It is obvious that the logistics industry is in the middle of a technological revolution. New digital solutions pop up almost daily, and innovation dominates the conversation at conferences, on calls and around the lunch table. Even as tech propels us forward, one thing has become abundantly clear: People are the backbone of this industry.
Technology plays a critical role in moving freight today. It has made companies more efficient, reduced security risks and paved the way for new mediums like shared truckload to enter the scene. Without humans at the helm, however, the industry’s vast technological gains would be virtually useless. Human talent is still a meaningful touchpoint in freight.
Freight is volatile by nature. The market absorbs the impact of everything from natural disasters to tariff hikes. This unpredictability is exactly why people are such an important part of the freight puzzle. Industry experts have the problem-solving abilities and critical thinking skills necessary to analyze and respond to thousands of different scenarios before they occur. And, unlike computers, people are able to do this with a hefty dose of empathy.
“People build and maintain relationships. We want to be able to collaborate, to share ideas and to problem-solve as humans. We want to use technology to simplify and amplify those efforts,” Flock Freight Vice President of Marketing Jeff Lerner said. “Technology doesn’t have empathy or understand the reality of the freight world. When there’s something like a hurricane, we need people to problem-solve together. That’s where the human-centric element comes in.”
Technology works great when everything is running smoothly, and tools like automated booking systems and digital load tracking have made the job of delivering freight easier for shippers, brokers and drivers alike. It is when problems occur that people really get the chance to shine.
While computers can be programmed to respond to problems, humans are natural problem solvers. People can assess a complex situation and run multiple scenarios, all while taking both practicality and emotion into account. Digital solutions lack the ability to empathize on a person-to-person basis in the midst of a crisis.
“There’s always a place for a human element. There are certain things that machines are not best positioned to do. We know that someone can use our tech to book a shipment and facilitate the process in a way that is easier and faster for them and for us,” Lerner said. “When issues arise — when there are unique circumstances — you need the human element, even if you use artificial intelligence (AI) services.”
Lerner believes the roles that humans and technology play in the industry will continue to evolve over time, but people are not on the road to obsolescence anytime soon. Quite the opposite, actually, as tech eliminates routine work tasks and allows people to step more fully into their creative strengths.
Ultimately, the combination of human expertise and technological advancement can drive the industry forward, promoting safety, efficiency and innovation along the way.