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4 Industry Trends to Watch in 2021: The Rise of New Technology in Transportation

4 Industry Trends to Watch in 2021

As the coronavirus took its toll on the world in 2020, some industries—like the hospitality sector—were deeply impacted as government-mandated restrictions and virus-related fear prevented restaurants and bars from operating at maximum capacity. E-commerce, on the other hand, saw an enormous surge in demand with companies like Walmart and Amazon seeing record levels of revenue during the pandemic. The trucking industry, too, was not insulated from the impact of the pandemic. Large numbers of jobs lost and new challenges on the roads forced the industry to quickly adopt innovative new technologies in order to overcome the impact of the pandemic. Here are four technology trends emerging in the trucking industry that owner/operators should keep an eye on in the coming months.

1. Autonomous Vehicles

Almost straight out of a science-fiction movie, autonomous—or self-driving—vehicles are becoming a reality as manufacturers like Tesla begin producing more autonomous consumer vehicles. The trucking industry has become an early adopter of autonomous technology for their freight shipments due to an increased demand for shipping and a shortage of long-haul drivers—caused by economic instability and the tough nature of the trucking industry. Autonomous trucks manufactured by Waymo are already in use on the roads today in California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, and Waymo has plans of expanding into more states in the future. Proponents of autonomous vehicles argue that self-driving semi-trucks will eliminate human error behind the wheel, lower costs of shipping, and increase efficiency across the board for trucking companies. There is some trepidation about turning toward autonomous vehicles; some worry about accidents caused by self-driving trucks while others worry about the loss of critical jobs due to the addition of autonomous vehicles. If companies begin turning toward utilizing their own autonomous vehicles, it could have a negative impact on the number of available trucking jobs. 

2. Smart Technology

Another important trend to watch out for in 2021 is the use of new and improved technologies to optimize the efficiency of long-haul shipping. Smart technologies on trucks improve safety for lane departure detection, lane keep assist, assisted braking, tire pressure monitoring, and even load stability. Furthermore, logistics companies are utilizing new technology for enhanced tracking and reporting to minimize human error and to have a better grasp of where their freight is at all times. The improved tracking is beneficial for planning when truckloads can be dropped off and picked up, as well as for providing customers with accurate updates. Alongside this technology, owner/operators can use new technology to locate cargo while on the road to reduce the amount of time spent on the road with an empty truck. With freight matching technology, drivers can ensure their trucks are always full and they are maximizing revenue capabilities at all times. 

3. Data Analytics

Data analytics has made its way into pretty much every industry, from marketing to manufacturing to the trucking industry. Owner/operators use analytics to capture important data pertaining to their cargo, their trucks, and their routes; using this data, they can make valuable improvements to their performance, thus saving time and money and even helping them to drive more safely. According to Transmetrics, one study conducted by Supply Chain Management World found that “64 percent of executives think that big data and the insights it brings will have a disrupting power that can pivot the industry forever.” Data analytics also provide valuable insights into freight markets that help owner/operators uncover trends and patterns in the industry to pinpoint new opportunities and improve existing ones. 

4. Electric Trucks

Electric trucks are making their way into the freight industry. Tesla already designed an electric semi-truck that can travel almost 500 miles on a single charge, and in 2019, Neuron EV released the TORQ, a fully electric semi-truck. With rising fuel costs, electric trucks can save owner/operators money in the long-term, improving their overall bottom line. Additionally, electric semi-trucks are much better for the environment, and companies have begun employing electric trucks to lower their carbon footprints. While electric trucks will not be replacing your entire fleet right away, they might eventually as states like California begin passing legislation to crack down on carbon emissions produced by the trucking industry. 

As truckers begin preparing for 2021, it’s important to embrace the new technologies that are changing the long-haul industry for the better. While the trucking industry isn’t going anywhere, we’re seeing the emergence of new technologies that can benefit both drivers and carriers. Autonomous vehicles, smart technology, data analytics, and electric vehicles are reshaping the modern trucking industry, making the job easier, more accurate, and safer along the way.

The Importance of Innovative Technology During the Pandemic

Why Truckers Needs Digital Tools Now More Than Ever

 

Whether you’re a semi-truck owner/operator currently helping to move supplies in America or a logistics expert managing a fleet of trucks, it’s important to be aware of the technology that’s available to help freight workers manage shipments all across the country. The American supply chain has continually undergone changes in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic, and it’s become increasingly important for truckers to rely on digital tools to get their jobs done.

The Latest Uber Freight Update

First-come-first-serve freelance trucking software has been on the rise for months now. The most notable of which, Uber Freight, has been positively impacting independent owner/operators’ ability to find shipments that chain efficiently together. It’s not always the case that a trucker’s destination will have a profitable pickup destination nearby, and the use of digital freelancing tools has been a huge factor in making sure that independent owner/operators can maintain profits while supply chains have been so severely disrupted across the country. Uber Freight in particular has updated their software infrastructure to allow for truckers to get better access to the jobs that are available.

As of last April, Uber Freight has begun to use a bidding system on its load app, that gives drivers more options. “It’s vital that carriers and drivers have access to loads with transparent pricing so they can make fast, informed decisions about their business,” the company said in the blog post that announced the upgrade. “That has never been more apparent than it is today, with the freight market in flux and drivers and carriers in our network working around the clock to keep shelves stocked and the country moving forward.”

Uber Freight said that truckers and motor carriers can now submit bids and receive feedback on select loads directly in the app, and then get notified later if they won or lost the bid. If the bid is won, the load will be temporarily reserved at the winning price. In addition, “all the loads Uber offers will still have an instant ‘book now’ price for those who find it’s still in their best interest to lock in a load. As a complement to our dynamic pricing engine, and by automating and streamlining the traditional bidding process, Uber Freight’s in-app bidding aims to improve functionality for the entire freight marketplace,” the company said. For truckers on the app, and suppliers everywhere, this should be a significant step in leveling out supply versus demand supply chains.

Other Mobile Apps Impacting Owner Operators

There are plenty of smartphone apps available to the general public that can make a big impact on the ability to avoid infection and keep up to date with the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the best include the CDC Mobile App, which can help anyone stay informed on best practices to avoid infection, and how our understanding of the virus continues to improve over time. There have been plenty of trucker-friendly apps available for years however, and now is a better time than ever to make sure you’re using all of the best tools available that can help you while you drive your truck during the pandemic.

One of our favorites is Overdrive, which includes the weather forecast and can help you locate rest stops. It also gives you access to Overdrive online magazine, an integrated message board and an integrated load tracker.  Our second favorite tool is the Weigh My Truck App, which keeps you from having to walk into weigh stations to pay down your truck load. The Weigh My Truck App was built to work with CAT Scales and allows you to weigh your truck and pay your weight with your smartphone at the scale, without needing to leave your truck. In times like these, avoiding delays and hazards can be crucial for ensuring that you get to your next load on time, and it makes sense to see what tools the app stores have to offer you.

Platooning Technology

The last bit of trucking tech worth talking about is platooning. “Improved driving systems can now allow for trucking rigs to arrange into formations. These formations are controlled by complex computing systems that communicate with one another, allowing trucks to follow closely behind other trucks in their fleet. The end result makes for a long line of heavy vehicles heading in the same direction, one after the next,” says Transmetrics.

This method can be a powerful cost-saver when it comes to emissions and fuel consumption. The platoon of trucks that’s created works to fight against wind resistance and traffic jams. The resultant file of large vehicles creates stability in traffic, allowing for other vehicles to navigate around them smoothly. Platoon technology can result in “fuel savings of 4.5% for the lead truck, and 10% for the following truck,” as shown by Peloton. It might be time to investigate whether platooning could improve your ROI.

Make sure to follow our blog for more updates on the freight industry, and contact us if you’re looking for a financial lender you can trust.

Retail Delivery in the Age of Amazon

Amazon’s got a new fleet of vehicles, and now it needs drivers to operate them. The company has been expanding rapidly when it comes to their delivery assets. Here’s your guide for understanding what the retail giant has done to meet its massive delivery needs, and how that’s going to affect business for carriers and owner-operators.

Amazon’s Give and Take for the Freight Industry

Amazon has previously been a significant revenue stream for shipping solutions like FedEx and USPS, but the company has chosen to outsource delivery solutions less and less as they’ve grown in size. An order by Amazon for 20,000 sprinter vans has been placed with Michigan-based company Spartan, to help the company meet its own last-mile shipping needs independently of providers like the Postal Service, FedEx, and UPS. This order further indicates Amazon’s desire to solve their shipping needs internally, which specifically gives their last-mile fulfillment alternatives reason to worry.

Amazon is continually expanding, however, which should be good news for semi-truck drivers in general. There’s news of Amazon making an aggressive push to scale themselves into freight brokering, with their new platform freight.amazon.com offering beyond-competitive pricing on shipments along the Eastern seaboard, undercutting other carriers in the area since the platform went online in April of last year. If you’re an independent owner-operator, it might be worth signing on with a carrier that participates in Amazon Freight.

It’s unclear what this means for carriers across the U.S., however, with only some carriers being taken on as approved partners with Amazon. It’s possible that Amazon’s capacity to meet a razor-thin margin could cause trouble for carriers that get denied a deal with Amazon’s new brokerage endeavor.

What this Means for Carriers 

Participation with Amazon has also been cited as a pressure-point for carriers in the past, however. When New England Motor Freight declared bankruptcy in February of 2019, it was suspected that the company allocated too many resources towards its Amazon contracts, which resulted in the company moving an increasing number of Amazon packages at a time where the price per package had been steadily declining compared to standard freight. It’s difficult to speculate whether Amazon Freight partners will experience similar difficulties in the long run.

Finally, Uber Freight seems to have a business model that’s exerting less turbulence on the industry in general. The transportation giant offers a similar service to Amazon Freight, except it’s not just for carriers. It’s available to independent owner-operators as well. The industry is getting increasingly competitive when it comes to who manages to meet shipper’s needs first, but with Amazon Freight putting pressure on carriers to compete with their prices, and Uber Freight offering increased opportunities for independent owner-operators, it’s a more important time than ever for independent drivers to do their homework before signing on with a big carrier company.

What Work is Like for an Amazon Last-Mile Driver         

As Amazon continues to invest more heavily into freight solutions, it’s made a corresponding investment in last-mile solutions. As mentioned, Amazon’s order for sprinter vans has created a new niche for drivers who want to work. There’s a surprisingly low barrier to entry when it comes to Amazon’s jobs for sprinter van operators, as a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) is not required. While there is a demand for these jobs, they likely won’t compete in terms of payout with the average rates for semi-truck drivers. According to the listings on Amazon’s website, sprinter van drivers make $16.00 per hour usually, and delivery assistants make $15.00 per hour. These are all full-time jobs, with most drivers working 10-hour days for a total of 40 hours per week. Conventional jobs in semi-truck driving pay better on average, with the U.S. median pay being $21.00 per hour according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Sprinter van services are set to take the pressure off of Amazon’s other unorthodox last-mile solution, Amazon Flex, which hires drivers as independent contractors to deliver Amazon packages in their own personal vehicles. This job also doesn’t require a CDL. Amazon Flex is only available in around 50 U.S. cities, and pay rates vary depending on the day, which means that this service won’t fit every driver’s lifestyle.

Is Now a Good Time to Get a Commercial Driver’s License?

It’s definitely a good time to be a semi-truck driver. There’s a huge demand for semi-truck drivers in America, which means that work can be easy to find for truckers just breaking into the industry. According to the National Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of semi-truck operators in America is projected to increase all the way through 2028, which is a level of job security that’s hard to beat, especially when compared to the volatility of Amazon’s brand new last-mile driving solutions. The barrier for entry as a semi-truck driver is easily overcome for most Americans looking for work, with competitive financing options being readily available for anyone who can pass a credit check. If you’re ready to get started in the trucking industry, browse our blog for more information, and contact us when you’re ready to step into your new career.

Self-Driving Semis: The Future of the Trucking Industry

Photo Credit: Wired

As artificial intelligence increases in modernity and practicality, its usage increases across all industries and fields, and trucking is no exception. Society is slowly warming up to the idea of self-driving cars, but self-driving semi-trucks is severely more frightening of a concept. Self-driving semis seem riskier because they’re bigger and more physically intimidating, but the technology is not as different as you might think.

Government Involvement

United States government research facilities have allowed for the testing of self-driving vehicles nationwide. Over 12 states have rolled out programs to test the practicality and safety of self-driving trucks and ultimately the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will determine the rules and regulations. This government involvement will limit the extent of biases from specific companies.

Is Autonomous Technology Safe?

One of the main public concerns is safety. Software can often be inconsistent due to bugs and programming errors, and people tend to trust themselves more than a computer. Industry experts are even predicting that once the technology is perfected, this AI opportunity could dramatically increase safety on the roads. Humans make mistakes, and machines are typically much more consistent and predictable since they’re automatic in their decision making.

Additionally, autonomous driving comes with the added benefit of an instant reaction time, eliminating the single largest source of automotive accidents, which is human error. The number of front and back-end collisions will be reduced because this technology will monitor and maintain safe distances between vehicles.

You’re not Giving up ALL Control

While these advancements are coming at us quick, the transition definitely won’t be instantaneous. The switch to self-driving vehicles will most likely happen in smaller pieces incorporated into the current system. For the foreseeable future, automation in large scale transportation vehicles will still be overseen by a living, breathing human. There will be a tech-savvy person in the cab catching any technical errors or insights that need to be handled. This measure will mostly be a “just in case” sort of arrangement.

Theoretically, the truck should be mostly automatic, but it’s important to have a safety net, especially since these trucks will be on the roads with non-self-driving vehicles. Human error is simply something that cannot be planned for or programmed into a software, so the human presence is mostly to account for other drivers on the road and not the truck itself.

Job Security

This component of the process is also important to the livelihoods of truckers everywhere. A big concern with self-driving semi-trucks is that they will put drivers out of work and damage the industry and culture that truckers have built. Since self-driving cars will still have to be monitored and accompanied by actual living people, truckers will be able to stay employed even if their job becomes slightly more automatic.

Decreasing a Driver’s Heavy Workload

One of the biggest problems in the trucking industry right now is overworked drivers. There is currently a national driver shortage that is leading to tired and overstretched days that result in decreased productivity and an increased risk of mistakes and accidents. As mentioned previously, we would be gradually easing into this new era of self-driving vehicles. That would mean that slowly, the workload for truckers would get more and more manageable as we settle into these new advancements. The exhaustion and over-exertion of the job could potentially be a thing of the past.

Companies That Are Making It Happen

There are many companies who want a place at this table. It is projected to be the future of the industry, therefore companies such as Embark and Daimler are starting to invest more and more in recent years into the process. Embark comments that self-driving semis are even more crucial to the future of our roads than self-driving cars. The incredible influence that this technology could have on delivery, productivity and general efficiency in countless industries makes this all a huge potential for profit.

This is an immensely controversial topic. Many fear for what self-driving vehicles mean for safety and job prospects alike. While it’s impossible to truly predict these things until we see them happen in real time, industry experts are optimistic about what it means for drivers and their employers. If this transition goes as predicted, companies can increase profits and drivers will have improved qualities of life, all with the benefit of added safety. Autonomous vehicle testing is already in progress and growth and development of this new and innovative technology is expected to blossom in upcoming years.

At Mission Financial, we’re here to help you start your trucking career with semi-truck financing options.  We have amazing rates, customer service, and informative resources that will help you make the smartest decisions when getting started.

Uber Chooses Chicago as Its New Freight Headquarters

Image credit: Cargo Trans Inc

 

Uber recently announced that it would be funding a new Freight Business Headquarters in Chicago, Illinois. They revealed plans for office space in the famous River District taking up residence in a historic Post Office that has been uninhabited for years, until now. Their goal is to streamline their entire operations by centralizing corporate space.

The branch of the popular drive-share service allows for semi-truck drivers to lend their services to a variety of businesses on a more temporary basis than traditional industry contracts. The division matches shippers to truckers than can fulfill their needs, allowing truckers to have increased control when and where they work. Drivers can select a route or trip individually and receive pricing and timelines upfront. This program is available throughout both the United States and Europe.

Company Growth

The young company started its Freight Division a little over two years ago in May of 2017 and has already grown at an astonishing pace. The digital broker has expanded to $350 million in gross annual bookings in that short time, according to early-year paperwork. Reportedly, the business services 400,00 drivers to 1,000 businesses needing shipping. This growth led to a need for an increase in infrastructure, hence the search for a new headquarters. This astonishing progression is what has allowed Uber to make a name for itself alongside more traditional freight companies.

Why Chicago?

Chicago has long been a popular shipping hub, making it a good place for drivers to flock to for dependable work. The transportation industry has blossomed in the area to allow for a large pool of qualified trucking experts and professionals that will set Uber up for success when they begin their employing process. The area is also known for its logistics expertise which will hopefully aid in development. Uber Freight also already had about 1,000 employees in the area, which will be a great starting point when building the operation. The area is also known for its tech talent, helping to advance the technological future of trucking.

The Investment

The current estimate of investment sits at around $200 million going into the region annually through Uber Freight, which contains the potential for tremendous impact. The growth that this could bring to the transportation hub that is already thriving in Chicago is potentially boundless. While Uber faces competition from more established companies such as the Seattle-based Convoy, this hefty investment should help Uber compete with older and more seasoned veterans. To an extent, it has already paid off. The big company has already landed deals with expensive clients such as Land O’ Lakes.

The Immediate Impact

This has been an immensely controversial announcement due to the fluctuating reputation of Uber themselves. While Uber claims that their involvement in the areas has brought upwards of $1 billion through its involvement over the past few years, the company has a reputation for clashing with local government. This leaves many Chicago locals concerned for how the big business will impact the integrity of their city. Whether or not you agree with the moral standings of the company, it’s clear that this development will bring a steep increase of transport and related jobs to the area, as well as a significant amount of added income for the city and its people.

In addition to the immediate impact on the area, it brings change to the trucking industry in general with the new structure of the program. The structure of the program allows drivers to have significantly increased control over their hours since they can accept trips on a case-by-case basis that allows them to work as much or as little as is necessary. This could be an immensely beneficial revolution for the industry. It would help to eliminate excessive hours that are often forced onto truckers by their employers, which would benefit their overall quality of life. On the other hand, there is currently a national driver shortage in long-haul trucking, and companies wouldn’t have to hire full-time truck drivers and could instead fill in gaps with whatever drivers want to work on that route.

The Future of the Industry

What Uber has done with the traditional structure of acquiring drivers is revolutionary. The phone-based booking system allows drivers to have more control over their routes and see the payment plan upfront. While the rates for routes are somewhat inconsistent, experts agree that this internet-based agreement system is the route for the industry in the immediate future in response to recent national shortages. The system will additionally improve efficiency. Companies can get more routes done in a shorter amount of time because the system doesn’t have a set number of drivers. They can send more people out onto the road without having to wait for the previous drivers to return from their routes.

To learn more about the changing transportation and freight industry, check out our blog today!

 

Alternatives to Diesel Fuel: Reducing Emissions with Electric Semi-Trucks

Image Credit: Tesla

 

In the wake of the popularization of electric cars, scooters and bikes, sustainability is one of the most controversial buzzwords in the transportation industry. Reducing air pollution and fuel consumption is a worldwide obsession and the biggest names in the automobile industry are playing right along. Developers are consistently expounding on ideals of efficient trucking, but the practicality of such is up for substantial debate.

Semi-trucks are one of the only remaining transportation systems that hadn’t been seduced by the glamour of electric and increasingly sustainable fuel sources, until now. Diesel big rigs have been running the game for far too long and now is finally the time for more environmentally-friendly options. Get ready, because the trucking industry is going green at a stunningly fast rate.

Tesla’s Electric Semi-Truck is Here

Electric-operated semi-trucks are emerging more than ever. Modern intelligence mogul Elon Musk recently announced a new option for truckers worldwide who were looking to lower fuel costs, reduce emissions, and achieve maximum efficiency in their resource usage. From the popular yet controversial brand Tesla, the new semi-truck option has the entire trucking community buzzing.

Simply called the “Tesla Semi,” the new truck has sparked provocative discussions about the practicality of the green movement for the entire trucking industry. Musk asserts that not only is this option better for the environment and pollution levels, it’s beneficial for the truckers themselves. In a mockup, he compares the acceleration efficiency of his Semi to a traditional diesel truck. The new Tesla truck supposedly can go from 0-60 miles per hour in a mere 20 seconds, an acceleration rate which would greatly increase on-road efficiency and traffic flow for truckers.

On top of the mechanical superiorities, Tesla claims that this new innovation will help to save costs with an estimated $200,000 in fuel savings. While this number may seem appealing initially, it’s estimated for over a span of two years and might not outweigh the additional costs that come along with such a high-tech purchase. With an expected base of $180,000, it’s no mystery why many truckers are skeptical of the payoff. While an electric truck may save in fuel, such a high cost upfront isn’t realistic for most truckers, leaving them still searching for more financially realistic diesel alternatives.

Fuel Cell Alternatives

A slightly less costly way to achieve an alternative power source for the trucking industry is through hydrogen-fuel cell powered vehicles. Hydrogen fuel cells create energy without burning the same polluting outputs as conventional diesel. Combining Hydrogen and Oxygen creates a power source that has been found to be remarkably efficient for transportation.

Toyota, a more traditionally obtainable brand is releasing its first truck powered by hydrogen fuel cells in the last quarter of this calendar year. They partnered with Kenworth Trucking Co. for their mutual goal. They seek to reduce emissions at major U.S. ports that were experiencing especially bad air pollution from the high trucking traffic that took place there. The truck is fitted with two fuel cells that have been determined to provide substantial power for the alternative semi-trucks.

Toyota and Kenworth both assert that this move was motivated by environmental awareness, but it coincidentally is a politically popular move. They are seeking to eliminate air pollution caused by heavy trucking routes and develop more sustainable practices to propel trucking into the future of fuel technology.

This truck is suspected to be slightly more affordable upfront, since the funding for the research and production of these vehicles was partially funded by government initiatives that sought to reduce large masses of harmful emissions, which pose a threat to public health. Public funding will most likely lower final costs to consumers as those expenses aren’t factored into base costs.

Electric vs Hydrogen Fuel Cell Power

Both hydrogen-fuel cell powered trucks and full-electric trucks have their individual benefits in respect to efficiency and reductions in emissions, but it’s hard to definitively say which is the superior choice for a trucker seeking zero-emissions options. The final decision will depend on the individual needs of each route.

Additional factors such as charging/fueling opportunities and availability can sway the practicality option of these developments drastically. Developing charging stations and fueling ports for hydrogen cells will require substantial updates to major highways and interstate peel-offs in order to accommodate the long, often expansive routes of cargo delivery drivers. If this trend flourishes, alternative fueling stations will need to massively grow in abundance to accommodate the nature of the industry itself.

The trucking industry contains infinite intricacies that can often be complex and unpredictable, so it’s immensely important to properly educate yourself before exploring any type of alternate semi-truck options. Even if you’re not ready to commit to the investment of alternatively powered semi-trucks, there are lots of ways fleet owners can conserve fuel and help reduce emissions. Check out other helpful tips and keep up with the latest industry news with Mission Financial.

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