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2 Trends Driving the Future of the Trucking Industry

Fleet managers around the U.S. are doing everything they can to get a handle on costs and technological developments in the trucking sector. As your agency looks ahead to 2020, here are two trends to discuss with your trucking insureds.
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In the New Year, the commercial trucking insurance market faces an uphill battle.

Fewer and fewer insurers are willing to write the business, and the coverage that’s available can be prohibitively expensive, with rate increases averaging in the double digits for even the cleanest accounts.

Fleet managers around the U.S. are doing everything they can to get a handle on costs, and technological developments in the trucking sector could provide one answer to the problems plaguing this difficult industry, including autonomous technology capable of maximizing operational efficiency.

As your agency looks ahead to 2020, here are two additional trends to discuss with your commercial trucking insureds:

1) Drastic economic changes. An increase in driverless trucks will eventually translate to fewer jobs for drivers—although, a bit paradoxically, “commercial vehicle utilization rates could be 10 times higher than they are today, simply because you don’t have human drivers who are tired and subject to hours of service, who need to stop and get a meal,” explained Jack Roberts, journalist, futurist and senior editor of Heavy Duty Trucking magazine, during a Motor Carrier Insurance Education Foundation webinar late last year.

Interestingly, auto manufacturers like Volvo and Mercedes-Benz are already considering quitting the personal auto-making industry in favor of commercial truck production, based on fears that personal vehicle ownership will drop drastically in the years ahead.

RethinkX, an independent think tank that analyzes and forecasts the speed and scale of technology-driven disruption and its implications across society, estimates that demand for new cars will fall by 70% by 2030; oil demand will peak by 2020 at 100 million barrels per day, dropping to 70 million a day by 2030; and that around 100 million existing vehicles will be abandoned as they become “economically unviable.”

Assuming 5 million truck driving jobs lost at an annual average salary of $40,000 per year, “this would be a reduction in national income equaling $200 billion a year,” Roberts said. But at the same time, the shift away from auto ownership would save the average American family approximately $5,600 a year in transportation costs, according to RethinkX—equating to a 10% pay raise, or an additional $1 trillion per year in disposable income.

“There are far-reaching and potentially alarming consequences to a lot of this stuff,” Roberts said. “Nothing carved out America’s place in the modern world more than not just automobiles, but the concept of individual auto ownership. If that starts to go away, even if it’s just a 30% hit to today’s individual ownership, the repercussions are massive.”

2) The Uber-ization of freight. “There’s a lot of money to be made in trucking with helping fleets, drivers and shippers match loads in a profitable, efficient manner,” Roberts explained. “Trucking is a major economic force, and yet when it comes to dispatching loads, we’re very much stuck in a business model that was finalized in the 1940s-1950s. If it wasn’t for mobile phones, we’d still have drivers pulling off and calling a dispatcher for information.”

According to Roberts, the same technology behind Uber can be applied to freight shipping to connect shippers with small trucking companies online. Similar to ridesharing, a freight shipping app would allow customers to find and book available truck drivers within a specified radius, giving shippers instant access to rates and transit times from a wide range of motor carriers.

“You can imagine a lot of the uncertainty this could take out of this aspect of the transaction train,” Roberts said. “It will be a massive productivity booster when these systems take the wrinkles out of finding that next load, getting the truck geared up and heading back to home base with the proper load, not forcing the driver to drive a bunch of miles out of his way to get a load.”

“It may not be as flashy or exciting as some of the other things we’re talking about,” Roberts added, “but this could be a big game changer for the industry.”

If you want to know more about insuring motor carriers, visit the Motor Carrier Insurance Education Foundation online and take a test drive.

Jacquelyn Connelly is IA senior editor.