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Opinion: Leave it to us 2.0

OEMs appear extremely wary of taking their service offerings too far


This humble scribe would react extremely badly if an IT provider offered to make his colleagues redundant, replacing them with an algorithm or two and some computer hardware to run them.

Who would test drive the vehicles big and small?

Ah, it might be said, they’ll be automated soon and you won’t have to worry.

Ah, the retort will be, they’ll still need to be evaluated virtually and physically and your bots will struggle to tell readers of developments they may find valuable or alert our political and regulatory masters to their shortfalls and unforeseen impacts from their decisions.

And if ATN offered to enter a management’s workplace and plug itself into its IT systems the better to understand what a company might need to know, the reaction would be swift and less than positive.

That would be for, if not entirely a friend, though ATN strives to be as neutrally useful as possible, at least not a competitor or the authorities.

Yet increasingly this is what customers, IT providers, and even truckmakers are either moving or have moved towards.

There is a matter of trust involved and all trust involves risk.

As noted in a previous opinion piece, with government, there are limits to how much trust that realm deserves and how much good it can properly deliver.

The trade-off elsewhere allows managers some control through legal sanction, for those with the cash and time for it, and the threat of withdrawal of custom if unsatisfied – if any conceivable mistake is not fatal to their business.

But there is also a risk-reward dynamic at play.

Open the business systems up and all sorts of efficiencies and services attractive to customers can be made available, even for the smallest freight enterprise.

You only have to read the example of Kwik ‘n’ Kool in ATN‘s December edition to see that some technological advances previously only open to big players have made it to small ones as was promised.

Those large and ‘ugly’ enough have been at it for quite a few years and have systems sophisticated enough to deal with the needs of their equally large and ‘ugly’ customers.

Their service providers appear happy to act as facilitators to relationships, leaving the ability for others to affect internal events using their technology to freight transport customers.

Interestingly, OEMs appear extremely wary of taking their service offerings too far into their customers’ operational processes beyond the advisory and data provision front – warranty might be as close as intrusive as they come but that’s been around for decades.

Certainly the big Swedes, Volvo and Scania, amongst those who have pushed the services envelope the hardest, are aware of a line they wish to avoid crossing.

It’s one thing to influence customers away from damaging their vehicles in the heat of a given contract, another entirely to suggest who they might employ or do what they will with the data they collect for them.

And the manufacturers ATN has spoken to have shown no interest in running or controlling freight transport companies.

They want an ongoing commercial relationship that is as exclusive as possible.

It’s up to their buyer-customers to decide how far that goes.

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