Truck on: Combatting road freight challenges with tech

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Truck on: Combatting road freight challenges with tech
The growing competitiveness of the industry presents opportunities for trucking businesses to think outside the box.
Photo by Rhys Moult on Unsplash

Despite the road freight industry’s technological progress over the years, there are still significant challenges the industry faces every day.

Existing technologies do not address these challenges, as they don’t cater to the human elements that power the industry, including human error, fatigue and physical limitations of drivers and more. 

This is making it increasingly difficult for private and family-owned companies to succeed and grow. A scalable, data-driven approach can help these businesses not only mitigate risks associated with these challenges, but also plan ahead and proactively reduce costs of operations. 

Complex regulation is stifling progress 

Laws and regulations within the trucking industry are continuously changing and being updated, making it difficult for private and smaller operators to function in a seamless and consistent manner. Currently, changes to regulations and newly proposed standards are presented to panels and debated—this process is prohibitive to the long tail of trucking companies, with the already stretched small to medium carriers unable to invest the time required to raise their issues, and often unaware of when meetings will occur.  

Combined, these issues present regular challenges for the simple day-to-day operations of trucking businesses. Small to medium-sized carriers already struggle to compete against industry behemoths, and the red tape is only leaving them further behind.  

The next generation of innovators need to step up and provide solutions — they have the power to become the voice of the industry and businesses suffering from hurdles should openly discuss these with their technology providers. It is important to join an ecosystem of regularly updated solutions that collaboratively helps to combat these issues, enabling businesses to focus on their core service. 

Driver shortage limiting manpower 

Australia, like the rest of the world, is starring down the barrel of an imminent truck driver shortage. The average age of truck drivers nationally is increasing, and the overall attractiveness of the truck driver career is decreasing. With an aging workforce, there simply are not enough new drivers entering the industry—the average Australian truck driver is aged 47, only 20.6% of drivers are under 30 years old, and a mere 3% are female. 

This is tightening the crunch on the existing workforce, which further exacerbates its negative reputation as a job with high stress, long hours, and low pay. Attracting and keeping skilled workers in the industry is critical to its sustainability and profitability. 

There are various options the industry should explore to increase attractiveness, including:  

  • Lowering the barriers to entry and the common expectation of drivers to purchase their own vehicles

  • Leverage cutting-edge technology solutions that increase the efficiency of each driver and each trip—keeping drivers busier and more productive enables them to make more money and stay more engaged in the work

  • Support and start more graduate programs to encourage new recruits to the industry

Administrative inefficiencies affecting the bottom line 

The volume of trucks and drivers sitting idle across Australia is staggering—through conversations with industry leaders, we’ve heard a company’s trucks and drivers can spend up to almost three days per week sitting idle without work, 30% of trucks are running with empty loads, and even when a truck has a load, it’s rarely entirely full. 

The adoption of telematics is going through a growth period which will continue in the years to come, but private and family-owned companies continue to be spilt with a growing cohort walking away from the technology. In fact, there’s really only a small percentage of trucks equipped with telematics. The benefits of such technology is that it provides real-time updates on staff and vehicle availability, data-driven analysis of staff and vehicle effectiveness, and full visibility of where multiple shipments are at any one time. This means large carriers are not fully leveraging the tools available to deliver the extra mile of customer experience through visibility and transparency. On the other hand, the financial investment required to deploy this technology greatly challenges the long tail of small to medium carriers.  

The growing competitiveness of the industry presents opportunities for trucking businesses to think outside the box, try new processes, and test new technologies to get one-step ahead. 

With the right technology, freight businesses can regularly and quickly increase profit margins and improve the outputs of every trip. When selecting providers, business leaders should look for solutions that prioritise a real-time data-driven approach, allow for integration and collaboration with other technology providers, and deliver a single view of the entire process so that problems and opportunities can be identified in one glance.

Geoffroy Henry, CEO and Founder, Ofload.

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