There is growing concern among German transport companies that they could fall behind in digitalisation. This is a crucial finding of the study ‘The Connected Truck’, carried out by the renowned social research institute infas on behalf of Continental’s technology company.

Through this study, Continental is taking a hard look at trends and developments in the transport industry for the second time since 2016. German trucking companies, logistics specialists, and transport companies were surveyed on digitalization, automation, vehicle technologies and general conditions in the industry. Two other significant findings: Environmental protection is rapidly becoming more critical in the transport industry, and the logistics specialists surveyed, see new transportation as another future challenge.

In terms of digitalization, a clear image emerges in the study results. Many of the logistics professionals surveyed (an even more significant proportion compared with 2016) stated that digitalization has already significantly changed the industry. Although the opportunities presented by digitalization are perceived positively by some of the logistics companies, fear of “missing the boat” is the predominant feeling among the respondents – and that feeling has grown slightly in direct comparison with the results of the preceding 2016 study. “The transportation industry is in the midst of a major transformation process. The players have seen that digitalization has continued to accelerate in recent years, and now they see a need for action that will position them solidly for the future,” says Gilles Mabire, Head of the Commercial Vehicles and Services (CVS) Business Unit at Continental.

The logistics experts surveyed still take a critical view of automation in the transport industry. Compared with the 2016 study results, the number of those who are particularly sceptical or optimistic about automated driving has fallen slightly at both ends of the scale. However, only a tiny minority of the study participants still believe that automated driving offers opportunities for the industry or drivers. The study does have good news for the industry’s IT and telematics service providers: logistics companies are more satisfied today with their software. Compared to the 2016 study results, the respondents gave consistently better marks to software solutions that support drivers, dispatchers, and fleet managers.

Vehicle connectivity is also becoming an increasingly important topic for the future, especially for larger fleets. “Commercial vehicles are now the most connected vehicles anywhere. Logistics experts are looking for solutions that will make the best use of new technologies for them,” says Mabire. “Transport and fleet companies have already had experience with relevant software solutions, and they appreciate the gain inefficiency. The immediate benefits outweigh the distant vision of autonomous driving.” The industry’s attitude will hardly change as long as automated driving remains an abstract concept in discussions. “Only when the legal framework becomes clearer, and the first projects in automated zones such as port terminals or hub-to-hub logistics show that automation can bring a very tangible benefit to companies will automate driving gain supporters,” he says.