As the U.S. economy continues to grow, one industry still struggling is the trucking industry. With more drivers starting to retire, companies are having great difficulty finding qualified professionals to take their place. This issue, coupled with numerous economic factors, is impacting the industry in ways never imagined only a few years ago. As 2019 starts to wind down, many in the industry are looking to 2020 and the trends that will have significant short and long-term impacts on companies and drivers. If you are concerned as to what these trends may be, here are some many expect to be the most talked-about in the coming year.
Increased Regulations and Guidelines
As safety becomes a greater concern among many within the trucking industry, many company executives are pointing to an increase in regulations and guidelines in a number of areas as a trend that will impact them in many ways. For example, the federal government is poised to implement new regulations on how trucking companies can transport fuels and chemicals on local, regional, and cross-country routes. With accidents involving fuel and chemical spills having increased over the last several years, federal regulators are expected to make changes into not only the types of trailers used for transporting fuels and chemicals, but also training requirements for drivers as well.
As artificial intelligence makes its way into the automotive industry in the form of autonomous vehicles that drive themselves, many in the trucking industry believe it is only a matter of time before much of this technology is added to large trucks. While nobody believes self-driving tractor-trailers will be on the highway anytime soon, technology may start to be added to trucks that will allow them to become safer. For example, much like passenger vehicles, large trucks may have technology that will allow them to brake before the driver can react, hoping this will greatly reduce the number of crashes involving large trucks.
Driver Training Standards
Since many trucking companies are facing extreme driver shortages, some companies are taking shortcuts in an effort to get drivers a minimum amount of training in order to get on the road. Unfortunately, this has put both their safety and that of other drivers on the road at risk, and has been pointed to as a contributing factor to the increase in accidents involving large trucks. Because of this, U.S. Department of Transportation is preparing to recommend new training guidelines for companies to use when hiring and training new drivers. Known as the Entry Level Driver Training Rule, this would focus not only on new minimum standards for drivers hired by companies, but also new standards for driving instructors and driver training schools.
As the trade war continues between the United States and China, many trucking industry experts believe this could have a large impact on the industry in 2020. With the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement set to take effect, the implications of this agreement and the ongoing trade war could affect a variety of areas related to the trucking industry, including supply chains, company investments in new equipment, and the overall amount of freighthat will be moved over-the-road in 2020.
Restart and Break Rules
Since driver fatigue is often a factor in many large truck accidents, state and federal regulators have been trying for years to make major changes to restart and break rules. In 2020, they may be able to do just that. For example, the trucking industry is pushing hard for regulators to allow drivers to break up their sleep periods, rather than forcing them to sit idle for a long period of time as regulations now require. By breaking up the sleep period, companies believe not only will drivers still be able to get a sufficient amount of rest, but also move additional freight without compromising safety.
With consumers now expecting the goods they order be delivered as fast as possible, trucking companies are having to focus more on freight transparency. Along with customers wanting to track their items each step of the way, shippers want to do the same thing. However, this trend is going up against the problem many truckers face once they reach their destination, which is winding up having their truck and its cargo set on a loading dock for hours until it is unloaded. While many trucking companies have in the past failed to complain about this for fear of losing business, the issue is now one that has come to the forefront. As a result, additional technology is expected to be used in an effort to speed up unloading of trucks. In doing so, truckers will be able to unload cargo quicker and get back on the road, ultimately leading to better service for consumers and greater profits for themselves.
Abby Drexler is a contributing writer and media specialist for Quality Fuel Trailer & Tank. She regularly produces content for a variety of Trucking and Business blogs.