Over the past several years, the trucking industry saw a lot of improvements. Once a relatively unchanging industry, trucking is now on the precipice of a complete and total transformation. What is driving it? Is it advancing technology or a desperate need for reinvention? The answer is a combination of factors. From new tech and regulations to the ever-tightening trucker shortage, the whirlpool of changes pushed the industry to a turning point.
New Technology Advances the Industry
Technology has been flooding the market over the past few years. With apps that increase efficiency, rule out middle-man brokers, and automate complicated processes, technology is one of the strongest influences driving reform. It started as simple automation platforms – systems that automatically diagnose truck components.
Prognostics systems, which monitor truck mechanisms and alert drivers of potential failures, and electronic logging systems have become the industry standard. Recently, startup companies have been developing apps for industry, too. Apps like Convoy, for example, which eliminate the need for freight brokers and make trucking logistics more efficient. Though the industry has been slow to embrace these technologies, the more it has, the more positive change is noted.
New Regulations Force Compliancy
Industry regulations are another change forcing the industry to reform. This year, the EPA developed a new set of standards for freight trucks in an effort to increase fuel efficiency and cut emissions. By regulating the way trucks are manufactured, the EPA hopes to reduce greenhouse gasses by one billion tons. Trucks built from 2018 onward must increase fuel efficiency by 1/3rd. Of course, building these kinds of trucks will cost money, but the EPA estimates that the cost will be offset by fuel savings.
The industry made moves to meet these regulations, as many fleets already implemented rolling-resistant tires. Manufacturers like Cummins and Peterbilt began building the industry’s “SuperTrucks,” which are reported to have 54% better fuel economy. By combining these and other improvements, manufacturers create trucks that are more fuel efficient, meet EPA regulations, and improve carrier efficiency.
Driver Shortage Creates Urgency
Finally, the driver shortage, which perhaps first sparked industry reform, is an ongoing problem. Since 2012, the shortage has only increased, with turnover rates hovering around 90% or more. Currently, the industry is short about 40,000 drivers, and the gap continues to widen. Part of the shortage is due to increasing demand from shippers and suppliers, but part of it is due to safety regulations that shorten the amount of time truckers can be on the road.
The capacity crunch, coupled with the driver shortage, prompted the industry to look for solutions. Some of these solutions include offering more money and incentives to truckers and allowing 18 year-olds to drive interstate routes. Better pay, better trucks, and more drivers will at least take the edge off the shortage.
As technology advances, and regulations and capacity crunches continue to tighten, the industry gets closer and closer to a complete reformation. And for many in the trucking industry, that’s a good thing.