Does Verizon have the horsepower to overhaul the trucking industry?

With a slew of major acquisitions, Verizon is positioning itself to change how fleet operators manage their trucks.

Carrier Wars and Trucking

Since its formation in 2000, Verizon Communications has been primarily focused on delivering connectivity to consumers and businesses via a global carrier network. The largest business unit is Verizon Wireless, accounting for about 70% of the company’s annual sales. Within the wireless business unit, a majority of this revenue is generated from its consumer retail practice, with only a small percentage as a result of its enterprise initiatives. [i] However, as the price war between major carriers has intensified and as consumers are further disassociating wireless service providers with the mobile device experience, Verizon is faced with the daunting challenge of building a long term profitable strategy. One of Verizon’s more recent answers to this has been to invest heavily in its enterprise sector, and specifically in fleet management of the trucking industry.

In the trucking industry, productivity is gained primarily in two ways: fewer empty miles and less idle time.[ii] Fleet management systems (FMS) have been put in place to optimize for this.  FMS has evolved rapidly since the increased adoption of personal computers and GPS technology in the late 1990’s. Since then, organizations with heavy logistics arms have been able to track, analyze and adjust their trucking fleets in real time.  And yet, this technology came at the heavy price of installing an expensive GPS device within each vehicle and paying a high fee for GPS satellite usage[iii], until smart phones enabled innovative software providers to build even more sophisticated analytics for fleet operators at a much lower cost.

Why Verizon?

Why should Verizon invest resources here? For perspective, these new FMS software companies service an industry that represents about $650B in annual revenue in the U.S (5% of GDP) and has an expected growth rate of 21% over the next 10 years.[iv]  For Verizon, this represents a massive opportunity to diversify away from the consumer carrier business, with a more stable, recurring revenue stream. The question then becomes, is a network provider like Verizon in a position to take advantage of this massive market?  The reason they would be is because FMS/Telematics in its current form is heavily dependent on carrier network connectivity to power the real-time data transfer from truck to hub. With network infrastructure already in place, Verizon can be the foundational layer of the software stack for the entire trucking industry. In addition, to their network infrastructure, their global presence enables Verizon to connect with fleet operators in a way that very few other companies would be able to do given the fragmented the industry is.

Big Moves

Verizon has made two major acquisitions in the FMS space in this year alone: Fleetmatics and Telogis, for a total sum of over $3B.[v] Both of these acquisitions represent an opportunity to increase Verizon’s market share in this enormous industry. Fleetmatrics provides a software that allows fleet operators to track vehicle location, fuel usage, speed, and a variety of another metrics for their mobile workforce. Telogis, prior to being acquired, was a leading provider of “smart” fleet connectivity software. Both acquisitions come with well-established customer bases both in the SMB and enterprise space. In fact, with both of these companies’ existing customers combined, Verizon will now own 25% of the telematics market and be connected with about 1.4 million commercial vehicles.[vi] Now that they are under Verizon’s control, the company has the capability to build the leading end to end solution for all mobile enabled fleets.

What’s next?

With these acquisitions, Verizon has made a bold statement that they want to be the leader in connected vehicles. While competitor AT&T has focused on partnering with major automotive manufacturers to enable more consumer connectivity[vii], Verizon is making the bet that enterprises’ massive need for optimized fleet management will grant them access to a larger share of vehicles on the road, much faster. Ultimately, however, the reason this strategy has such a high upside is that allows Verizon to stay at the forefront of the next major innovation cycle in this massive market. While smart phones have enabled trucking fleets to become more efficient over the past few years, the next logical step could be using this powerful connectivity to build fully automated trucking systems.

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[i] “How Verizon Makes Money” Jitender Miklani, 2015, http://revenuesandprofits.com/how-verizon-makes-money-understanding-verizon-business-model/

[ii] “The Economic Impact of the Internet on the Trucking Industry” Anuradha Nagarajan, University of Michigan, 2000, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/252652552_The_Economic_Impact_Of_Internet_Usage_In_The_Trucking_Industry, page 12

[iii] “A Brief History of GPS Vehicle Tracking” Unknown, 2016, http://www.trackyourtruck.com/blog/brief-history-gps-vehicle-tracking/

[iv] “The Staggering Statistics Behind America’s Trucking Industry.” Sam Ro, Business Insider, 2013, http://www.businessinsider.com/trucking-industry-infographic-2013-4

[v] “Verizon to buy vehicle management company Fleetmatics for $2.4B” Malathi Nayak, Reuters, 2016, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-fleetmatics-m-a-verizon-idUSKCN10C29J

[vi] “Verizon Fleetmatics Deal makes a Telematics Giant” Paul Clinton, Automotive Fleet, 2016, http://www.automotive-fleet.com/news/story/2016/08/verizon-fleetmatics-deal-makes-telematics-giant.aspx

[vii] “Verizon Acquisition of Telogis Expands Company’s Connected Car Footprint” Doug Newcom, Forbes, 2016. http://www.forbes.com/sites/dougnewcomb/2016/06/30/verizon-acquisition-of-telogis-expands-companys-connected-car-footprint/#2c5049cc178f

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4 thoughts on “Does Verizon have the horsepower to overhaul the trucking industry?

  1. Super cool post! I had no idea that the logistics industry provided such a huge TAM.

    When I was covering telcos in a previous job we’d always shake our heads when telcos tried to step away from the core business as rent-seeking “pipe owners” and poured money into the latest iteration of value-added services. Those efforts almost always fell flat.

    That said, what’s refreshing about this move Verizon’s made is 1. it doesn’t pit them directly against monster tech companies (e.g. Facebook / Google / Apple / Amazon) and 2. they’ve acquired their way into being a meaningful player in the space (25%) vs. essentially funding a startup venture. I’m really interested to see where this goes!

  2. Great post – thanks!
    The trucking industry is particularly interesting given the current political context. As one of the most common jobs across America, the trucking industry is about to get disrupted by the advance of self-driving cars. What will happen to all the truckers? And what will happen to all the McDonald’s, coffee shops, etc. that are lined up throughout the country to cater to those truckers. We may see a lot of people out of jobs very soon.

  3. This is very interesting. I was actually not aware that Verizon had been pursuing growth in this market. I was aware that the Company wanted to diversify away from their core consumer wireless business, but I thought that was primarily through a push into content through acquisitions of AOL and Yahoo!. The industrial logic here is sound as Verizon can leverage its existing network to improve the fleet management technology.

  4. Wow this is fascinating – I had no idea that Verizon had any businesses outside of its core telecom business. It makes complete sense, though – they certainly have the infrastructure to support it. I think the trucking industry is ripe for disruption and Verizon is very smart to be positioning themselves early on.

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