Big Data & The Truck Industry: How Logistics Firms Utilize and Analyze telematics- A case study of DHL and the Smart Truck

By Jonathan Laetsch, Lennart Knoche, Torven Schalk and Cassidy Driskell


DHL. The world’s leading logistics company is present in over 220 countries.
It’s team of logistic experts provide solutions for an almost infinite number of logistical needs and the company is known to deliver the most innovative, cost-saving and sustainable solutions available.


Logistics and Big Data

As of late, the company has followed a noticeable trend of the industry: Big Data. Through the publication of numerous trend reports (Big Data in Logistics- Move Beyond the Hype and Logictics Trend Radar), DHL reveals its ambition to exploit relatively untapped data assets, adopt a shift of mindset and apply the right techniques in an effort to gain a competitive advantage through sophisticated data analytics.

According to their report Big Data in Logistics, the implementation of Big Data provides the company with three distinct properties of competitive advantage:

Optimization to the core:
– Big Data can provide information quicker and more accurate
–  Refine Delivery Time, Resource Utilization and Geographical Coverage

Tangible Goods/ Tangible Consumers

– On a global scale, millions of customer touch points daily create an opportunity for market intelligence, product feedback and demographics

– Big Data concepts provide versatile analytic means in order to generate valuable insight on consumer sentiment and product quality

Global Coverage and local Presence

– A fleet of vehicles moving across the country to automatically collect local information along the transport route

– Stream of data from the large delivery fleet creates a valuable display for demographic, environmental and traffic statistics


The Smart Truck 

In our eyes, DHL have utilized Big Data most impressively and taken a big step into the future of Logistics and Delivery most notably with the production of the DHL Smart Truck. The DHL Smart Truck was launched in Germany in 2010 and can be described as an ‚intelligent’ pick-up and delivery vehicle that combines a number of innovative technologies. Each individual Truck is in constant contact with the DHL headquarters through the global positioning system (GPS) and uses the information technology

Telematic to update both the driver and the fleet manager on various issues, benefitting both parties:

A Fleet Manager benefits heavily from the telematics in DHL’s Smart Truck as the statistics provided allow for more control over the fleet and as a result an improved overall performance. The statistics provided by the telematics system include Route Optimization, Truck Maintenance and Driving.


Route Optimization

At the core of the Smart Truck lies the dynamic route planning system developed on behalf of DHL by Quintiq, a supply chain software specialist. It is the digital nerve center of the system and processes all the information on the road and traffic, sending relevant updates, for instance a change of route, to the vehicle’s on-board computer instantaneously. This allows the delivery to become more efficient, (the implementation of the Smart Truck reduced the number of miles traveled by 15%) and environmentally friendly (as fuel consumption and CO2 emissions decrease).


Health of the Truck

In a large fleet, it might be difficult to keep track of mileage and find out when a truck is due for preventive maintenance and regular check-ups. To solve this issue, telematics found in the Smart Truck feeds the fleet manager with statistics of the Truck’s health (mileage driven, tire pressure, engine) who can react quickly and accordingly if needed, before the minor problems become a major issue. What’s more, this helps ensure the driver’s safety, prevents a drop in resale value and on the road break-downs.

Driver Behavior

Telematics also overview the behavior of the driver. Therefore, a DHL Smart Truck can monitor unauthorized stops, insecure loading of goods, prolonged lunch breaks, excessive speed, offhand parking and other misbehaviors. Upon receiving the information, the fleet managers has an improved overview of the drivers and can consult and give feedback accordingly. An improved driver behavior and bettered efficiency are often the result.

A Driver also benefits heavily from DHL’s Smart Truck as various innovative technologies in the Truck allow for more safety and an improved driving experience.


Driving Experience


The Smart Truck enables a more stress-free and aerodynamic driving experience. The intelligent route planning system of the truck, based on satellite-supported geo and telematics data locates the vehicle and analyzes the traffic situation, navigating express vehicles away from traffic jams. Moreover, as soon as the Smart Truck registers vehicle speeds of over 80 mph or 130 kmh, the gap between the driver compartment and the transportation compartment closes, allowing less air flow interruptions, making the driving experience more aerodynamic and efficient.


The Smart Truck also features various mechanisms that ensure a safer driving experience. These safety measures include an inability for the truck to start if the driver is not buckled in, the deactivation of any sound output in the cabin if the truck is in reverse and a warning whenever the driver exceeds the named speed limit. These mechanisms have lead to less accidents on the road and a safer driving experience for the Truck driver’s of DHL.

Opportunities and Threats

While the Smart Truck of DHL brings with it many opportunities it also bears many threats. Through use of telematics and the delivery of accurate and efficient real time data it simplifies the work life in the company, for both the driver and the fleet manager (discussed in detail above). The use of big data in big companies to arrive at big conclusions also has its drawbacks. For one, while Big data is an excellent tool to use to get a holistic view on on the material, it is often unable to look into the detail of certain happenings. Secondly, Big Data is a relatively new trend that is not founded on any concrete historical and empirical evidence.

While the lack of historical evidence and inability to zoom into different areas poses an issue for big logistical firms on a global scale, Big Data analytics allows companies to gain an edge over the competition, making work more safe, manageable and productive.



DHL-beleuchtet-Chancen-von-Big-Data. (n.d.). Retrieved October 04, 2016, from

Intelligent transport hits the road. (n.d.). Retrieved September/October, 2016, from .html

Jeske, M., Grüner, M., & Weiß, F. (2013, December). Big Data in Logistics [PDF]. Troisdorf, Germany: DHL Customer Solutions & Innovation.

Lorry And Truck Tracking, 10 Top Benefits – (2015). Retrieved October 04, 2016, from

Ranaiefar, F. (2012). Intelligent Freight Transportation Systems [PDF]. INSTITUTE OF TRANSPORTATION STUDIES.


4 thoughts on “Big Data & The Truck Industry: How Logistics Firms Utilize and Analyze telematics- A case study of DHL and the Smart Truck

  1. Very interesting topic, DHL has the lead in shipping companies when it comes to logistics.
    This latest trend report proposes and explores three different categories of information exploitation:

    -Operational efficiency: real-time route optimization, crowd-based pickup and delivery, strategic network planning, and operational capacity planning

    -Customer experience: customer loyalty management, continuous service improvement and product innovation, and risk evaluation and resilience planning

    -New business models: market intelligence for small and medium-sized enterprises, financial demand and supply chain analytics, address verification, and environmental intelligence

    DHL Big Data solutions are showcased in all of these categories, demonstrating how organizations can exploit relatively untapped data assets once they adopt a shift of mindset and apply the right techniques.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Exactly Ahmed! It seems that you have grasped the text and even went above and beyond, reading the 2013 Trend Report, to find more information on the topic. Thank you for showing such interest 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. With the increase in shipping efficiency, and the cost reducing benefit this brings along, do you think this could lead to an increase in the demand for goods and possibly aid in the implementation of Big Data in other industries?


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