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The freight sector is becoming increasingly reliant on a range of digital technologies to support goods transport, warehousing and logistics. This includes sensors to support inventory management, navigation devices and cloud platforms. Emerging digital technologies are also being explored, including connected and automated vehicles (CAVs), distributed ledger technology and artificial intelligence (AI) tools that can simulate assets and predict maintenance. These technologies could potentially alleviate labour shortages, cut costs, reduce vehicle congestion and enable more transparent supply chains.

Implementing digital technologies to support freight raises several technical and social challenges. Many technologies require better availability of data-sharing infrastructure and sector-wide process standardisation. Furthermore, the development of a legislative framework is still required to guide the introduction of commercial CAVs and enable legal recognition of digital trade documents. The Department for Transport has committed funding to support technologies in freight, including a £7 million Freight Innovation Fund and several funds dedicated to achieving the Government’s net zero greenhouse gas emissions target.

Key messages:

  • Digital technologies are widely employed to support freight management, goods monitoring, transport and last-mile delivery.
  • Technologies being used include automated vehicles, robotics, connected sensors, database technologies and analysis tools.
  • Technology is impacting all modes of freight transportation (road, maritime, rail and air), and processing at ports and warehouses.
  • These technologies could reduce costs and carbon emissions, while improving the transparency and reliability of supply chains.  
  • Challenges include lack of communications infrastructure, cybersecurity, social concerns and implementation costs.


POSTnotes are based on literature reviews and interviews with a range of stakeholders and are externally peer reviewed. POST would like to thank interviewees and peer reviewers for kindly giving up their time during the preparation of this briefing, including:

  • Members of the POST board*
  • Department for Transport*
  • Chris Ashley, Road Haulers Association*
  • Steve Bartlett, Association of Freight Software Suppliers*
  • Adrian Coronado, Royal Holloway University London*
  • Nick Davies, International Chamber of Commerce*
  • Vaggelis Giannikas, University of Bath*
  • Anna Gillingham, Lords Built Environment Committee*
  • Debbie Hopkins, University of Oxford
  • Simon Jeffery, Local Government Association*
  • Robert Keen, British International Freight Association*
  • Daniela Paddeu, University of West England*
  • Jasmin Prichard, Fiona Hamilton and David Gold, Royal Mail*
  • Chris Seaton, UK Warehouse Association
  • Mark Simonds, British Ports Association*
  • Maggie Simpson, Rail Freight Group*
  • Alex Szymborski, Contained Technologies UK Limited*
  • Guy Thompson, CSS-UK User Group Limited*
  • Yingli Wang, Cardiff University*
  • Viscount Waverly, APPG Freight and Logistics

*Denotes people and organisations who acted as external reviewers of the briefing.

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