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The trucking industry is facing technological and business headwinds that will require a fresh vision in the near future. Increasing operating costs, complex federal regulations and an aging workforce remain top priorities in 2020. However, technology offers a new promise for trucking in a way that hasn’t been realized before.
Here are three realities that will need to be addressed over the next 12 months and what the industry can do to maintain a competitive edge.
Emerging tech to offset increasing operating costs
No one feels the pain of rising fuel costs more than the trucking industry. The latest findings from the American Transportation Research Institute show fuel prices jumped 17.7% year-over-year. Meanwhile, some states are implementing their own tax hikes to fund local road maintenance and other projects. This creates an additional layer of complexity for fleet managers and drivers to keep track of.
Embracing advanced payment solutions that can manage both company and personal purchases will be a top priority for fleet businesses in the future. These companies must prioritize using the most up-to-date technology and to enable fleet managers and drivers to manage their fuel costs, track tax payments state to state and reduce the time and inefficiency when sending driver payroll or settlements. Not only will these innovative technologies make drivers more efficient on the road, but they also can benefit businesses’ bottom lines by cutting back on unnecessary operating costs and inefficient processes.
Performance targets will demand a bigger focus on big data and analytics
The trucking industry relies heavily on data and analytics to track and manage fleet performance, spot fraud and maintain efficiencies, among other things. Yet the ever-changing federal regulations and tax compliance landscape require modern analytics that let fleet managers view and manage every critical aspect of fleet performance.
Fortunately, there are a number of cutting-edge tech solutions helping fleet managers make sense of the countless data points coming in every day. They provide access to near real-time information about fueling behaviors, individual driver decision patterns, compliance and overall performance. This is key to identifying cost-saving opportunities or detecting inefficiencies that impact a company bottom line in real time.
A younger and diverse workforce will introduce new technical expectations
For years, trucking businesses have felt the pains of an aging workforce leaving the industry for retirement. Meanwhile, younger workers, particularly Millennials and Generation Z, are entering the trucking industry with more technological experience, skills and education than ever before. Also, women and Hispanic minorities under the age of 35 are starting to enter the trucking industry in higher numbers. Transportation businesses will have the opportunity to diversify their workforce, upgrade recruitment efforts to be more inclusive and modernize their tools and systems for the new generation.
In order to attract and retain younger drivers, these businesses must give employees access to time-saving and user-friendly mobile tools and technology, making life easier on the road. Although increasing pay and offering sign-on bonuses are always attractive, there are other perks logistics companies can prioritize in 2020.
For the fleet and trucking industry, convenient mobile-friendly solutions enable drivers to save time and money on the road, boosting driver engagement and attracting more talent. Mobile apps work to integrate seamlessly with trucking companies’ infrastructure, while making it convenient for drivers to use through their smartphones.
Additionally, employee training programs that decrease the barrier to entry for new truck drivers, enhance their safety and address the growing presence of women and minorities entering the industry will be critical in 2020.
In 2020, compliance, driver shortages and technological challenges will continue. With the help of cutting-edge technology, a younger workforce and an eye toward data, transportation and logistics businesses have a unique opportunity to transform their image and thrive in the next decade.
Justin King is senior vice president of product and innovation of North America trucking for Comdata.