By Bill Vander Plaats, Scelzi Inc.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a hot topic in technology today. Some believe it will change many things in our lives, including how we do business. But how might it affect the work truck industry?

For Fleet Owners and Drivers, AI appears ready to accelerate changes in several areas, including:

  • Acceptance and safety of self-driving trucks. As trust in AI grows, the final technical roadblocks to self-driving vehicles could be minimized, making this idea much safer and more economical than it is today. It is estimated a self-driving truck could operate up to 17 hours a day, leading to shortened lead times and a tighter supply chain. How many years are we away from this Jetson’s future where more than half of transport trucks are self-driven? Estimates range from 10 to 30 years. The technology will arrive first; acceptance will take more time.
  • Fleet Maintenance: Truck body sensors that give more precise maintenance instructions to the user and proactively signal service is needed. This will reduce breakdowns, lead to higher fuel and driver efficiency and lower costs.
  • Safety and compliance: In addition to points mentioned earlier, AI could make real-time adjustments to fuel mixtures and driving routes given road conditions and expectations. This should increase safety to a large degree, leading to fewer accidents and lower insurance premiums.
  • Dispatch and routing could also see huge improvements, especially in large fleets where real-time traffic monitoring, combined with load sensing and other information, would lead to increased efficiencies.

For Truck Body Manufacturers like Scelzi Enterprises, the impact of AI is harder to estimate. But here is what we might see coming soon:

  • Order Entry: Interactive spec and order-entry apps and websites that can more easily configure a Bill of Material on the fly with little input from sales or engineering support. And then, more efficiently create internal schedules for production, balancing lines and maximizing shifts. This will decrease the lead time from order-to-production for many truck bodies and lead to more accurate forecasting.
  • Improved Supply Chain efficiencies due to more and better real-time information available from suppliers to OEMs.
  • Expanded use of robotics in production. AI will require less CNC programming and be able to give variable instructions to lasers and punch presses based on previous builds and real-time availability of components. Even short-run production parts that were previously prohibitive due to lengthy and expensive setup costs could be run due to shorter setup times and human input previously required. There could be a large rise in the development and use of collaborative robots (called “cobots”) which work alongside current staff to accomplish tasks.
  • Chat-and-AI-based customer and technical support will also be much easier to implement. Some companies are already beginning to use this, with sometimes frustrating results. It is assumed this will get better over time.

UNTIL AI IS READY TO DELIVER on all these dreams, preparations can be made to help with the transition. None of these technologies will be adopted overnight, and extensive staff training and adjustment to new processes will be required. “We are already looking at more robots,” states Scelzi Owner Mike Scelzi. ”Not the simple ones we have used until now, but smarter ones that can be adapted quickly to different task configurations. We are getting more employees involved in the planning and purchase at an earlier stage. None of this works if our team does not understand it and embrace it.”

To be sure, much human intelligence will be required for businesses to make the best use of Artificial Intelligence. And plenty of patience and training. “Those aren’t two areas where we have always excelled” adds Scelzi, “but we will continue to expand our training while trying to stay patient as we implement new ideas. And all while maintaining our levels of production and customer support to keep our company growth going far into the future.”

Artificial Intelligence is coming to a Work Truck near you. The only question seems to be how quickly its effects are seen.

For more information, contact Scelzi Enterprises or visit