Automation vs. people in auto transport

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Digitalization has been a hot topic for the past few years in every industry you could imagine. It’s exciting, powerful, and definitely transformational for most organizations. What seems a little more frightening is the ancestor of digitalization. The process of automation itself. While people used to look at it as something helpful, now it feels like a threat to many. What is the auto transport industry’s take on this?

Should car shipping companies fear automation? Do clients want automation? Does automation need to take place at all?


Automation of processes

We have seen automated systems slowly invading the auto transport industry in the past years. If you look at the process of car shipping today with all products and service levels involved, you will see automation at every stage. Both carriers and clients benefit from technological advancement. Companies can more easily execute the planning and shipping process. Clients can now easily look for auto transport companies, compare prices and features.

Quotes 

This is the most visible automation example in the processes of car shipping. The implementation of quote systems and price calculators has made inquiries much quicker. Yet, the extent of the automation in the process of getting a quote is crucial to the accuracy of the offer a client will get.

One of the formats used now is a car shipping price quote calculator. A car shipping calculator has preset parameters that determine the price. It never takes into consideration supply and demand fluctuations, and this is what ultimately renders the price inaccurate. A software cannot ‘see’ what happens on the dispatch boards daily and thus can’t assess the situation and offer a realistic price.

While automated quotes may speed up the process of inquiry, it is the manual price that the client should be interested in. Manual prices are rates calculated by logistics experts, not by software. They comply with the current state of supply and demand, which makes them more realistic. This is why at Corsia Logistics we do not use calculators to define prices for our clients.

Documentation 

All the paperwork that goes into the process of shipping a car is still inefficiently big in many shipping companies. One of the documents that the industry has tried to digitalize is the preparation and signage of the Bill of Lading. There have been numerous attempts to digitalize the Bill of Lading across industries. Yet, most of them failed because they faced the realities of global trade. If the Bill of Lading is filled in advance in a digital form, the process would be so much easier – both for the client and the carrier.

Similarly, the process of adding insurance to the shipping service can also be automated early in the process. Reducing the paperwork around these steps will increase the speed and the efficiency of the prep and delivery stages. But then again, would this ensure trust and security? If people can do this without human presence, would it make clients feel safer?

The line between helpful and threatening is thin. At what point should people in the industry start thinking of changing their job?


Automation in the trucking industry

Automation is more obvious in the trucking industry. We can’t ignore the rapid pace of automation that truckers face because it is directly linked to the operations of shipping companies.

ELDs 

Even truckers are facing increasing levels of automation within their workflow. The implementation of ELDs is the most discussed regulation of the year. The systems will ensure compliance with the rules for hours of service through electronic documentation. Instead of having drivers write down their working hours, the system will do this for them. The automation of this process is helpful in regard to many issues drivers currently face. It is not threatening to their job, but some still argue it violates the Fourth Amendment. What do we value more – people’s rights to privacy or the businesses’ rights to optimization?

 Self-driving vehicles 

Should we even go there? Driverless trucks are not a thing of someone’s daring dreaming any more. They are here, among us on the highways. As freaky and as scary as this sounds, it is true. Imagine how it feels to drivers? Some of them have specialized in this field for decades now and their job is about to be erased. Nearly 4 million Americans stand behind the wheel of big rigs. Where will they go? Even if some of them change their job title to “operators” who monitor the vehicles’ behaviors from a remote destination… what would the rest do? What does the future hold for truckers?

Would automation make people in the auto transport industry obsolete?

Not really. At the end of the day, auto transport is a service industry. Where one person does something for another. And just like in any other service, people are the key figures in the process. They are the ones that make a statement and keep a promise that the service will go well. Yes, automation is helpful in execution, in delivering the service, but how will it help you feel relaxed and convinced your service will be complete properly? The more automated the trucking industry becomes, the more carriers should pay attention to where they can emphasize on the human presence.

The importance of the human factor

Yes, we don’t want to do anything by ourselves anymore. We want effortless, paperless, driverless… But there is one thing that is still the same.

We don’t want to do the action, but we still want to remain the ones in control of the process. When customers pay for something, whether it’s a product or a service, they want to see themselves as the owner of their purchase. Whether it’s their new car, or the process of shipping their new car home. The customer needs the feeling of control. And with this the confirmation of trust, security and satisfaction.

Automation in the auto transport industry is still far away from giving these feelings. A recent study revealed that human interaction is still the preferred route for customer service. What is more important to result-oriented companies is the finding that eight out of ten of customers  consider switching to a competitor due to poor customer service. Would they choose automation then? We don’t think so either. This is why people are an important factor in each stage of the process.

Finding the right solution

There will always be cases when automated systems cannot cover all customers’ needs. Now, even if one shipping company does not offer a certain service, they know who to call to arrange it and deliver it to the customer. Such is the case with people who call from rural areas, for example. Often they do not fit in the regular list of routes auto transport companies cover. In such cases, the company representative in contact with the client will personally take the responsibility to look for a customized solution. And an automated system can’t call carrier companies known for running less-prolific routes. That we know for sure.

Building trust

We know it’s not easy to leave your car keys with a stranger. Imagine an automated system then. Would you leave your brand new sports vehicle to the hands of a machine? Knowing that there is no real person to take care of it and check if it’s ok during transport? It’s like leaving your baby with an A.I. robot instead of the babysitter next door. What if the system fails? Who takes the responsibility then? God forbid you accidentally left a personal item in the car…

People want to be able to contact a person when they are about to leave something of value with them. At Corsia we offer several channels through which you can contact us for shipping your vehicle. Whether it is through the online chat, telephone or email, there is always a person who will review and reply to your inquiry.

Having a conversation

Clients need to see a human soul on the other side of the line. They need to know that they are understood, that there is someone who also owns a car and understands how they feel. Would you simply let go of your newly imported classic without hearing the voice of those who will take care of it? Many clients not only want to hear the company representatives before hiring them, but they also want to talk to them afterwards. To give feedback, to review the service, and to recommend it as a sign of gratitude.

Having a conversation is not a thing of the past. Clients enjoy talking to the truck drivers that deliver their vehicle, too. And this is not a formality. We are human, we need connection with other people around us. Wouldn’t it be nice if the driver who delivers your Lincoln actually knows more details about the model and its history than you? Imagine what a nice talk that would be. But then again… what would you do if the driver is not there at all?

 

The balance

In the end, industries are interrelated. If one becomes fully or partially automated, so should the other. Yet, there should be a balance between automated processes and human interaction.

Automation should happen only when it reduces the tension of internal processes. If it optimizes some of the steps and resources trucking and shipping companies use, then we can consider it helpful. But if it disrupts the personal contact between the company and the client, what is the point? No person enjoys talking to machines all the time, do they? Clients want someone who they can trust to take care of their vehicle or motorcycle. Someone who has a soul.

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About the Author:

Dilyana Dobrinova is a nature & travel enthusiast. With a heart for books, scarves and vintage. Dilyana feels most inspired with a cup of tea in her hand and mellow jazz in the background. She holds an M.A. in International Marketing Management from the Berlin School of Economics and Law in Germany, and two B.As. in Journalism & Mass Communication and Business Administration.

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