3 Trucking Trends Drove Conversation at MATS and TCA | The Road

Trade events like the last month’s Mid-America Trucking Show (MATS) and Truckload Carrier Association (TCA) always provide an opportunity to take the pulse of the trucking industry. Seminars tend to focus on safety, increasing efficiency, profitability of businesses and industry trends. This year, topics included electronic logging devices (ELDs), the U.S. economy, and the potential for autonomous trucks.

Let’s take a closer look at these trending topics:

Impact of Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs)

Impact of Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) | The Road

Much of the conversation was about the impact of ELDs: Shippers want to know what 3PLs are doing to ensure a carrier base is ELD compliant, while carriers are curious whether ELD implementation could cause a capacity crunch going forward. There is still some uncertainty and reservation about the role ELDs will play in day-to-day operations, but some in the industry do feel this could be a change for the better.

“There is a belief that the right mix of ELD requirements, a growing economy and favorable governmental policy could lead to the perfect storm for carriers,” said Chris Guthrie, regional capacity manager. “Moving forward in 2017, there seems to be optimism around a more favorable freight environment for carriers. In addition, many ELD compliant carriers feel the upcoming mandate could push capacity out of the marketplace, potentially lowering supply and increasing demand.”

Positive Signs for U.S. Economy

Positive Signs for U.S. Economy | The Road

Another popular topic at both events was the U.S. economy. Many are still feeling the effects of the Great Recession, and there is still a fair amount of uncertainty hanging over the trucking industry given the unknown impacts of potential infrastructure investments and governmental regulations. There are some positive trends emerging, however—for example, carriers are watching the utilization of their fleets grow, and feel this is key to getting them back in the driver’s seat.

“There are many good signs: Housing starts are up, we’re seeing strong job growth, inventories are deflated, the automotive sector is thriving again, and consumers are spending more confidently,” Guthrie said. ”It’s certainly a cautious optimism, but we are starting to see some important factors trending in a positive direction.”

Are Driverless Trucks in the Future?

Are Driverless Trucks in the Future? | The Road

Finally, autonomous trucks drove a lot of dialogue as well. While there’s a lot of trepidation around the potential consequences to carriers, the general consensus among MATS participants is that realistically, the technology is a long way from putting driverless trucks on the road. But there could be ways to utilize autonomous equipment to the carriers’ advantage in the meantime.

“Many of the vehicles we use today already have some autonomous features in safety systems and with driver assistance,” said Ryan Erhard, regional capacity manager. “But there are a lot of things that need to be determined, such as regulations, before there are driverless trucks. The industry will continue to adapt autonomous features that make sense for the business and trucks safer on the roads.”

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