The trucking industry has improved on many different fronts in the past few years. In the first year of the pandemic, most companies began using online systems to manage their operations, freight volumes climbed higher than ever, and for a while, diesel prices were low. But today, with the pandemic being in a constant state of limbo where at any moment the government could decide to switch it from off to on, a lot of companies are looking to secure their future by implementing technology solutions that compensate for any slack that dampens the ability to steer a company in the desired direction.
In recent years, the focal point has been on adhering to the regulations brought on by the FMCSA. Things like ELD integrations, changing hiring processes, following along with local and state laws caused by the pandemic, and overall trying to keep a grasp on the fundamentals of business when the floor was swept out from underneath everyone.
But as the light at the end of the tunnel gets closer, more focus is being directed towards technology solutions that seek to improve operational efficiency for fleets of all sizes. Here are some of the most advantageous opportunities:
Safety Sensitive Employee Management Software
Commercial Fleet Management Software
In the same ways that managing drivers can become a harry process in no time, managing vehicles is no different. There are at least eight different types of trailers that all have different maintenance schedules, licensing/permit requirements, and limitations for what they can be paired with. Not to mention all the different power unit types with different maintenance requirements. Engine manufacturer, tire type, the kind of oil used for lubrication, and the exhaust gas recirculation valve age, are all components that will determine how often that piece of equipment needs to be seen by a mechanic. The cost of keeping track of everything on paper not only presents challenges that can cost a lot of money and delay operations, but the error rate opens the door to enable internal embezzlement, excessive billing, unnecessary downtime, safety violations, and in the worst cases, fatalities on the road.
Organizational Management Software
This would be the kind of software that plugs directly into the accounting arm of a company. Keeping logs of the systems and processes that eventually get reviewed by the executive teams to base future decisions on. The high-level stuff. Storing everything on paper is a poor method of oversight when it comes to the big picture. Sure it might make it easier for internal employees to access specific data quickly. But modern technology that keeps track of all the information in a digital format in the first place offers several benefits. For one, companies can populate reports of company-wide performance in any department to see where the gaps in efficiency are coming from and how they can resolve them quickly. Imagine a company keeping paper files for 20 years only to find on the same day they integrate with a software that they could have saved 10% or more on operational expenses like insurance rates, parts bills, fuel costs, permit renewals, back-office labor, tolls, tire costs, coolant prices, etc, etc. The list goes on forever. The good news is that technology enables trucking companies to distill a massive data set into easily digestible and actionable information instantly.
Performance Optimization Software
Everyone has heard about how ELD software and fleet tracking technology will provide a full overview of individual driver performance, as well as an overview of a fleet of drivers. The benefits of having this data, when it’s applied properly, are incredibly valuable for making adjustments to strategy and driving change within a company. There was much friction when the mandates came out, but if you were to ask most companies what they think of them today, they would say they are great. Who doesn’t want to have a full picture of how equipment is being treated by drivers, how the pace is set during routes, or how much fuel is being wasted for no good reason?
Semi-Decentralized Load Sequencing Technology
This is the next big elephant in the room concerning the advancement of technology in the trucking industry as a whole. The picture is still fuzzy but in essence, it comes down to implementing technology that optimizes dispatch times throughout the trucking industry. Imagine a world where a dispatcher in Bakersfield California can see predictive models from a terminal in Duluth, Minnesota. Data would be passed through a series of machine-learning formulas that show the most optimal setup for a successful trip. The driver, the truck, the highways to take, etc. Taking these decisions out of the brains of dispatchers who are often at the whim of minimal data and enabling an advanced computational machine to do it, has far-reaching implications in a positive direction.
Where the Road Leads
The depth of potential improvements companies will see in the coming years is extraordinary. Freight should move faster, safer, and with less cost per mile. This isn’t to say that “Uncle Sam” won’t implement certain taxes to keep its boot on the necks of early adopters though. Making it vital for company owners to remain resourceful, open-minded, and cooperative with third-party service providers, about integrating into new opportunities. Most companies are unwilling or fearful of change due to uncertainty. But with the right outlook, companies can almost seamlessly transition to new operational structures one piece at a time with minimal discomfort.