I’m writing this article from Iowa 80 – The World’s Largest Truckstop. It’s always a stopping point on my trip out West every year; a 24/7 place to grab a quick bite to eat and get a few hours of sleep before continuing on my journey. With 900 spots for semi/RV parking, there are hundreds and hundreds of trucks coming and going every hour from this “Trucker’s Disneyland” in the heart of the country. As I walk my dog around the grassy expanse beyond the lot, I can get an idea of some of the goods being transported: food, beverage, machinery, vehicles, lumber, windmill blades, etc. It makes me wonder about the future of such a crucial industry.
Nikolas Badminton, Chief Futurist of the Futurist Think Tank (futurist.com), gave a keynote presentation in June of this year on the future of the trucking industry in the U.S. Here are his key trends/thoughts:
We are in a struggle between the new and old industrial complex
Big Tech is certainly the future, but right now, we still rely heavily on Big Oil. The transition to electrified infrastructure is going to take time, trillions of dollars in investment, and companies that work to retire and reclaim fossil fuel equipment.
Cultural shifts caused by the pandemic are putting pressure on the trucking industry
An increase in e-commerce, due to the pandemic, will require many manufacturers to reshore in order to forego supply chain issues. There will be a need for more trucks and drivers, which could be problematic for two reasons: 1) A driver shortage is predicted to be 162,000 by 2030, and 2) There is an extremely high turnover rate for truck drivers. To fix this issue, the industry needs to be more attractive to join, requiring better pay and conditions and good job prospects.
From long-haul to regional logistics
It’s hypothesized that an increase in population will result in the emergence of ‘megaregions,’ two metro regions and the corridor between them. These linked metros will have shared economies and will look for innovative ways to collaborate together regarding infrastructure, natural resources, and equity. The production of goods and local shipping will play a big part in boosting the economy.
Here come the robot trucks
The autonomous truck market is predicted to be $88 billion by 2027. This will cause a shift from drivers physically driving the truck to becoming pilots that remotely navigate them.
A few more trends Badminton shares are: a shift from same-day to same-hour delivery; warehouses decreasing in size due to the regional nature of transport; and an increase in cybersecurity specialists to protect autonomous trucks and trucking infrastructure.
The future landscape of the industry could look quite different than it does today. But until then, just keep truckin’!