As we have been reporting lately, now is a good time to be a truck driver. With base pay, bonuses, incentives, and benefits on the rise across fleets both large and small, it is a heady time in the trucking industry. Of course, if you are trying to run a fleet today, never mind trying to figure out how to run one 5 or 10 years down the road, growing with the rapid change can seem daunting.
Most fleets are in a position of:
- Trying to find truck drivers;
- Keeping trucks moving and in good working order;
- Ensuring the freight gets to where it is supposed to go;
- Staying on top of technological changes, and;
- Making sure the bottom line stays in the black.
None of these are easy by themselves. Yet, there is so much more to keep track of. Fleet managers are inundated with buzzwords like disruption, autonomous, electric, telematics, hyperloops, blockchain, alternative fuels, ecommerce, the Internet of Things, and so much more. How does one keep up with it all?
Fortunately, you should not be overwhelmed because all of these portend good tidings for the industry that we all know and love. This is a good time to work in fleet management or be a truck driver. Companies need trucking companies more than ever, which means good news for those making a living in this industry.
The Future Looks Bright
The fact is, if you work in the trucking industry, the future looks very bright indeed. Trucking continues to be a critical component of the North American economy, as it has been for nearly a century. Today, that paradigm is as truer as ever. As the rise of an internet-powered, global super-economy takes shape, trucking has become indispensable. Imagine where ecommerce would be without trucking. Nowhere.
While it is inevitable that there will be changes within the industry (there always is), trucking as a solid career choice is not going anywhere. Trucking will only grow in terms of importance and become even more vital to the economy than it is today. It is important to consider that the trucking industry was pretty much left to its own devices for nearly 50 years. Now, all that is changing.
The future of trucking will be shaped by innovators who push the technological envelope. While it may be a bit much to take in, the trucking industry is on the cusp of big changes. Fleet managers and decision makers will be required to adjust their strategy, learn new processes and adjust to a changing paradigm. The change will only accelerate at an exponential rate moving forward.
What does this mean for fleets and enterprising owner-operators? That there is a lot of money on the table ready for the taking. Provided you can embrace change and figure out how to best implement new technology, you can be at the forefront of a revolution in trucking and claim a size of the pie for yourself.
Trucks Drive Change
Consider this: Big rigs have never been more comfortable and efficient than they are today. Need proof? Simply climb into the cab of a new Class 8 commercial motor vehicle and compare it to the trucks of 10 to 20 years ago.
Today, even the most basic spec is loaded with new technologies and creature comforts that wouldn’t have been thinkable even on luxury cars pre-21st Century. Even better, trucks today are designed specifically with the truck driver in mind and go a long way in helping fleets claim better efficiency and improve their bottom line.
For motor carriers willing to invest the time and effort in focusing on aerodynamics and fuel economy, semi-trucks are cash cows. Ten years ago, a truck that claimed 6 mpg fuel economy was considered a standout. Today, fleets maximizing fuel efficiency have nearly doubled that number. Even 9 mpg has become something that few consider maximum fuel efficiency.
Within this new trucking landscape, fleets have the tools they need to move freight quickly and profitably. All they need to do is put in the up-front leg work where specs are concerned. And with electric trucks and advanced fuel options becoming more affordable and readily available, there will be even more opportunities for fleets to evolve and save, especially where regional-, short-, and urban-haul applications are concerned.
Even more, big rigs are safer than ever before. Accidents and the lawsuits associated with them have for a long time been a fact of life for fleets, but today, the numbers associated with unfortunate events have been dropping. Integrated and advanced safety systems and real-time truck driver coaching has been cutting into costs associated with unsafe vehicles and vehicle operation.
While liabilities may be considered an unavoidable cost of doing business, motor carriers are more empowered than ever before in addressing them. In terms of accidents avoided or reducing legal costs when an accident occurs, advances in safety and engineering have been real game-changers. These systems are making their presence felt in fleets nationwide and every indication points to them only getting better at keeping truck drivers safe and lowering overall costs.
When it comes to increasing productivity, real-time communication is another game-changer and productivity enabler. The fact is, communication has typically been a stumbling block for fleets. Consider that it was not too long ago that a truck driver needed to pull off the road and find a payphone to find out where his route would take him next. When the truck driver hung up that payphone, it might be days before anyone connected to that cargo heard from him or her or knew where the truck was. That seems like a million years ago now, does it not?
Real-time communication has quite literally flipped the script on how a truck driver gets the job done. When it comes to real-time communication, even trucks and the freight that they carry are getting in on the game. Whether you are talking about blockchain technologies or self-diagnosing components, these are simply ways to expand the communication capabilities of fleet operations.
Shippers, fleets, and receivers have now reached a point where they know down to the mile marker and minute where the truck and its haul are. Priority-driven data, linked through a cell or satellite connection, is enabling tracking in a way that was previously unthinkable. The freight itself can now update the truck driver’s time automatically.
The same is true for maintenance. Today’s trucks can self-diagnose themselves to a degree that would have been considered science fiction just a few decades ago. If a fuel pump only has a couple more thousand miles of life left on it, no problem, it will likely send an alert code to the shop letting them know just that.
These changes have already taken a lot of uncertainty out of fleet operations, and while this is a lot to take in, it is all good news. Fleet operations have become much more dynamic, flexible, and highly-engaged than they ever were before. These systems and processes are now totally focused on delivering freight as quickly, safely, and efficiently as possible. Yet, while today is great for trucking companies, it is also a great time to be a fleet manager.
Trucking Leadership Evolves
While trucking companies themselves are evolving at a rapid clip, so is management. Fleets are now adopting “open cab door” policies at a rapid clip. Motor carriers today want to make sure their truck drivers operate in an environment where they are relaxed and feel more comfortable speaking freely.
Fleet managers are utilizing techniques and technologies that allow them to meet truck drivers on their own terms. Rather than dragging truck drivers kicking and screaming into interactions, new methodologies and better benefits have made communication easier than ever. It is important to note, after all, that regardless of place or time, communication is key.
One example of systems and processes make the job easier include customer relationship management (CRM) systems that enable and log conversations between truck drivers and the home office. When multiple people are looped in on a conversation thread, it cuts out redundancy and miscommunication.
A key thing to consider is that you can’t change a trend if you don’t recognize it to begin with. The more knowledge that is shared up and down the line, the easier it will be to make decisions based on that information. From truck driver scorecards to innovative programs, the tone is set right out of the gate for many motor carriers.
From technology to truck driver benefits and overall levels of communication, the trucking industry is changing. The question is, will your fleet be at the forefront of this change? Fleets that respond rapidly and take advantage of new technologies and processes will be well-put to reap the benefits of a changing trucking landscape.