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How PSA is reducing empty trips for trucking firms

The Singapore port operator has built a platform that leverages Here Technologies’ trip planning and location services to help container trucking firms improve operational efficiency

As the operator of the Port of Singapore, one of the busiest ports in the world, PSA has been a big proponent of digitisation to streamline and automate port operations to remain competitive.

At the Tuas mega port, for example, driverless automated guided vehicles are being used to move containers efficiently and securely while reducing carbon emissions by half compared to using diesel prime movers.

Beyond port operations, PSA has started to leverage technology to support companies in Singapore’s broader logistics industry, such as container trucking firms, in a bid to help the sector reduce inefficiencies.

According to Sriram Ramanujam, assistant vice-president at PSA, Singapore is home to more than 250 trucking companies with a combined fleet of nearly 3,000 trucks. About half of those companies have fewer than 10 trucks each in a highly fragmented market.

“Because of their small scale, they didn’t have any digital solutions, so we banded with other agencies and associations to create a digital platform to reduce operational costs and carbon emissions,” said Ramanujam.

One of the challenges faced by trucking companies was the underutilisation of trucks due to the lack of information about jobs across various supply chain nodes, as well as information on traffic, weather and delivery points that could affect turnaround times.

To address the challenge, PSA, with the support of Enterprise Singapore, built the OptETruck cloud-based transport management platform that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to facilitate smarter trip planning and eliminate operational inefficiencies.

OptETruck’s trip planning capabilities are powered by Here Technologies’ tour planning and location services, eliminating inconsistencies in manual trip planning due to the varying levels of experience of human trip planners, said Ramanujam.

“Previously, 30-35% of the trips the trucks were making were empty, but with automated planning, we were able to find more trip opportunities and reduce the number of empty trips by 50%,” he added.

Ramanujam said the higher utilisation of trucks will enable trucking companies to do more with less – and eventually reduce the size of their fleets at a time when truck drivers are in short supply in Singapore.

For manual trip planners who have been experts in the field for decades, the use of automation will enable them to focus on handling exceptions, “changing the whole perspective on how their jobs are going to be designed”, he added.

Other players in Singapore’s logistics sector, such as shipping firms and depot operators, will also benefit from OptETruck platform data. For one thing, the data can be combined with data from PSA’s Portnet port and cargo management system to provide various stakeholders with visibility over the entire supply chain, Ramanujam noted.

In terms of implementation, PSA leveraged Here Technologies’ application programming interfaces (APIs) to parse all the necessary data before receiving the trip planning decisions on the OptETruck platform.

Change management was key to the success of the project – PSA had to convince trip planners that the technology was beneficial and tapped their expertise to finetune the decisions.

“It was both challenging and rewarding, but those who adopted it can see the benefits as they don’t have to constantly monitor what’s happening. They can sit back, relax a little and wait for the exception alerts,” said Ramanujam.

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