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Commentary: The top three opportunities for the trucking industry in 2020

Technological change is requiring a fresh vision to help manage trucking operations. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of FreightWaves or its affiliates.

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


  1. MrBigR504

    Millennials, Generation Z and Hispanics under 35….yeah this industry circling the drain for sure because the language barrier and common sense is a handicap for most of these newbies now a days! Hell i get cut off by these newbies almost as much as the 4 wheelers lately! And no I’m not fart’n around because me and my 1996 W900L 3406e are mashing, but these newbies will jump in front of you at fleet truck speed and damn near cause an accident and they look at you like, huh…what? Fk’n ridiculous i swear! I see why some folks shoot at these fools. Now i wouldn’t shoot at’em or condone that type of behavior but i damn sure wanna throw a pad lock through their windshield! The training programs for new truckers are lacking and need to be examined very closely.

  2. Guillermo

    Benefit for those who, with this new implementation of the electronic logbook, do not stop working, they pay more in a warehouse than as a driver and how they do their studies because it is not real

  3. 2lazy2p

    Big Carrier / Pointy headed intellectual SPEAK:
    ” 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.”
    To put it in every-day English, get rid of the geezers then put smart phones in the hands of Mexicans and pay them $20 cents a mile. I wonder how that will work out.

  4. Noble1

    Hydrogen & electric autonomous trucks are the future . All the noise occurring now is simply going to facilitate its integration . No ELD , no fuel emissions , no HOS , no driver wages , no trucking employee misclassification , no front facing cameras , truck stops are going to get hammered , etc etc etc .

    The “carrier” industry will consolidate within the hands of a powerful few .

    NEXT !

    In my humble opinion ………….

      1. CM Evans

        The airplanes cant even fly themselves completely and require a captain to pilot. They have much greater computing power than these trucks do. Read the book Smarter, Faster, Better, I believe it’s chapter 3 of what happens when the computers take over.
        At worst the trucks will require a captain to take over and what’s the point then ? Are ya gonna pay a driver any less than they already do to ride along just in case.
        They’ll be no driverless trucks in my lifetime so I’m keepin the hammer down.

        1. Noble1

          They are already at level 4 with ,ie: truck driving “technicians” at the wheel .

          Highway truck drivers will no longer be labeled as “truck drivers” .

          That being said , from my perspective , once highway drivers will start being replaced at “Level 5” it will increase truck driver participants on first and final mile(local positions) . This will further weigh negatively on driver wages and rates due to an increase in driver supply and mind boggling improved delivery technology .

          You can’t compare aircraft at this point unless you’re speaking about UAV’s , however , you can compare “autopilot” a little if you like to levels 1 through 4 . Level 5 in autonomous vehicles is far more advanced than autopilot is on an aircraft , marine vessel , and spaceship . We’re currently at level 4 . At level 4 a driver technician is still required just like a pilot in aircraft , not at level 5 which is right around the corner .

          In regards to ” fully autonomous aircraft ” it is and will be developed ,used ,and accepted with cargo aircraft before passenger aircraft , just like with “cargo hauling trucks” before automobiles and passenger vehicles , in my opinion . Currently they are working on fully autonomous flying taxi aircraft . Keep an eye on Boeing ,and Elroy Air in regards to cargo .

          Quote :

          ‘The Elroy Air Cargo is an unmanned cargo aircraft developed by American startup company Elroy Air, intended to replace land delivery trucks on inefficient routes with unmanned aircraft. ”

          You can google this :

          January 2019
          Boeing’s experimental autonomous aircraft completes its first test flight .

          As we progress from within the next decade , I think we will be shocked at how quickly transportation will have evolved .

          In my opinion …….

    1. joe alba

      Agree totally Noble1, the only thing these Biofuel and Electric vehicle are is a temporary stop-gap while the real new technology – Hydrogen – is in it’s infancy. However, as proven by the ethanol farce, in many cases if you add the energy used to create the biofuel plus the energy used to run the vehicle on the biofuel, the total in many cases exceeds the use of just plain gas. Most calculations for biofuel justification is only comparing use to use; not production+use for A to production +use for B. It’s the dirty little secret about biofuels. This was true when I was involved with Clean Cities in the early 2000’s and is probably still true today.

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