In 1995, Jeff Bezos shipped out his first online book sale from his garage. Fast-forward a few decades, add in every other product known to man, and the implementation of two-day delivery service and you’ve got the unstoppable powerhouse that is Amazon. Today, there is no denying the power of the ‘Amazon Effect’. Amazon’s business practices have effectively trained consumers to expect things like cheap, fast shipping, convenient ordering on a multitude of devices and easy access to tracking information. While these factors have had a huge impact on the retail industry, they have also significantly changed the transportation industry.
According to a U.S. Census Bureau report, e-commerce sales reached $453.5 billion in 2017, accounting for 8.9 percent of total retail sales for the year.1 Thanks to these sales, the final mile is now one of the fastest-growing sectors in transportation. However, delivering these shipments to residential areas quickly and at little-to-no cost to customers is inefficient and costly for companies. So as e-commerce sales and customers’ expectations continue to rise, the transportation industry is beginning to implement creative solutions to help better navigate the final mile.
Proper time and asset management are essential components to an effective final mile strategy. Telematics solutions can help fleets gain better insight into how efficiently their equipment and drivers are being utilized as well as improve preventative maintenance scheduling and reduce the risk of CSA violations. Recognizing these potential benefits, Great Dane teamed up with suppliers to develop FleetPulse, the industry’s first integrated trailer telematics system to be designed and built by a trailer manufacturer.
FleetPulse uses sensors strategically placed throughout the trailer to help monitor things like tire inflation, lights out, open and closed doors, cargo weight and more. These sensors collect data that can help users maximize the utilization of their assets and better manage the maintenance and repair of their equipment. FleetPulse also provides real-time alert notifications to inform drivers and fleet owners of issues while on the road to help enhance safety, improve equipment uptime and prevent potential CSA violations and fines.
Truck Body Solutions
E-commerce has significantly increased the demand for final-mile delivery services within the less-than-truckload (LTL) segment in recent years. To meet this demand, many companies are turning to smaller truck bodies, which can navigate residential areas more easily than larger tractor-trailers and are more convenient for unloading in areas without a receiving dock. Truck bodies also require a lower initial investment and provide fuel savings compared to traditional trailers.
E-commerce has also had an impact on the way consumers are receiving their groceries. According to Statista, as of 2017, approximately 31 percent of U.S. consumers were likely to buy groceries online. In total, U.S. online grocery sales amounted to $14.2 billion in 2017 and are expected to rise to nearly $30 billion by 2021.2 Due to this new trend, companies are now looking to more product-specific and multi-temp refrigerated truck bodies.
Anticipating the important role that final mile delivery would play, Great Dane acquired Johnson Truck Bodies in 2010. Since then, the company has introduced two new truck body lines: The Alpine refrigerated truck body and the Sahara Series dry freight truck body line. Great Dane also offers the Johnson Series line of composite refrigerated truck bodies, which utilizes Johnson Truck Bodies’ nearly 80 years of experience constructing refrigerated truck bodies. The Johnson Series line consists of three highly-customizable refrigerated truck bodies offering features like multi-temperature capabilities, panels with the highest thermal performance rating in the industry, and a tie-down system that allows the body to be conveniently moved to multiple chassis over time, reducing the cost associated with replacing the entire unit.
Reducing Emissions with Electricity
With the increase of final mile delivery comes an increase in air pollution, particularly in urban areas where pollution is already an issue. In response, companies are looking to alternative solutions, like electric trucks, to help reduce operating costs and harmful CO2 emissions. As electric trucks gain traction in the marketplace, their utilization will largely be driven by application. The pick-up and delivery (P&D) segment, which features predictable routes and returns to its base at the end of each day for charging, makes a lot of sense for electric trucks. For refrigerated applications, Great Dane offers an all-electric refrigeration system, the Johnson AE Series, which utilizes cold plate technology and battery power to provide consistent BTU capacity for most refrigerated applications without the need to burn diesel to refrigerate.
Great Dane also recently partnered with eNow, Emerson and Challenge Dairy Products to develop a new refrigeration system that uses a combination of cold plates and a unique lightweight high-capacity auxiliary battery system. The cold plates and auxiliary batteries are initially charged from utility power delivered to the vehicle when it is plugged in at its home base overnight. Roof-mounted solar photovoltaic panels provide additional power when the unit truck is in operation. The auxiliary battery is charged exclusively by solar and utility power.
All-electric trucks and refrigeration systems provide food distributors with a reliable alternative to diesel-powered units as they look to meet changing cold chain demands efficiently and at a low operating cost.
 E-commerce Retail Sales Hit $453.5 Billion in 2017, as Brands Invest in Omnichannel. (2018). Retrieved from: http://www.cbre.us/real-estate-services/real-estate-industries/retail-services/research-and-insights/us-marketflash-e-commerce-2017
 U.S. Consumers: Online Grocery Shopping – Statistics & Facts. Retrieved from: https://www.statista.com/topics/1915/us-consumers-online-grocery-shopping/