Joachim Drees - MAN Truck & Bus AG - Vorsitzender des Vorstands, Chief Executive Officer, CEO

Commercial vehicle manufacturer MAN Truck & Bus, part of the Volkswagen Group, has invested around $8.5m in a US technology firm called FR8 Revolution. The start-up company has developed an IT platform due for launch this quarter that is designed to optimise schedules to help shippers, carriers and truck drivers plan their loads based on real-time data.

MAN said there were around 12,000 freight brokers in the US acting as intermediaries for free loading capacity between shippers and carrier, a set-up it said was highly fragmented, inefficient and costly.

Joachim Drees (pictured), CEO of MAN Truck & Bus, said current working practices typically involved limited access to real-time data on load movements, leaving constant queries about truck locations, free payload capacity, rates and driving hours.

“The logistics industry is not working as economically as it could,” he said. “To date, almost 35% of the 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.”

The operating system developed by FR8 has been designed as an open platform, which means apps for all target groups can be integrated, according to MAN. It said shippers could view current freight rates, locate a truck’s position and manage invoices using the system; while carriers could view the freight plans of all trucks on one screen, enter free loading capacities on the electronic freight exchange or manage drivers’ working hours and rest periods. Drivers, meanwhile, who are connected online with the carriers, can view their route plans and change them if necessary; they also receive information on when the vehicle’s next visit to the workshop is due.

“Digitisation is fundamentally changing the world of transport,” commented Andreas Renschler, board member of Volkswagen and CEO of Volkswagen Truck & Bus, which has more than 200,000 networked trucks from MAN and Scania. “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 transportation solutions. Our partnership with FR8 will bring us one step closer to this goal.”

As of 2017, every MAN truck coming off the production line will be online-enabled and VW Truck & Bus has announced its own multi-million Euro investment in digital technologies.

The FR8 system will be launched with various partners in the US, including groups of traders, fleet operators, freight brokers and shippers, before being rolled out throughout Europe.