Anyone working in the logistics, supply chain or transportation industry during the last five years has observed a level of disruption unlike anything experienced during the previous fifty. At DriverSource, we see firsthand the rapid changes taking place in trucking. They are largely driven by new technologies. We welcome the promise they bring in improved efficiencies and safety. Still, some of the changes represent tectonic shifts for the industry, fundamentally changing forever the way goods are being transported.
A recent Forbes Insights survey of more than 400 senior transportation-focused executives highlighted the forces playing out in these industries that are making everyone rethink everything from warehouse locations to logistics technologies to fleet and carrier strategies. Some of these forces include:
- A Strong Economy
The survey highlighted how a strong economy is putting pressure on the transportation ecosystem to perform, where truck-related freight tonnage is expected to grow another 27% between 2016 and 2027. The only way the trucking industry can handle this increased business is to expand its capacity with new trucks. However, that is proving to be a big challenge. According to a report by industry publication Fleet Owner, “OEM truck production cannot keep up” with such a large demand for new vehicles. The surging economy means more loads demanding more trucks on the highways. Exacerbating the stress is the driver shortage. Combined, these two factors brew a perfect storm fueling a rise in transportation costs.
- The Amazon Effect
Online shopping has had a seismic effect on retail commerce and, by association, all those industries (i.e. trucking) that supply and support the shopping experience. Consumers have embraced the ease of shopping afforded by Amazon, where the online purchase often guarantees delivery within two days or less. The buyer is conditioned to expect a simpler, quicker commercial transaction. As John Langley of Penn State’s College of Business explained: “The effect of Amazon is heightened expectations.” All this online commerce translates into added pressures on freight companies delivering goods for that last mile. It means products are delivered from multiple pick up locations, including distribution centers, warehouses, and stores, to multiple destinations, such as private homes, stores or lockers.
- On-The-Road Technology Advancements
Technology solutions to the driver shortage are being pursued by companies such as Tesla, Waymo, and Embark. Long-haul robotic trucks are being road-tested in some states. The aim is to eventually automate a large part of trucking. Platooning is also being tested, where caravans of autonomous trucks led by a pilot truck travel in close formation. Drones are being tested for aerial delivery of the last mile. Technologies in the truck cabs include an array of safety features such as lane departure warnings, systems that slow trucks if there’s a hazard ahead, forward-looking cameras and radar, adaptive cruise control and rollover stability.
- Behind-The-Scene Technology Advancements
The advancements in trucking are not limited to what we see on the highways or in the truck cab. Other technologies are being rolled out that are data-focused. IoT/telematics data collection, data mining, artificial intelligence, and machine learning are being used to improve a whole array of logistics-related decisions and freight operations that add to a vastly improved performance.
Bill D for DriverSource