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Technology will prove crucial during market downturn

Making existing employees and equipment more efficient offers accessible gains

(Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

The logistics industry is undergoing a serious technological revolution. The space, which was once characterized by its reticence to embrace modern solutions, has changed rapidly since the ELD mandate went into effect almost five years ago. Now, it is clear that technology offers a pathway to a safer – and more profitable – future. 

Additionally, the freight market has experienced a slow but steady softening over the past few months, balancing the pricing power between shippers and carriers. As spot rates fall, carriers should expect shippers to once again begin negotiating lower contract rates. In order to prepare for this move, carriers can focus on cutting waste and optimizing their operations now. For most carriers, embracing technology is the most effective way to achieve this goal.

There is a lot of buzz around emerging technologies like autonomous and electric vehicles, and there is certainly a place for these cutting edge solutions in longer-term technology plans. In the immediate future, however, Averitt EVP of Sales and Marketing Kent Williams believes focusing on technologies aimed at making existing equipment — and workforces — more efficient offers the best chance at creating a more productive fleet.

Solutions such as route optimization and real-time visibility are beneficial regardless of what is happening in the market. These tools allow carriers to optimize their movements by reducing deadhead and cutting down on wasted fuel, which leads to both higher profitability and a smaller carbon footprint. 

Newer safety technologies — like front-collision braking, interactive cruise control, blind-spot and lane-departure warnings and anti-rollover technology — may just be the unsung hero of the industry, according to Williams. 

These technologies have the power to make trucking safer for both truck drivers and the motoring public by reducing distractions in the cab and limiting the potential for human error. Not only do these solutions protect against mishaps made by truck drivers, they also allow drivers to quickly respond to mistakes other drivers make on the road, preventing accidents.  

“For years there were very few technological advancements that markedly improved safety for the professional driver, but the last several years have brought us significant improvements to the point where you pretty much have all the safety technology of a high-end car available to class 8 tractors if a company chooses to invest in these enhancements, and we do,” Williams said. “In addition to keeping our drivers and the motoring public safe, which is our highest priority, this investment in technology helps reduce costs from the obvious liability exposure to less obvious benefits such as increasing driver satisfaction and reducing turnover. Everyone wins when we improve safety.”  

Utilizing technology for more office-style tasks like marketing, recruiting and relationship management can make a significant difference in how effective a carrier is at building and maintaining connections. Sending out videos and digital marketing presentations allows companies to reach far more people than relying on old school methods like phone calls or in-person meetings by making content both engaging and accessible at all hours of the day. 

While Williams acknowledges that it is prudent to wait several months to adopt brand-new technologies, he cautions against waiting too long to try new things.

“With any technology, the return on investment is pretty quick,” Williams said. “Go ahead and get on board because technology will make you leaner, more efficient and safer.”

Ashley Coker

Ashley is interested in everything that moves, especially trucks and planes. She covers air cargo, trucking and sponsored content. She studied journalism at Middle Tennessee State University and worked as an editor and reporter at two daily newspapers before joining FreightWaves. Ashley spends her free time at the dog park with her beagle, Ruth, or scouring the internet for last minute flight deals.