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Blog September 2023

Unveiling the Top 10 Trends Shaping the Transportation Industry's Future

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Bob Hausler

Vice President Transport, North America, AMCS

As any fleet manager knows, this old adage is true: the only thing constant is change. Technology, regulations, economics, and plenty of other factors are consistently in flux, forcing businesses to adapt quickly—or be left behind.

Ensuring that your company can keep pace begins with staying on top of industry innovations and developments. Here, we’ll look at the most prominent trends impacting the transportation industry today.

1. Seeking Solutions to Persistent Labor Shortages

In 2023, the trucking industry is estimated to be short 80,000 drivers. As a large cohort of baby boom-era drivers reach retirement, that number is predicted to rise to 160,000 by 2030.1

Trucking companies are seeking new ways to attract and retain drivers. Some are raising pay and offering bonuses—Walmart announced it would pay fleet truckers up to $110,000 their first year.2 Others are offering improved education, training, healthcare, and retirement benefits.

The widespread and persistent shortage of workers is also causing transportation companies to embrace automation. Europe leads the way in experimenting with automated trucking. Companies are venturing into driverless trucks, starting with two-truck units where the first truck has a human driver, while the second truck mimics the driving patterns of the first.

2. Confronting Cyber Threats

While new technologies are essential to any transportation company’s success, implementation also carries risk. In 2021, transportation was the seventh-most targeted industry by hackers.3

Hackers can invade digital in-cab systems to access fleet data and even shut down the vehicle, endangering the driver and others on the road. By accessing a single vehicle’s technology, a hacker can potentially hijack an entire company’s logistics, monitoring, telematics, and other systems.

To manage these evolving risks, fleet and IT managers are implementing multifactor authentication procedures, updating cyber security plans to address new threats, reducing access to sensitive information, and training drivers on how to recognize scams and other hazards. Since it’s difficult for many companies to have the resources to effectively combat malware and hacking on their own, most companies are now moving to SaaS based solutions where platform and solutions providers are investing heavily in cybersecurity.

3. Implementing Less Than Truckload (LTL) Strategies

The acceleration of ecommerce has generated a demand for faster shipping, which is compelling logistics companies to make smaller, more frequent shipments, a strategy known as Less Than Truckload (LTL) shipping. The LTL approach combines multiple smaller orders from various companies on one carrier, creating a full load. LTL enables logistics companies to fill vehicles completely, while shippers pay only for the space they use, and are better able to meet customer expectation for quick delivery. Because carriers moving fuller loads requires fewer trucks and trips, LTL processes can also require less fuel, helping to reduce the environmental impacts of shipping.

4. Boosting Last-Mile Delivery Efficiency

The growth of ecommerce has also placed increased importance on last-mile transportation – the final leg of a shipment’s journey to the door of the customer. Between 2022 and 2040, the last-mile delivery market is expected to expand at a CAGR of 20.6%.4 That expansion represents a growing expense for transportation companies, creating a need for more efficient methods that utilize AI, autonomous vehicles, and other technological innovations.

5. Participating in Digital Freight Marketplaces

These digital networks enable shippers and carriers to connect and make transportation arrangements. Freight marketplaces give carriers access to a larger pool of potential customers, and simplifies the booking process by enabling all parties to exchange information in one place, in real-time.

6. Investing in Electric Vehicles

With large freight trucks responsible for 26% of all highway-based fuel consumption, support for commercial electric vehicles continues to grow.5

In 2020, UPS ordered 10,000 electric fleet vehicles. DHL is currently testing electronic trucks capable of carrying 82,000 pounds. And the trend looks likely to continue: The global electric truck industry is expected to reach a CAGR of 26,4% by 2030.6

Additionally, recycling and waste disposal leader Republic Services has committed to significantly scaling their electric truck fleet. The company is currently testing two electric recycling and waste truck prototypes, and expect electric vehicles to represent half of all new truck purchases by 2028.7

Integrating electric vehicles into a fleet can protect the budget from fluctuating fuel prices while also benefiting the environment. In the next few years, fleet managers can expect to see even more options for electric fleet vehicles and sustainable technology.

7. Closely Evaluating Existing Technology

In the wake of unprecedented market turbulence caused by the pandemic, transportation companies are examining their current technology. Specifically, they seek to determine if it offers the agility and flexibility needed to meet coming challenges, and provides visibility into real-time data to inform decisions that will help them to proactively adapt to potential disruptions. If the current technology can’t meet the need, transportation organizations are looking to replace their solutions with those that support more resilient, reliable operations.

8. Embracing New Technologies

Increased costs are driving advancements in technology across the transportation industry. Telematics provide direct communication between trucks on the road, enabling them to organize in a formation – known as “platooning” – which can deliver significant savings on fuel costs. Many trucks are now equipped with IoT sensors that monitor condition, stability, and other data that is used in analytics that improve fleet management. IoT devices offer an expansive range of capabilities, including the ability to track the condition and performance of vehicles, analyze traffic to redirect routes and speed up delivery, impose speed limits, and even prevent accidents.

APIs, a type of software interface that allows multiple computer programs to communicate with each other, can enable transportation companies to receive near-instantaneous data and updates about orders and shipments. That data can be shared with customers to meet their increasing demand for more frequent updates.

Trucking and commercial transportation companies are also looking to blockchain technologies to boost transparency across the organization. The technology can enhance supply chain efficiency, agility, and innovation, while offering security features that improve upon traditional IT systems used in the industry.

9. Increasing Sustainability

Consumer and regulatory dynamics are causing transportation companies to focus on their sustainability efforts. The intensified focus gives companies the opportunity to reduce costs by increasing efficiencies. Measuring and managing CO2 emissions across the fleet may also give companies an opportunity to take advantage of eco-based tax incentives.

Transportation companies are turning to several different processes and procedures to further increase sustainability and minimize environmental impact. These include vehicles that run on alternative fuels, truckload optimization, route optimization, and fuel-efficient driving practices.

10. Turning to AI

Artificial intelligence has a wide range of uses relevant to the transportation industry. A report by research firm MarketsandMarkets estimates the AI market within the trucking industry will grow by 18% between 2017 and 2030. AI is now being used to predict traffic delays to optimize routes, analyze driver behavior to improve safety, match the demand and supply of stock to automate freight operations, and much more.

Additionally, fleet managers are adopting AI to help keep drivers safe by monitoring and analyzing vehicle telematics, driver behavior and more. According to one survey, 57% of fleet managers currently using telematics for GPS tracking consider it very effective in improving safety, and 17% consider it extremely effiective.8

Bonus: Adopting Fleet Maintenance Solutions

A cloud-based fleet maintenance platform gives fleet managers a single source for managing every asset – from vehicles to people to shops, and beyond. Fleet management software provides the real-time insights and data that reduce costs and downtime, while increasing efficiencies.

A fleet maintenance platform simplifies the task of keeping up with preventative services for every vehicle, helping streamline compliance tasks while minimizing downtime and boosting availability. Efficient parts inventory management processes shrink costs further, and help eliminate unnecessary stock, while helping to manage though continuing supply chain issues. Mobile capabilities enable drivers and technicians to report issues and provide status updates in near real-time.

For a more detailed look at the concrete benefits a robust fleet maintenance platform can provide, download our informative infographic here or read about AMCS Fleet Maintenance here.

Conclusion

In an industry rooted in moving forward, the ability to embrace innovation and adapt to change is essential. Organizations that stay on top of trends, and equip themselves with the tools and agility needed to adapt to what’s next, can ensure they’re always making progress.

Endnotes

  1. American Trucking Associations, “ATA Chief Economist Pegs Driver Shortage at Historic High,” October 25, 2021.
  2. CNBC, “Why Driving Big Rig Trucks is a Job Fewer Americans Dream About Doing,” July 5, 2022.
  3. CCJ Digital, “Cybersecurity Tips Fleets Can Use Against Modern-Day Pirates,” August 12, 2022.
  4. Prescient and Strategic Intelligence, “Last Mile Delivery Market Size and Share Analysis,” December, 2022.
  5. U.S. Department of Transportation, “Freight Transportation Energy Use and Environmental Impacts.”
  6. Allied Market Research, “E-Truck Market Statistics, 2021-2030,” January, 2022.
  7. Republic Services Is Rolling Out Industry's First Fully Integrated Electric Recycling and Waste Trucks, February, 2023.
  8. GPS Insights, “2022 Fleet Safety Report.”
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