Global road freight revenues are expected to grow by an average of 4.3% annually from 2020 to 2025, according to new research.

'Navigating Roadblocks in the Long-Haul Road Freight Industry', a whitepaper published by Shell and Frost & Sullivan, examined how digitalisation is advancing a new generation of fleet management solutions and the role decarbonisation strategies will play in futureproofing operations.

Top industry challenges include the skilled driver shortage, the report confirmed, with fleet managers urged to utilise data-driven fleet management solutions, like telematics, to help facilitate decision making and encourage safer driving practices.

The research also concluded that although cost management is essential in an uncertain economic climate, many fleets are yet to explore AI-driven fleet management services such as predictive maintenance, which can reduce breakdowns by 70% or more, and digital freight brokerage solutions, which minimise efficiency losses through improved utilisation and load optimisation.

Studies suggest that predictive maintenance could reduce maintenance costs by up to 30%, and in certain cases, the use of high-quality, differentiated fuels and lubricants can generate economy savings of 8.9%.

Over 70% of industry respondents said decarbonisation was a leading, or top three, priority. In order for fleets to operate more sustainably, while remaining profitable, there is the opportunity to invest in short-to-mid-term solutions such as LNG, BioLNG and biofuels, the report said.

The transition to alternative powertrains such as battery electric and hydrogen vehicles will be critical to decarbonisation in the longer term, it added.

Other themes of the research included security where 65% of fleet managers considered fraud as a problem for their business. Operators were advised to embrace digital fleet management tools, like payment monitoring, which enable full visibility of expenditure and geo-fencing to limit the risk of security breaches.

Companies were also urged to keep pace with the evolving regulatory landscape - from driver safety, such as changes to working hours and conditions, to sustainability legislation.

Patrick Carré, vice president of commercial road transport at Shell, said: “Achieving an interconnected and more sustainable future requires collaboration with customers, partners and stakeholders. At Shell Fleet Solutions, we are committed to helping customers navigate shifts in the industry, by providing digital fleet management tools like Shell Telematics, streamlining tolling payments in Europe and increasing access to low emissions fuels, like LNG, BioLNG, hydrogen fuel cell and battery electric vehicles. These offers are designed to help fleets optimise their total cost of ownership (TCO) and improve security and convenience across operations with on the road services, while advancing sustainability goals.”

The whitepaper concluded that while the pandemic has intensified the challenges faced by the industry, it has also embedded enhanced digitalisation and flexibility into companies around the world, which Frost & Sullivan indicates will make businesses more resilient and better equipped to tackle the pre-existing issues threatening the industry and profitability.

It also confirmed that the road freight industry is seeing greater adoption of digitalisation, alternative fuels and supporting technologies, ultimately improving efficiencies and the way business is conducted.

Franck Leveque, partner & global client leader, mobility practice at Frost & Sullivan, said: “The past year has proven how flexible and adaptable industries must be, not just to continue operations, but to survive. By embracing more digital solutions and services like telematics, contactless payment, prognostics and digital brokerage, fleets are better equipped to face the fallout from Covid-19, which continues to unfold day by day, and to tackle the new world we find ourselves living and working in.”