Top 5 things to know about the trucking industry
- The trucking industry is the backbone of the US economy
The economy depends on truck drivers to transport freight and keep supply chains moving. 65% of the country’s consumable goods are trucked to market. In a recent study, the American Trucking Association (ATA) reports that trucks moved 10.8 billion tons of freight in 2017, generating over $700 billion in annual revenue.1
- The driver shortage continues
The trucking industry employs 3.5 million drivers.2 Truck drivers have a difficult lifestyle, with many hours on the road and days away from home. As a result, the industry has a difficult time finding and keeping long-haul drivers. Demographic shifts are also impacting the industry. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average age of a truck driver is 55. Many drivers are approaching retirement. As a result of these factors, the ATA estimates that the industry is short over 50,000 drivers. This number is expected to rise to 175,000 by 2026. The shortage of drivers is putting upward pressure on wages and causing fleet operators to develop driver incentive programs.
- Technology is impacting the industry
Technologies, such as blind spot monitoring, automatic transmissions, braking assistance and variable cruise control, are all slated to become more standard within the next 10 years. The industry is also making strides with electric trucks. According to the North American Council for Freight Efficiency, electric trucks won’t have an application in every market, but will have an increasing role in freight transportation in Classes 3 through 8.3
- Enhancements in self-driving trucks continue to emerge
Experts feel that fully autonomous trucks (ATs) will ultimately emerge in four waves. The first two waves will feature platooning, a method of transport where several trucks form a line and automatically mimic the speed, braking and steering behavior of a lead truck. Initially a driver will be in each truck, but within 4-5 years, a driver will only be required in the lead truck. By 2025, driverless platooning will take hold and within a decade, we’ll see fully autonomous trucks. While some disagree with the timeline, it’s certain that the technology development will drive down the operating costs of the trucking industry and will help drive further development of advanced driver assistance systems.
- Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) changes slated for end of the year
For the past two years, the industry has been working to comply with the Department of Transportation’s regulations around ELDs. ELDs are intended to help improve driver safety, while automating the process of recording driving hours. In December of this year, carriers will no longer be allowed to deploy Automatic On-Board Recording Devices (AOBRDs) that were grandfathered in for the first two years of the ELD mandate. Carriers with AOBRDs will have to switch to the more expensive ELD system by December 16, 2019. Some experts feel this will cause disruption in the industry near the end of the year, when an estimate 2-2.5 million trucks will need to be upgraded.
1American Trucking Association – American Trucking Trends 2018
2American Trucking Association – American Trucking Trends 2018
3North American Council for Freight Efficiency – Electric Trucks: Where they make sense