The trucking services industry is a fascinating field right now. On the one hand, demand for trucking services has never been higher – thanks to fundamental shifts in the way consumers shop for and purchase merchandise.
On the other hand, we may be on the cusp of fundamental changes in the way trucking services are handled as a result.
Thanks to data compiled by the Thomas Index Report, we can see that sourcing activity for trucking services is growing at a substantially faster rate than its historical average – to the tune of ~10% higher demand above the norm.
There’s no question that a key reason for this demand growth is because of changes in how consumers shop – with much less reliance on brick-and-mortar retail and more emphasis on online purchasing.
According to freight exchange services provider DAT Solutions (aka Dial-a-Truck), for every 12 loads needed to be moved, just one truck was available during 2018.
That ratio is unsustainable over time. And it doesn’t help that there’s been a persistent shortage of long-haul truck drivers. That’s actually a 25-year trend, but it’s been becoming more acute with every passing year.
When Walmart finds that it needs to hire long-haul drivers whose all-in compensation approaches $85,000 annually, that’s when you know the fundamentals need to change.
And fundamental change is happening – even if you may not have seen it “up close and personal” yet. A group of manufacturers are working on developing self-driving (autonomous) semi-trailer trucks. Among the companies committed to this initiative are GM, Volvo, Daimler and Tesla.
Driverless trucks are already on the road, including ones developed by Waymo that began delivering freight for Google’s data centers last year. Amazon is hauling cargo via autonomous trucks produced by Embark, another self-driving truck developer.
The rapid pace of development means that it’s quite likely self-driving trucks will become mainstreamed during the 2020s. If that happens, we could then be looking at another set of issues – how to channel sidelined truckers into jobs in other fields.
Perhaps some of those people can find employment in several ancillary industry segments that are benefiting equally well because of shifts in how consumers shop and buy. Naturally, demand is robust and growing in the freight-related categories of crates, pallets and containers.
… On the other hand, it’s probably best if the displaced workers don’t try to get new jobs working at a shopping center …