January 2019 | Commentary | Viewpoint: Logistics & Supply Chain Analysis

Driver Shortage or Lack of Innovation?

Tags: Trucking, Warehousing, Technology , Supply Chain

John McDonald, CEO, ClearObject, 888-850-2568

The trucking industry has faced a driver shortage for many years now. In a world where every industry seems to be evolving, the stagnant nature of trucking is hurting the employment pool.

While trucking was a popular profession for two previous generations, millennials have drastically different career expectations. Almost all millennials were raised using technology and connected devices to be more organized and productive. They want to work for a company that understands how they work.

Rather than selling millennials on the current state of trucking careers, it's time to sell transportation on wholesale changes that increase operational efficiency and financial return. Here are a few ways to make the industry more efficient and technology friendly.

Preventive maintenance with IoT sensors. Trucks can be finicky, throwing error messages or fault codes that drivers and fleet operators often don't understand. Using sensors that collect live data from engine performance and give fleet operators insights into the problem and the solution can prevent driver downtime and save precious hours of pay drivers lose waiting for repairs.

Sensors can also help mitigate transportation issues as a result of weather, and monitor sensitive cargo. Understanding the path a shipment takes can help drivers feel confident about unforeseen situations that could delay or change their daily schedule, and therefore their compensation.

Warehouse automation. While autonomous vehicles have become all the rage in logistics conversations, driving is still a cognitive career that machines haven't mastered. However, sorting goods in a warehouse with more efficiency and accuracy than humans is something that is automation-friendly. Logistics companies with large regional fleets could move warehouse workers to the road, and automate some of the tasks that those workers were doing in warehouses in order to address driver shortages.

Inventory management control can also be automated. Barcode scanners, labeling automation, and object recognition not only prevent errors but also reclaim valuable working hours.

Electronic safety records. Electronic logging for truck safety checks and repairs can be incredibly helpful. If stopped by a Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency official, having electronic logs of vehicle safety inspections reduces the administrative burden on truck drivers and increases their time spent on the road.

Combined with IoT sensors that can merge real-time performance data with historical maintenance records, electronic logs can also help fleet managers train drivers to be better prepared to anticipate and handle truck performance issues. Positioning and implementing automated logs as a benefit versus an electronic babysitter are keys to recruiting younger drivers who already use technology to be more efficient in their day-to-day lives.

As the industry looks to recruit drivers in years to come, understanding how the newest generation uses technology and innovating legacy systems will be key to success.