could dramatically change this", says Markus Lipinsky. The 43-year-old IT specialist and his team in Munich have been working on this task for over a year. The 140 specialists are working meticulously on the digital platform RIO, which will change the transportation supply chain. The application is to benefit all: drivers, forwarding agents, the industry – and even the environment if unnecessary kilometers can be saved and truck emissions avoided with this solution.
RIO is a brand of Volkswagen Truck & Bus. However, this has nothing to do with steel and rubber. The RIO developers work much more like in a software company. The walls are covered with colorful sticky notes detailing the next project steps, which is customary for IT development. In the bright offices, employees pore over digital solutions aimed at optimizing the use of trucks and vans.
The platform links a fleet of vehicles with the company headquarters and also the vehicles with each other. The goal is absolute transparency during daily routines. For example, business operators should always be optimally informed about the precise location of their trucks, including what they are carrying, and how they can intervene meaningfully in the case of short-term disturbances.
This special thing about RIO is that it can be utilized in any truck once the platform comes onto the market this year. It does not necessarily have to stem from the Volkswagen Group such as the brands MAN and Scania. RIO can take data from many different telematics systems and process it for its own offering.
This open concept is unique in the industry. While other manufacturers also offer digital platforms, they only work for their own trucks. Elsewhere, IT companies such as Amazon, which have similar plans, are not familiar with the vehicles.
RIO brings together two sides – data specialists and truck experts
Such people include Christian Zingg who previously worked for MAN in vehicle development. Today, he is a leading figure at X-Lab, the digital pre-development department for RIO. This is where concepts are created that are intended for series production by the programmers. A current example: a cell phone key for trucks. "The drivers can open the trucks with their smartphone – this is a big advantage for the forwarding agent," explains Zingg. As a result, the company no longer has to keep dozens of keys and organize their physical transfer between different drivers. The tool will enable dispatchers to conveniently assign access authorization for the truck by means of a computer.
Because such work steps are run via RIO, Lipinsky is able to guarantee his customers an increase in production of 15 percent. "We offer an accurate operational analysis," explains Lipinsky. To this end, the platform provides forwarding agents with information and tips on how they can benefit from the data. For example, if a driver is particularly fuel-efficient in their driving, the boss can reward them with a bonus. This is in the company's interest and motivates the employees. RIO even reveals if the driver is having a bad day: "This can be analyzed through their driving style. A message is then sent to the dispatcher who can persuade the employee to take a break or replace him or her," says Lipinsky. The software therefore provides decision-making aids for the company through its constantly collected data.
Large amount of interest by partner companies long before official launch
However, Head of RIO Lipinsky does not rely solely on his team of developers. "We also want to run applications from external partners via our platform," says the manager. Specialized IT companies can introduce offers that extend the RIO spectrum. This could be, for example, software that allows the cold chain of freight to be monitored. "We cannot develop everything ourselves," says Lipinsky. He is happy about the large amount of interest being shown by partner companies long before the official launch of RIO.
Such detailed data material has rarely been available up to now, especially for medium and small forwarding agents. Many are not even digitized, so they lack the bigger picture. RIO will change that. Intelligent algorithms not only evaluate the collected data, but also derive recommendations directly from it. For example, if an empty run is looming, the system actively searches for shippers in the affected area. These can, in turn, be contacted from headquarters according to the orders in order to fill the truck for the return trip. That would be impossible without the comprehensive data made available by RIO.