Tracking The Ongoing Trucking Evolution

The number of disrupting trends in the trucking industry grows by the day. From connectivity to new spec’ing to advances in autonomy, the market continues to be a challenging and ever-evolving space for those making a living in some way, shape, or form in the trucking or freight transportation industry. That’s why we wanted to take a full spectrum look at all the developments shaping our industry today.

Connectivity

If you had asked this of fleet managers even a decade ago, they would have asked you if the connectivity you were referring to related wiring in a tractor. Today it refers to the power of communication that motor carriers now have at their fingertips.

Problems can be diagnosed faster, training and feedback can occur real-time, the moment the information is required, and efficiencies can be uncovered in just about every corner of your company, whether you are an owner-operator or a large trucking company.

Improving connectivity allows you to eliminate waste and increase safety, timeliness, and ultimately the positive impact on your company’s bottom line. It also provides a touch point with you and the customer or client. For any collaboration to work, it requires three essential components: trust, efficiency, and communication.

Trust and efficiency are important, but effective communication is the glue that binds it all together. Connectivity in trucking allows trucking companies a way to differentiate themselves from the competition. Fleets are adapting to change and adopting new technologies and methodologies by the day, which leaves the door open for enterprising motor carriers ready to get out and ahead of the game.

Opportunity arises when massive change disrupts an industry the size and complexity of trucking. Operators that get ahead of the game and are using new connectivity technologies and methods before their competitors will be poised for success.

Culture

Today, trucking companies thrive by developing a culture that promotes the business all while improving employee morale and getting freight delivered on time. Are you developing a fleet of truck drivers, technicians, back-office workers, yard hands, and others? If so, you need to make sure you are fostering a culture of fairness, friendly competition, high achievement, and brand awareness.

As you adopt new methodologies for recruiting, retaining, and training new truck drivers and employees, it will be critical that you are fair in all things you do. Here at the QuickTSI blog we have talked a lot about privacy and in-cab video capture technology. How fairly is your fleet deploying such technologies? Do you have the truck driver’s consent? Are they excited by these new technologies?

Friendly competition and high achievement go together. One of the major retention efforts being used by fleets today are ways to recognize high achievement or good performance. Whether a company incentivizes their employees through gift cards, extra home time, a day off or something else, fleet managers are donning their creative caps to find ways to improve morale and put a high level of focus on creating a company culture that supports these efforts.

Once you have happy people working for you, talking about your business, operating your equipment, and sharing the tales of your success far and wide, you will be building the brand not just through organic marketing efforts but through the power of your company culture.

Complication

If there is one thing that is a constant in the trucking world, it is the level of complexity we operate within. Many view the trucking world as a simple one. Put boxes or other freight types into or onto a transport container or bed, then you are good to go! We know better and say that is not so!

Just take the topic of connectivity as one example. If you now have your shop wirelessly connected to the diagnostics unit on your tractors, would it cause a distraction if you have a fleet of 500 tractors giving a buzz or beep anytime something – legitimate or not – appears to be going wrong on the tractor?

If you get a code that tells you something is going wrong, but it turns out to be something else down the line that is causing the fault, your first glance might be the wrong glance. This increased level of connectivity also adds pressure at the dealer level, by pushing them to complete repairs faster.

Fortunately, there is enough complication built into the system that no one must worry about losing their job anytime soon. While all the talk surrounds artificial intelligence and autonomous trucks, there is far too much complexity baked into the industry – and with the constant change – a human hand will still be required to help navigate the change, both literally and figuratively.

Partners

Many trucking companies have given up trying to do things themselves and instead are choosing to establish partnerships with those already experts in their fields. Take telematics as one example. Companies are being built from the bottom up to handle the telematics needs of trucking companies. Fleets simply don’t have the IT staff or computing infrastructure needed to build and maintain telematics systems.

The same goes for repair work. Motor carriers are finding it easier to establish a relationship with a mobile repair shop. Working with mobile repair shops takes the pressure off technicians so that they can focus on the big jobs. With outside vendors totally capable of handling small repairs, both time, money, and greater efficiencies are realized.

It is essential to get the proper people and partners in place to handle all the moving pieces associated with a trucking business. This is especially true in an age of technological change. Even once-simple tasks such as spec’ing the right equipment has become a herculean request, one in which different pieces of technology must be compatible within an interconnected network of the modern tractor-trailer.

Specs

It is no secret that specs are changing. Trucks are rolling off the assembly line geared with safety in mind. While semi-autonomous and fully electric trucks are proven in concept and have been being tested out on the nation’s roads, the short-term changes are safety changes.

When they aren’t related to safety, spec evolution centers around fuel efficiency. It is true that safety and fuel efficiency are the number one targets for manufacturers building products and those delivering services within the trucking industry – as well as within the fleets themselves.

Trucking advocacy organizations like the American Trucking Associations (ATA) and even the Owner Operators Independent Alliance (OOIDA), two groups who are often on different sides of an issue, have forged an uneasy partnership in pushing for greater safety and fuel efficiency, if it does not come at the expense of the truck driver or company shareholders.

Powertrains

One spec that has taken hold and doesn’t seem to be letting go is the automated transmission. Take Peterbilt as just one example of the long march away from manual drive tractors. In the last two years alone, Peterbilt has gone from including automated-manual transmissions (AMTs) on 10 percent of their vehicles to a whopping 90 percent.

AMTs first made their appearance on Peterbilt refuse trucks and concrete mixers. Vocational trucks had the most to gain from their adoption, but now Peterbilt has witnessed the trend move beyond vocational applications. When it comes to decreasing truck driver distractions while increasing their on-road situational awareness, AMTs certainly do the trick.

There has also been a move towards smaller-displacement engines. Why? Consider the advances in engine technologies. Today’s 13-litre engines now offer the same torque and horsepower as the 16-litre engines of yesteryear. There is no real reason for trucking companies not to spec a lower displacement engine when they can get the same performance out of it.

Fuel Economy

Smaller displacement engines also cut down on fuel consumption, making them a logical choice for sustainably-minded motor carriers. The technologies promising greater fuel efficiencies for truckers seem to appear in multitudes by the day. The priorities by which fleets based their needs upon have shifted over the years.

No longer are motor carriers single-mindedly focused on horsepower alone. In fact, horsepower is often only a concern if they are worried the trucks they are spec’ing won’t have enough of it to haul the type of loads they do business hauling.

If their vehicles can be spec’d with enough horsepower and torque to get the job done, their main concern shifts to fuel economy, fuel economy, and more fuel economy. Whether they get the job done through under-the-hood components or through aerodynamic additions or changes in truck driver behavior, burning less fuel is the holy grail of trucking in the modern era.

Nowadays, fleets expect the dealer to be able to advise them on what is best for their fleet. When choosing to purchase or upgrade equipment, always make sure to do a little research ahead of time and write down questions you don’t want to forget when the time comes to discuss specs.

With today’s trucking trends turning into certainties tomorrow, it is important to stay current on the big moves being made in trucking. Fortunately, that’s what we are here for, as thought leaders in the industry.

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