Forecasting the future is always tricky.
CCJ in October took an in-depth dive into what trucking’s future likely will hold, such as equipment innovations like self-driving vehicles, smarter highways and truck platoons, along with dramatic shifts in global freight movement, trucking operations and major workforce changes. You can see the whole package at CCJdigital.com/future.
But even the best, brightest and most well-informed futurist can’t anticipate all of the variables and unknowns that come into play when trying to look ahead even just five years. There always seems to be something incredibly simple that everyone overlooks but that ends up changing everything.
Fifty years ago, no one had the simple idea of connecting every single computer together via phone lines to quickly and efficiently share information. Yet the Internet is one of the most important technological advances in human history, with a profound impact on virtually every aspect of our lives today.
I’m convinced that the one that will have the most immediate impact on truck fleets today will be advanced vehicle telematics systems. In 10 years, you’re going to wonder how you survived without real-time vehicle telemetry, self-diagnosing powertrains and geographic-focused repair options with bay times prescheduled and parts guaranteed in stock.
Soon you’ll be able to manage vehicle downtime in ways you barely comprehend at the moment. And while breakdowns never will be eliminated from trucking completely, they will become rarer, and the causes usually will be the result of uncontrollable events such as accidents, road debris or vandalism.
Invariably, with all of these advances will come new problems. As a recent hacking event with a Jeep SUV proved, connected vehicles are extremely vulnerable to cyber-hijacking attacks. Much work needs to be done to create highly secure Internet-based Wi-Fi communications networks to guard against these crimes.
There’s another stumbling block that doesn’t get nearly the attention that it should: Finding technicians to maintain and repair all of these new systems coming our way.
Frost & Sullivan analyst Sandeep Kar calls trucking’s current technician shortage a “ticking time bomb.” He’s spot-on, and it’s a problem that’s going to get exponentially worse in the near future unless the trucking industry starts taking bold steps now to address and correct this trend.
Every futurist I spoke with CCJ’s Trucking’s Future Now was bullish on the future of trucking: It will be a vital industry for the world of tomorrow. But that future won’t happen unless trucking, as a united industry, makes bold steps and forges new alliances with education and government to start training tomorrow’s technicians today.