Transportation has historically been a tech-void sector. Maybe that’s been part of its appeal. The allure of open roads and ability to be your own boss, paired with demand for moving goods, grew this space over the last hundred years to 3.5 million truck drivers and $738.9 billion in revenues.
The slow adoption of tech is being flipped on its head. Technology has arrived, pushed in by the ELD Mandate. Its controversy, though, has caused much of the industry to lose sight of the big picture. Many drivers see it forcing a lifestyle change, losing out on part of why they chose the career. Owner-operators and fleets of every size should be thinking about 5-10 years from now, on how telematics technology lets them compete now and will continue to do so; not solely its compliance role, but how it improves business.
There is a myriad of technology applications beyond monitoring hours-of-service (HOS) rules, which have actually been around since as early as 19351. Are you using technology to reduce idling time? Optimize routes? Improve safety? Match drivers to jobs efficiently? I’ve seen much of this fall by the wayside as the industry’s gotten bogged down in ELD.
We are at a step change in trucking, driven by market forces like the impending driver shortage of over 174,000 drivers by 20262, and this industry lags behind many others in terms of human progress driven by technology.
Here are three ways to think about how technology is changing trucking for the better:
I won’t get into debating HOS rules but will say ELD is a blessing in disguise, especially for tech-averse shippers and carriers. We are living in an era of unprecedented connectivity. Data is no longer a bad word. It can be leveraged to improve trucking in so many ways. From load boards, to electronic proof of delivery, acquiring a load and being paid has become easier and faster. Connectivity and data-driven trucking will only continue to grow, faster in the coming years.
Daimler, Tesla and Volvo are all talking about electric, with the latter two starting production and sales of them in the next year. We don’t know yet how this will affect range traveled, driver comfort and other logistics like lane planning and routes, but with an economy-wide focus on sustainability, we know it’s coming. For shippers that value or are measured on decreasing their environmental impact, it could eventually influence what carriers they contract with.
The role of a driver in the next 10 years is anyone’s guess. They could be relegated to the back seat, and if someone was “born to drive” they are clearly not going to like that. But they need to expect it, and figure out how to work alongside tech that exists now and upcoming tech in the future. This could also open a whole new pool of talent. Look at Tesla’s 400,000-person Model 3 waitlist. That excitement should translate to Tesla and other autonomous trucks, too.
Exactly how these will impact business operations is yet to be fully understood, but things will undoubtedly be different from the days when owner-operators and drivers were the sole manufacturers of their own cycle. Trucking needs to drive efficiency, do more with less and start attracting new drivers to the field. ELD – forced technology adoption or not – is helping close the gap between the current and future technology landscape that everyone in the industry needs to ready themselves for and embrace. It will ultimately help the industry succeed in the long run.
To learn how our integrated ELD and fleet management is keeping fleets competitive, visit: ELD Compliance