One of the great strengths of the trucking industry is how it’s connected to every sector of the US economy, from food service to manufacturing. Virtually every business in the country must have items delivered to it in order to keep its doors open. And that job falls on transportation professionals. On the other hand, that close relationship with so many companies also makes truckers vulnerable to economic ups and downs. It’s important to know the current trucking industry trends to keep up.
Because of this, it just makes good sense for drivers, dispatchers, and freight brokers to stay up to date on current trucking industry trends. Here’s a look at four of them:
1. More loads, more money – Two things are driving an upswing in trucking company revenues. One is the slow but steady recovery the national economy is experiencing. Even housing, which has been in the dumps for years, is rebounding as new construction is increasing and home values are rising. Another trend that is benefitting transportation companies is the continuing move among businesses to outsource many functions once handled in-house. This includes delivering products, a job that is increasingly being farmed out to trucking contractors.
2. Not enough drivers – One of the most serious trucking industry trends is that trucking companies have had difficulty filling positions for years now. That problem is increasing as many transportation professionals near retirement age. Over the next several years, the group of Americans aged 55 or older will increase 30%. The resulting shortage of qualified applicants is also driven by the fact that young people don’t see trucking as an attractive career option. The results for those drivers that remain will be more miles, longer hours, and more pay. Business for freight brokers will increase as well, and the need for their services will only become more crucial as the economy expands.
3. A shift from diesel to other fuels – Diesel prices remain on an upward trend. While the cost of a gallon of fuel varies from one day to the next, the long term forecast is for it to become ever more expensive in the foreseeable future. Because of this, many companies are switching their trucks to natural gas, which is not only cheaper but burns much cleaner than diesel. For example, a recent study by the Conference Board of Canada said that using alternative fuel could save $150,000 in operating costs on a per-truck basis over a 10-year period. US-based Frito-Lay, which maintains a sizeable fleet of tractor-trailers, is already replacing older trucks with ones that run on natural gas. Though they cost more upfront, the savings over the long haul make the change profitable. As this trend accelerates, look for more and more truck stops to offer natural gas depots in the years ahead.
4. Leaner, more efficient operations – The days of trucking companies being able to tolerate wasteful practices and unneeded expenses are over. The period between 2007 and 2011 saw most of these firms go out of business, especially as banks tightened up their lending practices. The forecast for the future is that trucking will remain a profitable business, so long as owner-operators and companies can keep a tight rein on their expense accounts.
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