Major world events can shake up every aspect of our lives. The challenges facing the transportation industry as we head into another year are no exception.
Facing losses of $84.3 billion, the transportation industry, in particular air travel, has been hit hard in 2020. (source) It isn’t just the air travel sector that has problems to face. Ground transport and logistics firms face unprecedented challenges from border crossing closures and delays to entire supply chains drying up.
To aid in the quest for smoother business, we’ve compiled eight of the top challenges facing the transportation industry, particularly the trucking sector.
Each of these challenges presents its complications relative to finding a solution. After all, if it were easy to fix, it would have been done already, right? Well, there are some solutions to these challenges, and we’ve outlined these as well; so, keep reading to find out how you can address some of these challenges in your organization.
8 Challenges Facing The Trucking Industry
- Addressing Client Expectations
- Cross Border Expenditures
- Digital Evolution & Automation
- Security And Cyber Security
- Supply Chain Disruptions
- Maintaining Safe Practices
- Integrating Legislative Protocol
- Fatigue Management
Addressing Client Expectations
One of the significant challenges that you face managing a logistics firm, trucking company, or other transport-related operation is the evolution of client expectations. In today’s world, we all surf the net, we all have smartphones, and we all expect near-instant gratification. We audit every company we come in contact with, and our clients are doing the same to us.
Massive leaders of the industry like Amazon blaze a trail that many expect smaller firms to uphold, despite their lack of multi-million or even billion-dollar infrastructure.
Addressing client expectations relating to the feasible output of a business in today’s fast-paced environment is a significant hurdle for many logistic firms. With the advent of AI, electric self-driving trucks, and even greater technologies on the horizon, the expectation for logistic firms to perform is more significant than ever.
One of the challenges: Convincing clients that your company is still very much human-oriented despite Amazon’s ability and that sometimes delays happen. Convincing your client of the value of your business when you cannot match the infrastructure of companies like Amazon is a challenge.
There are things that the big giants cannot do that smaller logistic firms are quite capable of, and these may be a feather in your cap. These tactics include adding extra value to your services. Adding the personal or human touch to any company’s service offerings is always a benefit and a bonus for sales and customer relations. Often, the most prominent companies overlook this, and it’s something your company may be able to take advantage of.
Utilizing modern technologies is another way to prove to your clients that your company provides value in a modern, technological environment. When people see technology in use, the speed of data transfer of information is implied. That means that if your clients see your staff utilizing modern technology tools in their day-to-day operations, that the implication is that your business moves at the modern speed of technological growth.
When you need to deal with a client who holds unreal expectations, Forbes says several things you can do to help the situation. We think four of those things are helpful:
- Understand what is the motivation of your client
- Operate with openness and transparency
- Share real experiences
- Build trust first
These four items may seem simple, but they all deliver a powerful message. First, understand the motivation of your client. That’s pretty understandable. Second, operate your business with openness. No one likes a shady company, right? Being honest about your operations and processes helps clients expect normal operations, allowing for smooth client communications.
When a client doesn’t understand, try sharing real-world experiences. Maybe a client is upset because a valuable shipment of materials for their manufacturing is delayed at the border. In any case, sharing real-world experiences can often calm customers and help them adjust their expectations.
Operating your business in the open and sharing experiences does something compelling: it builds trust. Building trust is the cornerstone of any business relationship, just ask any sales professional, and they will tell you it’s all about building relationships. Trust is the cornerstone of those business relationships, so you should always focus on building trust first.
Cross Border Expenditures
A significant challenge of the last year for transport companies who have a significant integration with border crossings has been the excessive delays.
According to Nate Tabak, a Border and North America Correspondent for Freightwaves.com, the problems of 2020 were exaggerated for the trucking industry by problems with the Canada border agency IT systems.
The closure of borders meant that there would be severe delays for shipments that generally cross the border on a day-to-day basis.
With cross-border trade seriously affected by the pandemic of 2020, many carriers operated with a high percentage of empty miles.
Logistics firms in Canada that lost 25% of their income still faced the issue that government subsidies didn’t kick in until a 30% provable loss. So those border delays and half-empty loads that helped contribute to the overall loss of revenue may not have had any form of compensation until the business was in severe trouble. That’s why Steve Laskowski, President of the Canadian Trucking Alliance, pushed for more significant aid from lawmakers.
The Challenge: Compensating for losses due to market changes and legislatively created delays. It’s one thing to ask your drivers to wear extra PPE like a mask when they deliver or pick up shipments. That isn’t a big deal to most companies, despite the added expense for PPE. It becomes an issue when the new legislation adds time onto regular freight routes like cross-border shipments.
Compensating for disasters, legislation, or market change can be a massive undertaking for any management team. Fostering a management style of adaptation and proactive engagement in disaster planning and mitigation is how many businesses can work towards lessening the blows that can drive an organization into the grave.
Border crossing transport routes may face further delays if pre-trip vehicle inspections are not properly completed and documented. Adopting a digital solution such as that provided by 1ST Incident Reporting helps organizations maintain control over their fleets from both inspections to incident reporting, maintenance reports, and more.
Digital Evolution & Automation
If you’re in an old company, like those that can brag of their origins stemming back to the early twentieth century, then you know how difficult it can be to teach an old dog new tricks. Often organizations within the transport sector operating in similar ways for decades tend to shy away from significant change. The evolution towards digital solutions is no exception. But, like the horse and buggy, the printed document is going the way of the dodo.
Some Common Digital Reports Replacing Paper
- Operator Walk Around Checklist
- COVID-19 Daily Declaration
- Equipment Condition Report
- Fleet Repair Request
- Pre/Post-Trip Inspections
- Vehicle Accident Report
- Vehicle Condition Report
Our challenge is training older staff who are set in their ways to adapt and evolve their methodologies to suit the use of modern tools and technology such as pre-delivery checklists, vehicle safety audits, or any of the examples in the list above. All of these audits, checklists, and forms, coincidentally, are pre-templated for you on the 1ST Incident Reporting mobile application.
If you have ever tried to instill upon an older trucker a new way of doing things, you may find you receive mixed reactions. Some will adopt the new technology with open arms, while others will reject the idea without question.
The challenge in training staff falls to management overseeing and managing the process in a fashion that is the most effective for the company and the individuals.
The introduction of new processes and even new technologies typically means a significant upfront expenditure with the hope or promise of long-term savings or increased revenues. When focusing on the transport sector, things like purchasing new electric trucks to replace a gas-powered fleet may include things like purchasing new electric trucks. Or, it could be as simple as upgrading your driver’s communications to a smartphone and tablet.
No matter the form of technology your company will utilize, whether it’s improved incident reporting with a mobile application or a digital version of a vehicle inspection form that you have your drivers fill each day on their company tablet, there will be an upfront expense and there will be long term savings.
The key in understanding how to tackle the challenge of evolving your organization into a modern company that uses technology and automation to succeed progressively is to understand the best methods of implementing new systems into your existing framework.
The success of your introduced new systems will hinge upon your staff’s understanding of the intrinsic value of the technology. Take a mobile application that could find a use for daily vehicle inspections, like that which the 1ST Incident Reporting app can. Now, compare a digital report that could include pictures taken from a smartphone – the same device a staff person could use to fill the report, to a written paper report. The paper report is manually completed; it must be filled, passed to the appropriate people for review, and can be lost or damaged.
On the other hand, the digital file backs up in the cloud, and retrieval takes seconds. The file cannot face damage by spilled coffee like a paper copy. And management could receive a custom instant notification to inform them of the driver’s vehicle inspection form’s completion.
The efficiency of digital solutions to bypass old paper documentation is unquestionable. However complex the integration process might be, it is likely worth the change if your company has not done so already.
Security And Cyber Security
A growing concern for logistics companies is security. More and more valuable technology is shipping across the globe, which means that crime has grown alongside it. With entire trailers disappearing from storage lots, more and more logistics firms turn to increased security staffing for their facilities and protocol for delivery drivers.
Along with the fear of theft or vehicle jacking, a new threat has emerged along with the technology that aids in adding efficiency to our industry – cybercrime. The argument that cybercrime is a threat to businesses in the logistics and transport industries is counter-productive to integrating technology into these sectors. However, the effectiveness of modern tools far outweighs the threats that come with it.
The level of dependence upon technology will determine the level of risk of cybercrime activities to the organization. Take a logistics firm like Purolator or any other large shipping company that utilizes jets or ships. Either of these vehicles is heavily dependent upon technology for their essential maneuverability (GPS, for example). Disruptions of technology for these sorts of vehicles have devastating effects. However, a small single fleet company that relies on smartphones may suffer a relatively similar crushing blow should their technology fail in the middle of operations. Although it might not be to scale, relativity states the results may be comparable.
The challenge is implementing new technologies while maintaining secure operating environments. The solution is to use only trusted technology partners like those who have earned their status as PECB Management System Certificate ISO/IEC 27001 certified, like emAppetizer Inc., the developer behind 1ST Incident Reporting.
Partnering with companies that have earned their status as secure technology partners through hard work and adequately built systems and processes ensures your company has the best chances of maintaining safe and secure operating environments. Why is this important? So you can best utilize technology that increases your company efficiency and ability while building that trust factor we mentioned.
Although transport companies will typically hire out security to third-party firms, when you have security in-house, you can use digital forms to replace security paperwork of the past. These new forms might include:
- Security shift report
- Security incident report
- Security patrol report
- Security inspection checklist
- Safety leading indicator audit
- Incident investigation report
With a digital reporting solution, you can create your own customized security forms, audits, checklists, and more to have a fully integrated reporting system based on your business’s exact needs.
Supply Chain Disruptions
Borders close, people panic, governments, lock things down. If this doesn’t spell supply chain disruption, then maybe we should add in a trade war between China and the U.S.? Had enough? You and every other manager who has anything to do with transport, I’d wager.
Companies large and small and even entire countries have reassessed their supply chains for materials, products, and even staffing. Trade wars and pandemics have a way of messing with our standard way of doing business and affecting all trade levels.
The transportation sectors have felt these changes like no others. From the grounded jets, rusting away on tarmacs due to flight cancellations to the freight companies who suddenly have nothing to ship due to shortages or shifts in supply chains, the transportation and logistics industries have been crushed by the events of recent years.
The only solution for companies for supply chain challenges is rooted in a management style that fosters flexibility and adaptation. It may equate to increased sales personnel to aggressively go after new industries, new clients, and new opportunities. Your organization may need to look for entire new revenue streams to replace those that may be forever altered. Either way, change is inevitable, so embracing it is likely the best course of action.
Maintaining Safe Practices
A challenge of every company in the year 2020 was adhering to new and evolving rules and legislation regarding safety practices in the workplace. Transport and logistics were no stranger to these changes as many felt the pinch of a new and afraid world.
Keeping staff safe from invisible forces such as viruses is a significant challenge for any organization. With transport companies, it becomes an even more significant challenge.
Examples Of Safe Practice Related Digital Tracking Solutions
- Procedure For Injury Reporting (A Checklist)
- Employee Reasonable Suspicion Observation Checklists
- Risk Assessment Forms
- Dangerous Situation Report Forms
- Near Miss Reports
Tracking drivers, vehicle operators, pilots, captains, and others who operate your company equipment may prove problematic when they are spread across the region or even across the country or globe. It makes controlling their safety and safe practices more than just a challenge.
Modern technology affords aid to the dilemma of maintaining safe work practices when not in a controlled single facility work environment. Using mobile software applications for purposes such as daily health and safety checks, daily vehicle inspections, fleet management, even using them to document processes for staff are ways that transport organizations are leveraging technology to help control and mitigate risk. Using this technology can also promote safer workplace conditions and safer work practices for all staff, whether working in a facility, remote, or out of a vehicle like a delivery transport truck.
Whether or not your drivers complete a daily vehicle inspection is a matter of legal responsibility which your drivers and you are well aware of. Completing pre and post-vehicle inspections using a vehicle inspection checklist is vital to maintaining a legal and morally obliged fleet. Using digital solutions for these legally required inspection practices is not only innovative and efficient; it’s the way of the future.
Integrating Legislative Protocol
The shifting legislature is always a challenge for industries affected by the changes. That’s why 2020 was a challenging year for many national transport firms. Shifting state or province legislature and even regional law shifts and changes made transportation of goods exceedingly difficult to manage in the year.
The organizations that weathered the storm were those who could implement changes quickly and effectively. Utilizing a digital communications platform is one method organizations can implement change throughout their ranks in larger transportation firms without the fear of lack of communication.
Optimizing processes with automation and digital process tracking are two ways that the transportation industries can utilize the technologies available to integrate new legislatively dictated processes and procedures. For example, you could adopt a procedural injury reporting checklist, so your staff in the field always know what steps to follow in case of an injury incident.
Imagine being able to dispatch a new procedure for a driver for a border crossing while the driver is on the road. The driver could verify the process and even input data into a custom-built process checklist. Upon completing the custom checklist, you could have an instant notification sent to the party of your choosing. That way, you could notify the driver’s manager or supervisor of the checklist completion, even if the driver completes it a thousand miles away.
One of the significant issues that the transport industry faces are the effects of fatigue on staff. Whether it is a person who drives a transport truck or a person working on a cargo ship, often, fatigue sets in on monotonous positions like vehicle operations.
Utilizing new technologies, transportation companies can now monitor and notify their staff when it is time for their staff to prevent fatigue.
With a pandemic sweeping the globe, 2020 was a year of change for all of us. Many organizations are moving forward with daily COVID screening questionnaires for their staff. The push for this daily check-in by staff is to help stave off the potential for workplace viral transmission by documenting symptoms. In the transport industry, tracking sickness is essential to the fight against diseases. Join your pro-active peers in maintaining a proper and critical fatigue management program. Because fatigue can be caused by more than mere tiredness, it could be viral.
Implementing health and safety protocol for staff performing roles like transport vehicle operator can be a challenge, as we previously discussed. Managing operator fatigue is also a challenge because of the pull between offering fast and efficient service and allowing drivers to work at a more leisurely and enjoyable pace.
Transport organizations often lean towards the efficient service goal more so than the quality of work for the driver population within the company. The nature of this aspect of transport will only change with the complete automation of transport vehicles. Automated vehicles will also eliminate driver fatigue issues. However, they may also increase driver influence problems if drivers no longer need to pay as much attention due to assisted driving technology. In this case, an employee reasonable suspicion procedure will need implementation.
Automated driverless shipments are still several years, maybe even decades, from becoming a stable part of transport infrastructure. For the next few years and foreseeable future, it will have to be humans who manage driver and staff fatigue. Luckily, technology again affords us the tools we need to help track and manage health and safety issues for staff at multiple locations.
One thing we hear a lot from transport companies is that their drivers lose tickets. By ticket, we refer to the paperwork required for the shipments transported, such as work orders. Often this causes massive headaches for accounting departments who are attempting to gather payment from clients.
Having paper human signed documents to prove shipments is necessary when proving that your organization has completed a delivery task. But a driver who misplaces the signed ticket doesn’t do your organization any favors. You can rely on your drivers or eliminate the possibility of a loss of paperwork by incorporating a digital solution.
Digitally signed documents are now commonplace in society so that it won’t scare any of your clients. Conversely, utilizing new technology often appeals to clients who see the efficient use of technology within your operations. It can be a selling point to help you drive more business and increase operational efficiency exponentially.
To summarize, the primary solution to many of the challenges that transport companies face is integrating digital technologies into the organization’s day-to-day operations.
Whether expediting a process that shares information, tracking a procedure in the field like an inspection or audit, or maintaining an organized document file structure, a digital reporting solution can offer your business much more than simple field report completion. It can aid in automating processes that generally may have taken companies days or longer to resolve. Now, with automated digitally processed information, we can share audits, checklists, reports, and more in mere seconds.
There just isn’t a faster way to implement communications and reporting across a vast network of staff than by using an app deployment across your fleet of company devices. And choosing one that is compatible with Windows, Android, or iOS devices is essential, primarily if your staff utilizes different devices from tablets to smartphones or laptops and desktop computers.
Are you ready to move your company into the digital future? Take a look at the 1ST Incident Reporting app to see how you can leverage technology for reporting and process management within your organization.