The string of (mostly bad) news in 2020 has led to a lot of dark humor about “What’s next on the 2020 bingo card?” The COVID-19 pandemic looms largest, of course. Impeachment hearings. Record-setting wildfires, heat waves, and hurricane season. Tensions between the U.S. and Iran. The Black Lives Matter movement that may be the largest protest movement in U.S. history. Not to mention smaller things…murder hornets, anyone?
But the year’s challenges also are leading to positive changes that will be with us well beyond 2020:
Greater awareness of trucking and the supply chain
Nothing like a shortage of toilet paper to teach the general public about the role supply chains and trucking play in their everyday lives. In April, I wrote about how truck drivers were finally getting the appreciation they deserve, as national news stories highlighted the challenges they faced on the road while delivering not only that TP, but also critical medical supplies and more. Maybe America finally truly understands the message, “If you got it, a truck brought it.”
More flexible work
Many jobs don’t require someone to be in an office every day during rigid business hours. But many companies that were reluctant to try work-from home and flexible schedules were forced into it by the pandemic – and discovered it can work well. Many people say communication has actually improved, with the help of video-conferencing and other technology. Done right, remote and flexible work structures can broaden your hiring pool and improve employee satisfaction.
The pandemic has fast-forwarded fleet adoption of technology that helps protect drivers while improving supply-chain efficiency. Virtual technology for education and training has allowed fleets to streamline onboarding. Paperless technologies such as electronic bills of lading and proof of delivery allow for touchless deliveries and more visibility into shipments. AI can make driver recruiting more efficient. Digital freight-matching platforms are seeing greater adoption.
We’re seeing increasing recognition of the benefits a truly diverse workforce can offer businesses. Widespread protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death prompted many fleets to reach out to their minority employees and discover the benefit of truly listening to different viewpoints – not just race, but also gender, religion, and more. Increasing diversity in trucking is not a new trend, but I believe the number of fleets addressing it in new ways is growing.
Polls show that climate change is viewed as a major threat by a majority of Americans and people around the world. During the spring lockdowns, the impact of less pollution from fewer vehicles on the roads was striking. Extreme weather and forest fires have also driven concern We’ve seen amazing progress in R&D of electric trucks this year. That will continue to accelerate, as government mandates and incentives, public opinion, and the desire to be seen as “green” by customers continues to push the industry toward lower-emission and zero-emission vehicles.
As we highlighted in our September cover story, the ups and downs of this year have pushed fleets to learn how to run leaner and at the same time be more nimble in responding to shifts in the market. And as our Emerging Leaders in this issue demonstrate, data analytics and attention to consistent processes are a key strategy in accomplishing that.