Our pundit takes time out to reflect on changes coming down the pipeline this year for truckers and the trucking industry.By Dana Smith
It has been quite a year in trucking for 2023. A lot has happened: from driver and equipment shortages, to high freight demand and health & wellness challenges. All while trying to serve your customers with the best service you can give.
There will always be challenges to overcome in the transportation business. Some we can see coming, and others are unexpected. The ones we can see coming, we can prepare for, but what about the ones we can’t see coming?
The ones we can see coming are dictated by our data. Every company has it. In order to understand your business and where it’s going, you need to track everything, so you have something to measure against, moving forward. This gives you a pretty good indication of what may be around the next corner.
#1 – Driver Recruitment – This one seems to be at the forefront for every trucking company moving into 2024. Some say there is, or isn’t a shortage of drivers. It would depend on how you define shortage. If you have trucks sitting in your yard with no driver to move them, then you have a shortage, and that is costing you money.
Finding drivers isn’t the issue. Finding good qualified people that know and understand how to be a professional driver is the challenge. One that knows how to handle their truck in a professional, safe manner, day in- and-day out.
Most trucking companies are looking for good qualified drivers. But they really are all picking from the same pool. As the older generation moves into retirement, there is an ever- growing need for younger drivers. There are now government programs that will help to alleviate that using immigration as a tool. Because of this, companies need to get creative when it comes to hiring. Many of them have a ton of new incentives.
#2 – Health and wellness challenges – Every company knows that good mental health practices and supporting your people when they need it, is good for business. During Covid-19 it was plain to see how that affected everyone’s mental health with all the lock downs. We need to have a proactive approach with mental health. It has a direct relation to absenteeism, and having productive people who will stay with your company for a long time.
There are many ways to look at health and wellness strategies. Employee Assistance Programs (EAP), more home time, more corporate family activities, a more balanced work/life schedule. These are all things that can help your people excel at what they do.
#3 – Automation/AI/Software – Unfortunately trucks don’t drive themselves, or do they?. We have all heard about them, and they are a work in progress. Everyone is keeping an eye on these, as they could change the face of trucking altogether. Imagine being on the road with a transport truck with no driver in it. I can’t! If you have driven a truck lately, you will notice that trucks are very capable of doing a lot of the tasks you used to do, by themselves. They are becoming more and more sophisticated. The technology is moving at lightning speed these days, and more and more AI will be taking over the driving tasks for you. Who would have thought you would see driverless trucks on the road, never mind a computer that talks to you. This is what it is coming too. There are also management software tools that integrate into the systems companies are already using. Examples of this include: a driver management system, maintenance software, truck/trailer relocation software and HR recruiting systems. All of these are brought together to make one seamless system that makes it easier to track everything your business does. These systems can reduce overall costs tremendously.
#4 – LCV’S (Long combination vehicles) – Very common out west, these are now in the east. These units can help alleviate some of the driver issues, as one truck can haul two trailers at the same time with one driver. However, these types of units are restricted to what they can do. They are typically designed for highway use only, to move large amounts of freight quickly over long distances. Hauling double trailers can be a huge cost savings for small and larger companies alike.
#5 – Freight sharing – What is freight sharing? This is where shippers and carriers are matched up based on a variety of factors, such as weight, freight class, and distance travelled, and location to-and-from, to get the most optimal rates. Then both parties agree or decline the arrangement. It is a very efficient way to operate for all parties involved. Shippers get their products moved quickly, and the carriers get their trailers filled with freight. Empty miles cost everyone too much. Of course, using AI software to calculate all the factors, makes this a very quick operation that can be run from the palm of your handheld cell phone.
These are just some of many trends affecting the transportation industry over the next year or so. A couple of other things to mention are highway improvements and maintenance across the country, with a desperate need for improvements to rest areas along our nation’s highways. These should be a priority, as drivers are running on Elogs, and need a safe place to pull over at the end of their day. Happy trucking…
For more of Dana’s articles, be sure to check out his website at themindfultrucker.com