MAN Truck & Bus will invest up to $8,5-million (about R134,71-milllion) in US-based company FR8 Revolution Inc. The American entity, based in Silicon Valley, has developed a comprehensive operating system for a connected transportation industry that will be launched in the second quarter of 2016. The IT platform will provide shippers, carriers and truck drivers with a uniform and transparent platform for planning cargoes based on real-time data.

According to a statement issued by MAN, there is a strong need for a connected transportation system. “Today, around 12 000 freight brokers in the US act as intermediaries for free loading capacities between shippers and carriers via telephone, e-mail and fax.

“The system is highly fragmented and thus often inefficient; it is difficult to compare prices and costs are high. The FR8 system aims to support all parties involved in the process to leverage potential and to make the transportation of goods significantly more efficient.”

MAN envisages actively participating in shaping the digital transformation of the US industry, using the experience gained to transfer the business model to Europe. According to the statement, the new system will be launched in the US with various partners including groups of traders, fleet operators, freight brokers and shippers.

“The logistics industry is not working as economically as it could. All parties involved still have limited access to real-time data. Where are the trucks currently located? Do they have free loading capacities? What are the current prices? What is the current driving period of the truck driver?

“To date, almost 35% of freight volume is not used at all or not used efficiently, which is neither economical nor environmentally friendly. In collaborating with FR8, we can open up new possibilities for changing the system in Europe,” says Joachim Drees, Chief Executive Officer of MAN Truck & Bus AG.

According to Drees, the operating system developed by FR8 has been designed as an open platform which spans various telematics brands and provides an opportunity to integrate apps for all target groups.

“Shippers, for example, can view current freight rates, locate the truck’s position and manage invoices. Carriers can view freight plans of all trucks on one screen; in addition, they can enter free loading capacities on the electronic freight exchange or manage the drivers’ time behind the wheel and rest periods.”

Drivers are connected online with the carriers and can view their routes and, if necessary, make alterations to their schedules. They also receive information regarding servicing and maintenance requirements for the trucks they are driving.

“Digitisation is fundamentally changing the world of transportation. Connected services help our customers to be more productive and competitive while opening up completely new business areas.

“We will be changing more and more from a truck manufacturer into a provider of intelligent transport solutions. Our partnership with FR8 will bring us one step closer to this goal. We would like to transfer our experience and ideas to Europe as well as to our brands,” says Andreas Renschler, CEO of Volkswagen Truck & Bus GmbH, which owns MAN and Scania.

He says in Europe, more than 200 000 trucks in the MAN and Scania line-ups already have network capability and, from next year, every new truck that comes off the brands’ production lines will be digitally connected.