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2020 Vision, Part III: Thought Leaders Provide Their Perspectives on the Industry’s Future

Throughout January 2020, we have featured some of transportation’s brightest minds to provide their thoughts on where they see the industry headed.

This final installment of this series continues on this theme and asks these thought leaders:


In transportation, what will have the most impact in 2020 & beyond?


Ken Armstrong

President and CEO, Florida Trucking Association

2020 will be full of superlatives—faster, harder, more complicated, more controversial. As everything changes and speeds up, RELATIONSHIPS will become ever more important.

The future will focus on technology, regulation or the economy, but success or failure on those dynamics depends on who answers your phone when you dial. Why do some navigate through change and still pick up speed, whereas roadblocks slow others to a crawl? The answer is relationships.

This opinion about 2020 and beyond is pivotal because building powerful, symbiotic relationships remains as hard as it has always been. Having 8,000 LinkedIn contacts isn’t necessarily the sign of a skilled relationship builder.

Your vendor delivers a curveball in 2020. Hopefully, you have someone to help, renegotiate or make a move. A government agency places a regulatory burden on your company. Among your solid relationships are a lobbyist, training company and strategist. It’s true that relationships are best built in times when they are least needed, but today’s landscape is so unpredictable and sudden that we never can tell who or what we will need. So be building every day.

A word about persuasion. Persuasion makes the world go round and is a close second to relationships. If your team has skilled persuaders, capable of building a case, marshaling allies and showing why you and your ideas or products are indispensable, you are working closer to 100% capacity.

2020 will be more so of everything. But we can capitalize if we use our relationship and persuasion assets.


Philip Byrd 

President & CEO, Bulldog Hiway Express, Past Chairman, ATA (2013–14)

There is no doubt that it is going to be the RETENTION AND PROCUREMENT of driver and technician associates in our fleets. This is going to make all the difference. We can’t serve our customers, nor can we bring value to our investors if we don’t have drivers to perform the jobs who are well trained, safe, productive, and energized because of the technologies that are being introduced in the industry.

We’ve got to engage them, and they’ve got to feel the ownership and have got to be a part of it.

The most important and critical question is where do we procure the next generation of drivers? I think innovative companies are going to have to procure them by being involved in the creation of the next generation of drivers. I would also say our highway infrastructure needs are very important so that we can operate efficiently, safely and productively across America’s highways to deliver America’s goods utilizing a well-trained population of drivers.


Kristy Knichel 

CEO/President, Knichel Logistics

Based on what I’ve been seeing in the past several years, I definitely believe that TECHNOLOGY replacing the roles of people will have a significant impact on the transportation industry in 2020 and beyond.

At nearly every industry event that I go to, automation, apps, and technology are always the big topics of conversation. I immediately think of Uber, Convoy, and Amazon as big players in this arena. We are seeing transportation apps taking off in certain regions where shippers can utilize them to book and see their shipment data right from their phones.

It won’t be long until we see more complex websites that are able to match shipper data more precisely with carriers, which would obviously remove that human element from the more traditional ways of brokering freight. I can appreciate the value and efficiency of this type of technology, but I still very strongly believe that technology cannot replace some vital parts of the supply chain.

For instance, my company’s value proposition to our customers is our intense focus on providing white glove customer service. While it’s a nice perk being able to manage freight arrangements from an app, there are many things an app can’t do that a human being can. 

When something goes wrong, which is unavoidable in this industry, is the app going to negotiate a freight claim on your behalf or advocate to the rails for better intermodal pricing on your volume shipments? No, but my employees most certainly will and do so on a daily basis.


John Blodgett

VP, Sales & Marketing, MacKay & Company

The biggest issue for 2020 is likely to be the ECONOMY. We have been cruising at a pretty good clip economically for a while, but we now appear to be headed into a slowdown. I want to be clear that we are not necessarily talking about a recession, but rather a slowdown. Our most recent recession took place over 10 years ago. Those of us who lived through it remember how bad it was. However, it is important to remember that not all slowdowns or recessions are the same. I just hope people don’t overreact to a slowing economy based on their experiences from the Great Recession since no two economic slowdowns are alike.

We also measure Truckable Economic Activity (TEA®), which gives metrics of imported and exported movements from consumer goods to construction. A full 43% of that is based on consumer confidence. If consumers lose confidence, they buy less and that means fewer trucks will be needed to haul goods.

When it comes to the truck parts aftermarket, where we specialize, we see a slight increase of 2.6% (excluding price increases) in 2020. The main driver for this outlook is the modeling we use that factors in the number of vehicles on the road, vocational mix, vehicle class and age distribution. Those things drive what the requirements are for service and parts.

Beyond 2020 I see technology advancements in trucks, components and communications. It is very exciting to see what is being proposed, to see what actually takes (e.g. makes business sense) and what we don’t even know about yet.


Jon Eisen

Senior Vice President, Government Affairs, International Foodservice Distributors Association (IFDA)

The biggest challenge facing the transportation industry is the TRUCK DRIVER SHORTAGE. According to the ATA, if trends hold, the shortage could swell to 160,000+ by 2028. This poses serious implications for our nation’s food supply chain, which requires the timely delivery of hundreds of thousands of products each day. The economic impacts will hit consumers the hardest as manufacturers and retailers increase their prices to pay a premium for faster delivery.

Right now young adults 18–20 can get a CDL, but federal law prohibits them from crossing state lines. Because this is too prohibitive for employers, they do not seek out or hire drivers under 21. The DRIVE-Safe Act, introduced in February with strong bipartisan support in both the House and Senate, aims to reform outdated commercial driver’s license (CDL) limitations which keep the next generation of drivers out of the job pool. The DRIVE-Safe Act would provide opportunities to professional drivers ages 18–20 to master their chosen vocation through a rigorous training program combined with real-world driving experience under a mentor.

Additionally, proposed changes by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to the hours of service regulations will help retain drivers and increase capacity by giving drivers flexibility. The 30-minute rest break would now only be required after eight hours of driving rather than on-duty time and could be taken using on-duty, non-driving time. The short-haul exemption would be extended to 150 air miles from the current 100 and the allowable drive time increased to 14 hours.


Interested in learning more about what is on the horizon? 

Be sure to check out part I and part II of this blog series to get the full perspectives of industry experts on the future of transportation.