The overall economy is expected to see a bit of a slowdown going into 2020, and trucking business will not be immune to this trend. One potential exception for the transportation industry, however, depends on the ever-feuding federal government. Lawmakers in Washington, D.C. have been debating national infrastructure needs for years, and new federal funding for infrastructure is expected to be allocated at any time. Assuming the new funding is approved and made available during 2020, transporters are likely to see an economic boom.
The biggest threat to transportation resources in recent years is driver shortage, and this trend is expected to continue into—and likely throughout—2020. National driver shortage drove up wages in 2019, and 2020 falls squarely on that still upticking trajectory. By some projections, driver wages are expected to continue increasing by ~6-10% per year even beyond 2020.
In addition to continuing the wage increases and sign-on bonuses seen in 2019, additional types of driver incentivization will be seen in 2020, as well as new outreach programs to access fresh pools of drivers. Historically, women and minorities do not have a significant presence in the trucking industry, so more effort will be put into reaching these groups. Another potential source of new drivers includes younger drivers. If the federal government is able to pass legislation setting a national age minimum for interstate drivers, some cross-state transportation companies will be able to start recruiting a whole new age bracket of potential drivers.
Focus On Driver Health
Efforts to standardize drug testing and reporting for drivers have floundered in recent years due to the ever increasing number of states legalizing marijuana and the stark difference of opinion regarding the risks of marijuana between state and federal legislatures. 2020 is likely to see either the federal legalization of marijuana or better coordination and standardization of trucker drug testing across the industry. If the feds settle on the legalization of marijuana, it would significantly reduce and all-but-nullify any further effort toward regulating marijuana use from within the trucking industry. If national legalization does not pass, the industry can expect to see internal regulation in the form of localization databases and drug testing clearinghouses.
2020 can also expect a stronger focus on other aspects of driver health. Notably, the popular split sleep shift has received criticism based on scientific research showing that two four-hour sleeps is far less healthy than a contiguous eight-hour sleep. Advancements in driver activity data tracking will likely be more widely used to to monitor and regulate driver sleep habits.
Revolutions In Transport Hardware
The industry can expect to see a noticeable rise in the use of self-driving and electric trucks throughout 2020. Self-driving auto technology is still rather new and arguably pretty far from being embraced by the industry, at least outside of major tech hubs like Silicon Valley. Electric auto technology, on the other hand, is tried and tested and has been scaled up to work on large, loaded transport vehicles. The Tesla Semi, for example, was slated to enter production in 2019 and was expected to meet the road in 2020. Its production timeline was pushed, however, to begin in 2020. Others that appear to be on a similar production path include the Volvo Vera, the Daimler Freightliner eCascadia, the Ford F-Vision, and the Nikola Motor Co.’s Nikola One.
The overall goal of using data analytics at every stage of the shipping and delivery process is to get the product as close to the customer as efficiently as possible and to the satisfaction of consumers in this on-demand culture. Data analytics are already used for things like cargo tracking and efficiency optimization, but smart metrics will be used much more broadly for this purpose in the year to come. There will also be a greater move to use analytics to map and translate consumer awareness and demand. Data analytics is expected to be used more broadly for things like driver voice control as different cloud-based systems are integrated, making use of the various systems streamlined throughout each stage of the delivery process.
Data analytics will be used more broadly for faster, easier pickup, including mapping, tracking, and directing trucks to deliver goods for customer pickup from pop-up distribution centers, self-service kiosks, and in-store pick up. Indeed, 2020 can expect to see a resurgence of effort toward centralized consumer pickup destinations, such as the lockers Amazon has been using in various locations the past five years. As big box stores like Walmart struggle to compete with the low prices and fast delivery of online giants like Amazon, more reliance is placed on cutting fat on the transportation end.