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

Trucking's top opportunities

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

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