Nearly three out of every four bulk goods in Europe and in the United States are transported by truckers and their heavy-duty vehicles. This means that from small family-run businesses to global enterprises, thousands of companies are heavily dependent on road freight for their daily operations and suffer drastically with each supply chain block. The gravity of the situation isn’t new but has grown in the last few years as news stories and analyses alert us of a doomsday scenario of empty truck cabins resulting in deserted shelves.
The main issue, they say, is an increasing lack of professional drivers – 80,000 and growing by the latest count from the American Trucking Association (ATA). The situation is even direr in Europe with a projection of two million vacant positions by 2026. There’s a risk in being so focused on driver shortage: missing the opportunity to make a real impact, to come up with solutions to present and future challenges and improve the lives and working conditions of the millions of heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers who, day in and day out, are working hard to make sure we have access to goods around the globe.
The freight industry has been highly inefficient to companies and extremely unfair to workers. We’re talking about an old value chain that has rejected incentives, is still heavily analog and has fallen short of its capabilities to optimize consolidated demand while placing the burden of financial risk on drivers.
Going digital is working better and smarter at every level. We can get there with a combined approach of intelligent mobility and transformative professional investment – something this industry had never seen before.
To start, an electric fleet means a sharp improvement in truckers’ working conditions and better life quality. No more expensive oil changes every 30 thousand miles or going through four gears at each intersection. The motor vibration is gone, which results in a healthier lower back and an easier-to-maneuver vehicle when backing up into docks. Also gone are the exhaust fumes that turn the cabin into a heavily polluted cube and the constant loud noise that makes interactions with warehouse workers and on-the-road conversations nearly impossible. And there’s strategically scheduled charging time which allows for more predictability in everyday life and a less strenuous schedule with optimized family and sleeping times – just take a look at the story of Armenian-born Isa, for instance.
Then, there is a dedicated platform that maps routes, shipments, and schedules to create a tailored, end-to-end plan with AI problem-solving capabilities. Capacity at scale offers truck drivers the unique chance to track their work in real time and finally retire paper notebooks, while companies digitize operations for minimized cost and maximized environmental benefit. A win-win.
There’s also ample opportunity that comes with automation. New careers emerge for skilled workers with real-life trucking experience, positions that offer better salaries, a safe environment and less time on the road. Such a revolutionary approach is born with the idea of keeping a human in the loop, especially in operations by autonomous trucks. Remote operators are even more valuable as they become subject-matter experts in electrification.
Freight transportation and its operators are the bloodstreams of our economy. It is time to give back.
Michelle Avary and Christofer Laurell
Michelle is VP Product Strategy & Government Affairs U.S., and Christofer is SVP Research and Public Affairs at Einride