A Brief Recap on The Trucking Industry’s Recent History

That last few years have been nothing short of eventful for the trucking industry. In 2018, trucking had its best year in modern times as per the ATA American Trucking Trends 2019 report, with massive increases in freight volume, strong customer demand and spending, new technological advancements, and the overall industry revenue up approximately $96 billion from the previous year. 

This, of course, left some large shoes to fill, and unfortunately, 2019 could not meet the mark, with freight rates falling by 27 percent as per Camino Financial. By the end of 2019, several trucking companies had shuttered their doors altogether or declared bankruptcy; things were looking grim.

And then came 2020, a year no one could have ever seen coming. With the COVID pandemic bringing the entire world to a standstill, every single industry felt the repercussions in one way or another, and trucking was not exempt. The economic downturn was both entirely unexpected and devastating, with a record number of businesses closing their doors permanently, including many trucking companies. 

All of this said, analysts and industry experts believe that 2021 will be the year that the industry begins to pick itself back up. Learn more about what the trucking industry could look like in 2021 now.

Why 2021 Could Hold Promise

Americas Commercial Transportation (ACT) released its North American Commercial Vehicle OUTLOOK report earlier this year, projecting 2021 to be a “transition year,” as published by the Trucker News Staff. ACT pointed out that because the global economy was structurally sound before the pandemic, the world has the foundation it needs to bounce back from the disruption starting as early as next year. And as the world recovers from the unexpected economic downturn, demand for truckers will only increase. More consumer spending always correlates with more freight moving, and experts believe that the trucking industry should be ready for this impending uptick in demand. 

Additionally, many in the industry believe that the worst is already behind us, and we should begin seeing positive results very soon. Even if another wave of COVID hits, companies in operation now clearly understand how to continue operations in the face of a pandemic. Almost all have adapted to the times to find ways to be successful, and this experience will help them remain afloat for the months and years to come.

What this Means for Your Organization and Trucking at Large

All findings point to one thing: shippers must begin planning their 2021 strategies now. If the economy does indeed begin to recover next year as many believe it will, trucking companies must ensure that they have the bandwidth to adapt to the increasing demand. Now more than ever, you must ensure you have reliable processes in place, prepare and properly train your teams, and communicate to your customers and suppliers your current capacity and abilities. 

Additionally, even when freight bounces back to its pre-COVID levels, there will likely be a “new normal,” including a preference for e-commerce and flexible fulfillment, social distancing, more work from home, and the increased use of electronic records. 

The biggest takeaway here is that flexibility is vital, as the industry must react quickly and pivot according to customer needs and demand in this extremely unpredictable landscape.