Thus far 2019 has been a lesson in how cyclical the trucking market is and how that volatility creates feast or famine depending on which side of supply and demand equation you are on. After demand reached record highs in 2018, the market has once again cooled off leading many of us to ponder the best way to create a stable healthy market that creates value for all. Last week, FreightWaves LIVE offered a great chance for the industry to come together to discuss market trends and see how various players are innovating to continue to remain competitive and create new value drivers.
FreightWaves LIVE offered a wide range of activities, including quick-fire demos of latest technologies, keynote presentations from top-ranked speakers, and visionary fireside chats. What follows are a few observations of our team from the event.
#1 There are many new solutions to old problems
We have known that shippers, carriers and brokers can immensely benefit from leveraging modern technologies and that the industry is ripe for a wave of innovation. The good news is that the technology community has taken notice of massive opportunities in the space and is making great strides to address problems that have plagued the industry for years. Over 50 logistics companies presented live product demos at the event. Top areas of focus for these companies include: visibility, freight matching, trailer/asset tracking, automation in carrier/broker operations, driver safety, risk and compliance.
#2 It is tough being a carrier
According to FreightWaves, “2019 has been more about oversupply than a lack of demand, although both are present. As carriers saw margins expand in 2018, they decided to invest in growing their fleets as was demonstrated by the record number of class 8 truck orders last year. About the time that most of the orders were being placed the market started to cool.”
A market decline is however just one of many pressures carriers are dealing with. Intense competition, further erosion of razor thin margins, huge investments required for ELD and other regulatory compliance are posing existential challenges to carriers. Most of the technology solutions seem to be monetizing carriers’ ELD and other data for the benefit of others and creating little to no value for carriers. The combination of these is causing carriers to rethink their traditional businesses and create new business models, and frame new service offerings with digital front ends.
#3 We’re still lacking solutions with a focus on creating network efficiencies
As previously mentioned, more than 50 of today’s most innovative and disruptive companies presented live demos at the event. There was some really interesting content and attendees had the opportunity to vote for the Best in Show. Workhound demonstrated a platform that allows drivers to provide real-time feedback on their experiences and can help fleets improve retention by up to 30 percent. Idelic showcased data management tools that help fleet operators reduce accidents and driver turnover. KeepTuckin exhibited the company’s newest feature, Facility Insights which makes dwell time data from 120,000 facilities across the U.S. available to carriers.
It’s evident that there is a lot of focus on addressing long standing problems and coming up with innovative ways to make things better. But we were surprised to find that no one is really taking a hard look at overall network efficiency. Technology in the space is fragmented and too many niche applications are quickly leading to ‘app fatigue’. This fact really reinforces the importance of the work we are doing here at SemiCab.
Our digital freight ecosystem is putting an end to the fragmented and inefficient approach used to find capacity and secure loads. By facilitating communication, enabling collaboration, and bringing transparency to the industry, our platform is eliminating empty miles and sharing the value created. Shippers benefit with access to stable capacity and lower costs. Carriers and drivers work with stable demand and guaranteed profitability. Beyond creating net new economic value and sharing it so everyone wins, we are also excited about environmental and social impact of our approach in reducing carbon emissions and improving drivers’ quality of life.