From heightened freight demand to increased technology, the trucking transportation and logistics industry is experiencing change at a rapid rate. As the industry continues to transform, its drivers, mechanics, and others are wondering what’s on the horizon for 2019 and beyond.

Shipping Demands Increase with E-commerce

E-commerce is growing by the day, and there are no signs to indicate a change any time soon. In fact, some market analysts predict the percentage of e-commerce users could double in size over the next decade. What does this mean for the trends within the trucking industry? Faster transit times will be required, and the demands for accurate pick-up and delivery times will become more fine-tuned.

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To keep pace, truckers are becoming more digitally engaged every day. The need for a smart phone, tablet, or laptop computer continues to increase as more transactions are completed, and updated, online.
Consumers have an increasing desire to track their purchases and have grown to expect real-time shipping information regarding their products delivery status.

As online shopping grows, so does the amount of truck traffic on the highways. This creates additional challenges for carriers that need to deliver shipments to their destinations by a specific time. Route optimization software in becoming increasingly popular to help drivers identify the fastest, and most efficient, roads in order to avoid traffic congestion and delay delivery times.

Electric Trucks on the Rise

As a steady increase in electric cars are finding their ways onto the road, the trucking industry isn’t far behind. Several major manufacturers have already begun introducing their first battery-electric models, although there are still numerous hurdles remaining for the industry as a whole.

Initial electric models are primarily used for shorthaul pickups and delivery. While diesel fuel will likely remain the dominate preference for regional and national longhauls to take place, improved battery technology, including charging infrastructure, will need to be finalized to better support the operations.

And while it remains to be seen how electric trucks will handle the real-world challenges of day-to-day trucking activity, industry leaders aren’t shying away from tackling these issues head-on in the coming years.

Safety Advancements

Electric trucks aren’t the only technological advancements the industry is striving toward. Safety technology, including collision mitigation is a key focus of the industry.

This includes improvements with lane-keeping assist technology. There is currently a lane-keeping warning system in place with some companies. When a truck begins to sway from its occupied lane, a beeper goes off to alert the driver. It’s used primarily for long-distance routes to prevent drowsiness. The key moving forward will be developing systems to actively steer the truck back into the lane … on its own.

Those types technology enhancements are already in research and development phases with the hopes of implementing them in the years to come.

Improved Logistics From Technology

One piece of technology that seems to increase its accuracy on a daily basis is GPS. The software advancements made over the years have resulted in more satisfied customers, increased productivity, safer supply chain operations, and more minute-by-minute tracking updates of trucks locations to help improve hauls within the freight industry.

Geofences can now be enabled to alert a company when a truck is nearing its destination, or when it’s steered off course. Telematics functions also make it possible to keep up with maintenance demands and provide alerts to help prevent major malfunctions.

These and other types of technology inputs are able to monitor basic driving habits. Companies have the ability to track harsh braking and accelerating data, excessive idling either before, during, or after a trip, speeding habits, and additional conditions in hopes of reducing fuel consumption, saving money, and improving overall safety on the roadways.

A Shortage of Drivers

While the technological improvements and innovations across the industry may be shedding light into the future, there’s a big concern that has the potential to slow down the advancement. Driver shortages continue to rise, and that leaves more questions than answers surrounding what’s next. The leading cause of truck driver shortages is turnover for a number of reasons:

• Poor wages
• Long hours in isolation
• Unstable working conditions & hours
• Limited family time

A simple fix to many of these issues regarding turnover would be to raise wages. However, doing so creates a snowball effect. Increased wages for truck drivers mean higher costs for businesses and their customers. Gasoline prices also play a major role in determining where costs are being allocated.

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Federal regulations have been implemented to prevent drivers from staying on the road longer in order to earn additional revenue. Known as the ELD Mandate, these hours of service rules are digitally monitored by electronic logging devices and reduces the amount of miles driven, which in turn limits the amount of take-home profit.

Current estimates state a shortage of more than 60,000 drivers within the industry, and some projections have that number tripling by 2026. To prevent this monstrous increase, multiple carriers are experimenting with salaries and incentives for their drivers, which include a guaranteed base pay per week depending on load type, geographic location, etc. Could we also see a greater interest in autonomous vehicles and autonomous trucking? We’ll wait and see which direction the industry goes in the coming years.

Drug Testing Intensifies

New legislation, signed late last year, has intensified drug screening across trucking companies within the industry. Instead of solely conducting urine samples, which detect traces of illegal substances from the last 2-3 days, hair follicles are now additionally being tested. The detection period of a hair follicle spans as far back as 90 days from ingestion, it is easier to collect, and the results are harder to fake.

In order to keep our nation’s highways safe, The Trucking Alliance is supporting this type of testing. However, numerous carriers believe it could have a substantial impact on the driver market since a 2017 study from the Governor’s Highway Safety Association found 22% of drivers tested positive for some type of drug or medication.

To take this one step further, a centralized database is in the works for 2020 to store the testing information results and make them easily sharable between carriers to prevent a driver from testing positive and immediately switching companies.

Taking the Next Steps

There are a number of increasing trends throughout the trucking industry; some good and some bad. Whether the current shortage of drivers will be able to overcome in order to meet the demands of the e-commerce world remains to be seen. Safety measures continue to be enhanced, both behind the wheel and in the workshop, to make sure everyone gets to and from their destinations safely.

It’s an exciting time as a new wave of electric trucks are beginning to take shape. Are you prepared for the shifts occurring in trucking and logistics? As we all look forward to the future of the industry within the United States, there’s no better time to contact us for a maintenance check to make sure your truck is performing at its very best.