The Logic of Logistics for the New Normal: How the Trucking Industry Is Changing Amid Covid-19
Like all businesses and sectors, the trucking industry has been forced to respond rapidly to the COVID-19 pandemic. The past year has demonstrated the importance of essential services preparing in advance for unforeseen catastrophes, and the need to be creative and flexible in industry operations.
Well, after the coronavirus has been brought under control, lasting changes will linger. Some of them will be positive, and others still will permanently improve the trucking industry’s status quo.
Beneficial Changes for the Sector
There are three key areas where trucking fleets’ daily operations could be positively affected by the pandemic.
1. The proliferation of contactless tech
Paperless and contactless technology has boomed during the spread of COVID-19. The highly contagious nature of the virus has forced industries, including the trucking sector, to implement new technologies to keep customers, clients, and drivers safe.
Experts predict that we will see significantly more paperless and contactless operations in the future. In terms of sales, virtual meetings will become the new norm, while electronic bills of lading are being normalized on truck drivers’ sides.
Contactless technologies are quicker, more efficient, and often more reliable to use, which could also save effort and costs during truck drivers’ orientation processes. The age of automation holds the potential to streamline trucking and delivery while minimizing the human margin of error involved.
The spread of contactless technology has not only improved safety and sanitation, it has enhanced the general efficiency of the trucking industry too. It’s drastically lowered the number of times drivers need to walk from their trucks to security booms and warehouses. At first glance, this may not seem significant, but those small-time savings can accumulate quickly, and translate into vast improvements in operational time frames.
The pandemic has created more opportunities for innovation. This is especially true with the way that the trucking industry uses its most powerful resource: its dedicated drivers and staff teams. Employees’ well-being is being taken into account on a level never seen in the sector, and as it turns out, this has been exceptionally good for business as well.
2. The re-imagination of the traditional office
The traditional office structure has been turned upside down by the COVID-19 crisis, regardless of the industry in question. Many trucking companies have instructed most, if not all, of their office staff members to work from home. It has required only upper management members to remain in the office, either on an as-needed or consistent basis.
This re-imagination of the classic office set-up has created an unexpected perk. Those employees who started working from home quickly became accustomed to operating in low-stress environments and become more effective workers as a result.
Remote work could allow companies to scale down their offices, saving money that could instead expand their trucking fleets. Commercial real estate is in a major state of flux as working from home steadily cements itself as the ‘new normal’.
People may also be required to spend less time on the road traveling, even once it’s been deemed safe to do so. A combination of in-person meetings and virtual operations will help to balance trucking companies’ cost savings while reducing work-related travel costs for the sector’s employees during financially challenging times.
3. The development of new ways to onboard truck drivers
COVID-19 has forced companies to change the ways they classically onboarded truck drivers. This external pressure has made the process more efficient, which will benefit businesses long after the pandemic is over.
Some companies are moving parts of their driver orientation processes online—especially the paperwork. Others adopted fully virtual orientation practices, which also proved to be successful. It’s expected that many more will use electronic document signatures and orientation videos in the near future to maintain social distancing and streamline their onboarding systems.
It’s been noted that some drivers are better suited to virtual orientations than others. A solution to this issue could be to develop a hybrid model that offers an in-person orientation, with certain parts of the process completed online. Ultimately, it’s essential to strike a fine balance to preserve a company’s onboarding efficiency while prioritizing safety at every step of the way.
Additional Unanticipated Changes
There are several other facets of the trucking industry that could be permanently altered because of the effects of the virus. Certain sectors may struggle as the pandemic strangles national economies. Smaller businesses and owner-operators may be particularly at risk of closure or financial difficulties.
On the other hand, other sectors may thrive because of the crisis. The grocery supply industry is a great example of a sector that is booming as consumers’ demand for staple items rises.
Truck drivers may be able to look forward to a decrease in traffic too, and as congestion is a serious, costly issue, this is a major advantage. Millions of people have turned to working from home (or become unemployed) in 2020, and traffic congestion is noticeably diminished. This trend could persist even after businesses reopen, as many employees will continue to work from their living rooms after the pandemic has blown over.
The Bottom Line
The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly created disruptions for the trucking industry. Companies around the world have had to grapple with supply chain interruptions, changing consumer demands, infections in their workforces, and the challenges that come with switching to remote work technologies.
With all that said, there is a silver lining on the horizon. Many of the adaptations the trucking sector has been forced to adopt will prove beneficial for business, in both the long and short term.
Companies can use remote and contactless technologies to improve their operations, prioritize safety and sanitation, and potentially boost their profit margins. Truck drivers will be less pressed for time as a result, and office workforces may become progressively more productive as it encourages them to work from home.