Truck Drivers are a Vital Part of the Supply Chain!

Truck Drivers

Take a quick look around your home or office and you’d be hard-pressed to find a product that has not seen the inside of a truck or delivered by truck drivers at some point in its existence.

In truth, many aspects of everyday life are made possible through the supply chain industry, with trucking alone responsible for 70% of America’s freight volume by weight. This is achieved through the hard work of truck drivers, the unsung heroes of the industry, who travel 430 billion miles per year hauling 10 billion tons of goods that people all need to live.

Therefore, it would be an understatement to say that the national economy – and life as we know it – would not be possible without truckers. However, with continuing problems on driver shortage and the rise of driverless trucks, where will truckers fit in the general scheme of things?

More than just Driving

Truck drivers are responsible for so much more than just driving. The process of moving materials from point A to B is easy to oversimplify, but those in the industry understand that this process, scaled to the size of an entire country, involves a complex amount of coordination and science. Even those who are not behind the wheel of a truck can appreciate everything else a driver does.

Truck Drivers

My introduction to truck driving began through the regular trucker in my father’s store, whom my parents had treated like family. He had a regularity to him that strikes me as the kind that milkmen and newspaper kids used to have. He had been a vital cog to the day-to-day operations of my father’s business. Fast forward decades later, I knew firsthand just how grueling the work can be, albeit also fulfilling and diverse. Indeed, Forbes argues that truckers act as logisticians, merchandisers, and account reps on top of manning a heavy-duty vehicle several hours in a day.

Despite all this (or perhaps because of it), truck drivers have been in shortage for the past decade, with the US lacking a total of 50,000 needed drivers in 2016. Bloomberg reports that the average age of a truck driver is 49, a significantly higher figure compared to the national average of 42, with way too many drivers retiring before new ones can be trained. If this trend continues, it won’t be long before the industry hits a critical point. Unlike many other professions in different industries, a lack of truck drivers will definitely impair the economy.

Full Speed Ahead!

One of the ways the industry is looking to address driver shortage and improve business operations in general is to invest in autonomous trucks. News of driverless trucks had sent a chill down many spines last year, with several news outlets predicting that the arrival of driverless vehicles will mean millions of job losses for people whose duty is to drive big rigs.

However, there’s plenty of evidence to the contrary. Freight markets analyst Chad Prevost explains that this nascent technology will more likely make truck drivers’ lives easier and safer instead of replacing them altogether. In the same way that airplane pilots benefit from having computer-based aid in takeoff and landing tasks, driver skills and expertise will still be very much needed.

Of course, fully autonomous trucks are still a long way away, and while scientists continue to take steps towards making them a reality, today’s technology is already doing so much for truck drivers and the supply chain.

Manufacturers are now updating vehicle software remotely through the Internet of Things, while sensors mounted throughout trucks now monitor everything from tire pressure to fuel efficiency. Verizon Connect details that this kind of information can help drivers and management identify and improve on driving habits in order to work smarter, not harder. These developments, along with 360-degree cameras and collision avoidance systems, are already helping ensure better driver and road safety.

Because of all these factors, it is unlikely that truckers will lose their importance in the supply chain and the economy at large any time soon. Supply Chain Game Changer often shows how technology continues to develop and improve driving conditions, but instead of replacing human intervention completely, new innovations will allow truck drivers to refine the way they do things. In the end, this puts even more emphasis on how crucial they are in the business.

Truck Drivers article and permission to publish here provided by Alinda Regina. Originally written for Supply Chain Game Changer and published on May 10,2018.

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