Data: The New Gold of the Transport Industry

Data should be processed sensibly and securely, and trucks should be networked with one another: Clemens Klinke, Member of the Board of Management DEKRA SE, talks about the potential of increasing digitization in the transport industry.

Clemens Klinke is Member of the Management Board DEKRA SE. Photo: Sebastian Vollmert

Clemens Klinke is Member of the Management Board DEKRA SE. Photo: Sebastian Vollmert

Mr Klinke, the subject of data processing for trucks will be subject of much hype at the IAA Commercial Vehicles. Do you see this development as having disruptive consequences for the transport sector too?

Klinke: Do you mean whether drivers will soon be redundant, as trucks will do everything themselves? Because certainly won’t be the case. The commercial vehicles sector has always been a pioneer for digitalization, just look at telematics and package tracking. There is still potential in the vehicle technology sector, predominantly surrounding safety. If trucks are able to drive autonomously in certain situations, such as stop-and-go traffic on the freeway, this would relieve the driver. As it would if the driver was able to exit the truck at the loading site and leave it to maneuver itself into the loading bay. But we are years away from trucks being able to autonomously roam the entire road network, if it indeed ever comes to that.

How can the mass of data generated on-board trucks be put to good use in the near future?

Klinke: Think of anonymized swarm data, which makes traffic information more accurate, for example. Or of the benefit to the vehicle owner if the truck is able to report wearing parts in time, allowing the owner to organize maintenance and the route planning around it. This doesn’t really require large quantities of data. The next big step in highly-automated driving will only be possible once the 5G communications standard is rolled out. In order to test the scenarios that this will make possible, we are currently installing a 5G trial network at our testing grounds in Klettwitz, Germany, in cooperation with Deutsche Telekom.

Be it vehicle position, consignment data or driving style analysis, lots of the data needs to be handled very sensitively. Does this not pose a safety risk? Couldn’t cybercriminals redirect shipments or even dangerously manipulate vehicle technology?

Klinke: Since time immemorial, there has been an arms race between criminals and those who want to put a stop to them. One thing is certain: with the value of the shipments that trucks often transport, as well as the value of the trucks themselves, we need maximum protection built into the hardware itself. This becomes even more important when we consider road safety. A vehicle must never be allowed to fall under the control of cybercriminals.

The security of the data transmission should be checked continuously neutrally. Photo: Fotolia - kras99

The security of the data transmission should be checked continuously neutrally. Photo: Fotolia – kras99

What options are there to effectively prevent such misuse?

Klinke: One decisive aspect is that data security, particularly the security of data transmission, is continuously examined by a neutral party.

Do you see a business model for DEKRA here? Or would it be conceivable that even DEKRA is able to use a data connection to inspect vehicle technology and test data security?

Klinke: As a rule, periodic vehicle inspections must keep up with the onward march of technology. As such, all vehicle inspectors have been requesting access to inspection-relevant vehicle data. Only through this are we able to make our important contribution as an independent safety service provider.

Moving from the security of data transmissions to the safety of goods transport, data enables improvements to safety. The keyword: autonomous driving. By your estimations, how long will it be before this form of mobility characterizes the streetscape?

Klinke: As said before, I’m not sure whether fully autonomous driving – by which the driverless truck receives the shipment, transports it to whatever destination and then hands it over – will ever arrive. Certainly, automation will continue to make advancements in restricted driving scenarios – be it on the freeway or in the depot. Besides, assistance systems available today – such as emergency braking and turning assistants – are already making important contributions to safety. Networking offers additional potential. Particularly in the case of trucks, electronics have enabled technical advancements, such as by reducing the reaction times of braking systems. If information concerning other road users can be used in future, such as that of the leading vehicle, the driver’s reaction time is practically eliminated. This would allow us to leverage additional safety potential, and that is what DEKRA has been committed to for more than 90 years.


Clemens Klinke was born in Paderborn in 1956. After a car mechanic apprenticeship, he studied mechanical engineering at college in Cologne, majoring in vehicle technology. Clemens Klinke has worked for DEKRA in various roles over the last 34 years. Since 2015, he has been Head of the DEKRA Automotive Business Unit.

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