As part of VW's digitization strategy, all  new MAN trucks will be online from 2017 (Photo: MAN)

MAN is investing 8.5 million dlrs in a Silicon Valley start-up to improve cargo planning for trucking companies.

The German truckmaker, which is part of the Volkswagen Group, said the move will give it an active role in shaping the digital transformation of the industry. It will also help it gain experience in digitized logistics and provide it with a US business model that can be transferred to Europe.

The startup company, FR8 Revolution, will launch an IT platform that will provide shippers, carriers and truck drivers with a new planning tool based on real-time data. It will be available shortly.

MAN said today's US freight allocation system, which involves around 12,000 freight brokers, is highly inefficient. Brokers use phone, email and fax to convey information. Price comparisons are difficult, mediation costs are high and 35 pc of all freight volume is not used at all or not used efficiently today.

“The logistics industry is not working as economically as it could," MAN CEO Joachim Drees said in a press statement. "All parties involved still have limited access to real-time data."

FR8 is designing an open, cross-brand platform that allows the integration of apps for all logistics stakeholders.

Andreas Renschler, who is in charge of all VW Group trucking operations, said the investment in FR8 is part of the group's strategy to evolve from just building cars and trucks to becoming a full mobility services provider. Said Renschler: "We will be changing more and more from a truck manufacturer into a provider of intelligent transportation solutions."

VW, like most other car groups, has ambitious plans to offer strong connected features in all its new vehicles. The company announced earlier this year that it is investing several 100 million euros in digital technologies.

Partly as a result, every new MAN and Scania truck "will be online" from next year, VW said. Scania is the VW Group's other truck brand.