Trucking Trends and Changes

COVID certainly has caused changes in both trucking and the whole world.
I was thinking about the changes that are happening in trucking and transportation and I’ve been wondering how these changes affect Drivers and Owner Operators.

I believe that autonomous vehicles will be one of the many changes coming at all of us! It is happening everywhere, and it may be the most interesting to you. Will you still have a job to go to in the future? Well, I believe that yes, for many years to come, all truck drivers will be working and working hard (as always). Some of the advances already in place will make your work and your workplace better.

You may be surprised at how affordable some of these advances in trucking are. One of my clients ordered all of their trucks equipped with as many advanced safety features as are readily available. For example, with Volvo trucks, the package is called “Volvo Active Driver Assist”. It includes Forward Collision Warning, Data Camera and Lane Departure Warning. They also have the Stability Control. These safety features add about $7,000 to the vehicle’s price, which sounds like a lot to me, but it only adds about 3% to the cost of the vehicle. So, in my opinion, it is well worth the investment.

The above items are at best, just the start of the autonomous trend. It is just the beginning of “driver-assisted driving.” When will the significant change come in autonomous driving?

Several hi-tech companies are testing what I would call “autonomous driving.” And this is where truck driving is heading. You have heard of Tesla and their Class 8 truck. Tesla may be the furthest along this journey. They already have hundreds of thousands of cars on the road, gathering enormous amounts of information about streets and different driving situations so it is not a big stretch to see them adapting this to their Class 8 unit.

What does that mean for you, a truck driver? I think that it means you will have a job for a very long time. The self-driving technology needs to finish its development and then complete testing. Once thoroughly tested and proven safe, it will start to roll out to the public. And even then, I believe that it will be required that licensed truck drivers be in the driver’s seat in case of a malfunction. After all, what technology built and designed by humans is without any flaws?

Also, let us remember that transportation laws will have to be completely re-written. This will not happen easily and not quickly. Politicians do not like making people mad and some strong lobby groups do not like putting people out of work. So, I believe your job is safe.

What other trends are happening to transportation? There is an alternative fuel movement. Will you still be pumping diesel fuel in the future? I don’t think you will. The two main alternatives that I believe are most promising are the hydrogen and electric motors. Right now, I think electric is in the lead, even for Class 8 trucks. However, Bill Gates disagrees with me as Mr. Gates does not believe that we can electrify tractor-trailers successfully.

The “last mile” delivery seems to be growing. The last mile refers to those who make the final delivery, especially when it comes to internet purchases. For example, your Amazon deliveries. Did you see the vehicle that last dropped off your Amazon purchase? My last packaged was delivered in a small van. I have also received deliveries from operators driving cars. Yup, “last mile” deliveries are growing as we all purchase more and more from internet-connected stores.

And no article about trucking trends would be complete if I didn’t at least mention insurance. Auto insurance in Canada had a lousy year in 2019. Your auto rates have been going up and trucking insurance rates have been skyrocketing. Trucking insurance is explicitly costly and if the company you drive for doesn’t have an excellent safety record, it cannot be easy to get insurance. When it comes to trucking insurance, I don’t think that this will change. I do believe that this is the new reality for the foreseeable future.

What do you think will be the trucking trend in the near future? What will your truck be like in five years?

Stay Safe!

Chris Harris
Top Dawg, Safety Dawg Inc.
@safety_dawg (twitter)

About Chris Harris, Safety Dawg

Chris has been involved in trucking most of his adult life. He drove truck for and worked in various office/management positions for a major truck company. His last position of 5 years in the safety department where he was responsible for the recruiting of Owner Operators and their compliance. He joined a trucking insurance company in 2001 and has been in the insurance side of things until making Safety Dawg a full-time endeavour.