What Happened to Trucking Companies in 2019?

Semi-trucks parked at a truck stop

Last year was not kind to the trucking industry. Nearly 1,000 trucking companies closed their doors in 2019. We’re not just talking about small companies either. Every part of the trucking industry, all over the United States, is struggling. What’s the problem, and what can we do about it? That’s what we’re here to find out.

A Number of Factors

The problems affecting the trucking industry stem from many issues. Here are five challenges the trucking industry is facing right now:

1) A Shortage of Qualified Drivers
Truck driving isn’t considered a prestigious career. Schools are encouraging all young people to attend college and get specialized, high-salary tech jobs. As many truck drivers age and retire, trucking companies are scrambling to fill the ranks.

2) High Labor Cost
Any time there is a labor shortage, wages go up. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median hourly wage for truck drivers is steadily increasing, making it more difficult for trucking companies to cover their labor costs.

3) Tariffs and Imports
Global trade is a major driver of trucking demand. U.S. government tariffs on Chinese imports, and China’s reciprocal tariffs on American goods, have had a significant effect on trade.

4) Increasing Overhead
Operating a truck is expensive. The prices for fuel, insurance, and maintenance are always going up. For many businesses, particularly small ones, the cost of operating trucks is becoming too great to bear.

5) Increasing Competition
Online retailers, particularly Amazon, are building fulfillment centers all over the country and hiring thousands of their own drivers to transport goods directly to their customers. These drivers don’t need any special training or a commercial driver’s license. Online retailers’ ultimate goal is to deliver packages by drone and eliminate the need for drivers and vehicles altogether.

It’s a difficult time for the trucking industry, but there is still hope for a bright future. Advancements like electric and driver-optional trucks promise to increase efficiency and reduce maintenance costs. The trucking companies who learn to adapt today will be the success stories of tomorrow.

Shipping Nuclear Material Safely

Radiation label beside the transport wooden box Type A package in the truck

Every year, U.S. shipping companies transport around 3 million shipments containing nuclear material. We use radioactive substances for cancer treatments, power generation, scientific research, and more. Transporting radioactive material isn’t that much different from transporting any other cargo, but it requires specialized equipment and procedures to keep everyone safe.

Laws and Regulations

Shipping nuclear material is one case where most people would agree that extra regulations are a good thing. The regulations vary depending on how radioactive a shipment is. For some materials, the metal walls of a shipping container are more than enough to protect people from radiation. For more dangerous materials that could threaten public safety, regulations dictate specialized packaging, labeling, and handling procedures.

Secure Packaging

The last thing anyone wants is a containment breach. That’s why nuclear material is shipped in special packaging designed to resist impact, fire, and water and keep radiation from escaping. Containment for radioactive items usually involves multiple layers of metal, concrete, and composite materials.

Enhanced Security

The world is a dangerous place, and there are many bad actors who would like to get their hands on nuclear material, making extra security necessary. Logistics companies dealing with nuclear items plan their shipping routes carefully, and each shipment is tracked constantly. Trucks may even travel with an escort of armed guards. In addition, most shipments of nuclear material avoid heavily populated areas whenever possible.

Extra Training

It doesn’t take a degree in nuclear physics to drive a truck containing radioactive material, but drivers should at least know the basics. In particular, they must be educated about handling procedures and safety precautions. Radioactive material is generally safe when it’s handled properly, but mistakes can be costly. It’s important that everyone knows exactly what they’re doing.

Transporting nuclear material is a unique challenge for shipping companies, but with proper precautions and preparations, it’s a challenge that any logistics professional can meet.

The Growing Role of Drones in Logistics

Drone flying in blue sky

Self-driving cars, aircraft, and other vehicles have long been the holy grail for many researchers. Today, advancements in technology are making this dream come true. Unmanned vehicles are moving out of the laboratory and into the real world.

The growing role of drones in society has significant implications for the logistics industry. Suppliers are scrambling to find the most effective ways to leverage drone technology, applying it to various modes of transportation in different ways.

Air
Making deliveries directly to homes and businesses by drone is the ultimate goal of many shippers. There are many legal and technical hurdles to overcome before this dream can become a reality on a large scale, but we can transport cargo with pilot-optional aircraft right now. This has the potential to decrease costs while improving safety and speed.

Ocean
There are several ways that drone technology may impact the oceangoing freight industry. The possibilities go far beyond ships that navigate themselves across the ocean—for example, drone tech could be used to load and unload ships at shore, reducing labor costs on all legs of the journey. If these ships are designed to operate on solar power, they may need to come to port only rarely.

Rail
At cruising speed, trains are phenomenally efficient. Unfortunately, they have to stop for loading and unloading. Stopping and starting a 10,000-ton train uses a tremendous amount of energy. The trains of the future could use drone technology to unload some of their cargo without stopping.

Trucking
There is a shortage of qualified commercial truck drivers in the United States. Self-driving trucks can help fill the gap. Not everyone is comfortable with autonomous trucks, but shippers can also apply drone technology to cranes, forklifts, and other vehicles that load and unload trucks in the shipping yard.

No matter what mode a shipper is using, drones have one enormous advantage. Just like the robots in an Amazon fulfillment center, all of the drones in your shipping operation, across every mode of transport, can report their position, ETA, power status, and other information in real time, giving shippers the ability to manage their fleets with unprecedented accuracy.

It’s an exciting time to work in the logistics industry. Advancements in drone technology and other automated systems now have real-world applications affecting every aspect of shipping, from the warehouse floor to the customer’s doorstep. What does the future of logistics look like? It’s difficult to be certain, but drone technology will certainly play a large part.