The Trucking Industry Must Adapt to Succeed

Despite the recent suggestions that the trucking industry is in decline due to increased regulations and driver shortages, a new report released from the American Trucking Associations found contrary evidence. According to its “U.S. Freight Transportation Forecast to 2025,” the overall freight tonnage will grow more than 23 percent from 2013 to 2025, which will see revenues spike 72 percent.

Who said the industry was in limbo?

Not ATA Senior Vice President and Chief Economist Bob Costello.

“We continue to see growth for the entire freight economy – but we also see that trucking will maintain its position as the nation’s dominant mode of freight transportation,” Costello said in a release.

Both the volume and share of freight tonnage are expected to grow through the next 10 years, while railroad market share will decline 0.7 percent between 2013 and 2025, the report found.

To grow, haulers must adapt

Although the ATA just shared good news for those in the industry, companies shouldn’t expect to see bolstered bottom lines unless they adapt with the fluidity of the trucking sector. Recent technological developments and prototypes are shedding light into the window of what may be a different trucking industry in the near future. Autonomous cabs, aerodynamic trailers and improved mechanics under the hood are all expected to become industry mainstays in the near future.

These, coupled with further federal regulations that are limiting driver hours, growing environmental concerns and traditional free market capitalists are peripheral factors that could significantly change the industry, as well, argues the Commercial Carrier Journal’s Jack Roberts. In a recent article, Roberts stands firm in saying that freight will always be available to ship, which sounds especially convincing considering the ATA’s recent report. However, due to the aforementioned aspects, trucking companies are going to have to alter the way they do business to keep pace with an evolving market and higher demands.

Newer, safer and cleaner technology – at its core – sounds like the best way to go. Fundamentally speaking, not many people would admit they are opposed to those ideas and the positive changes they may bring. Yet, as Roberts points out, there are handful of areas within the industry that companies need to become aware of, some of which include the technician shortage, the nation’s infrastructure, fuel prices, increased regulations and vehicle technology.

Technology and regulations are driving change

The latter two are more poignant subjects within trucking spheres partly because they’re arguably at the forefront of changes within the sector. Federal regulations may affect companies’ bottom lines since drivers are now required to stop and rest a certain number of hours each day, and as vehicles continue to advance with safety and fuel efficiency in mind, the capital outlays to acquire these models will likely increase as well.

Yet, as the ATA points out, freight tonnage is also expected to increase within the next decade. That growth, paired with a recovering economy, may result in a significant rise in the number of products that freight businesses will have to move. If companies don’t become familiar with the trends and technology evolving around them, they may fade quietly into the night while others continue along the road to success. It’s up to freight haulers to leverage new technology to their advantage if they want to ride the wave of growth into the coming years. For example, Roberts penned a separate article for the CCJ that predicted companies will be able to address the driver shortages through automated cabs.

Although there may be learning curves on the road to growth within the industry, the expected changes won’t occur all at once. As the market slowly confronts these changes, those that adapt with the industry will likely see great success in the near future.

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