The transportation industry has sometimes been saddled with the reputation of being stuck in the past when it comes to technology. But as we move from 2022 to 2023, we’ve seen a change in the acceptance of new technologies across the industry.
According to Chris Orban, vice president of data science at Trimble Transportation, “We've started to see a shift to the realization that the industry is more ready than ever for discussions around optimization, connectivity and integration.”
We listened in as Orban chatted with Kelly Williams, Engage Lane product manager at Trimble, and Brian Cotrone, senior director of solution strategy at Trimble, about their thoughts on how the industry moved forward in 2022, and what’s to come in 2023 and beyond.
Moving Toward Acceptance
Both shippers and carriers are moving toward “the new normal” of the connected supply chain -- meaning that they are more willing to securely share information to move freight together more efficiently and economically.
The acceptance of technologies that enable this secure sharing allows shippers to overcome issues with disappearing capacity, reduce or eliminate fees, and save time, while carriers receive instant freight lead options based on operational and growth locations, Williams shared.
“We’re also seeing carriers and shippers be more accepting of migrating their data to the cloud, because of the improved connectivity it offers,” Orban said. He says there’s a deeper understanding of the benefits of cloud-based software that can seamlessly integrate a carrier’s data, solutions and workflows to improve the way they connect with employees, partners and customers.
Orban shared that the industry in general moved toward greater efficiency in 2022, and not just on the operational side. “By removing friction from the entire technology supply chain, we’re creating smoother, operating environments rather than the traditional monolithic, siloed world we've been living in for a very long time,” Orban stated.
He also stated that one of the reasons that companies worked with older technologies for so long is because providers didn’t always give them other options that worked for their business. Today, he says, it’s imperative for technology vendors to have a plan for the future so carriers know their solutions will scale as the company grows, and continue to be viable well into the future.
Cotrone shared that initially, the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic meant that there was less appetite for implementing new technologies. In the early stages of the pandemic, shippers were extremely focused on finding carriers, 3PL’s and others that had capacity.
However, as we move toward the end of 2022, the industry is shifting back to a “new” normal that includes a technology and supply chain landscape that has seen significant advancements.
As shippers are now feeling more comfortable with upgrading their internal systems, they can leverage more modern TMS platforms and are more willing to adopt new technologies like Trimble Maps’ commercial navigation solutions that deliver truck-specific routing, mileage, mapping and navigation to power the entire supply chain.
With the move to a better infrastructure, the approach to integration can evolve as well.
“We’re seeing shippers establish their own data warehouses on top of their own cloud-based systems, allowing them to select the products and services that fit their needs,” Cotrone said. “And as more and more companies in the industry move information to cloud-based systems, they become more comfortable with connected workflows and start to branch out, increasing overall efficiencies.”
Furthermore, as freight rates skyrocketed during the pandemic, it wasn’t uncommon for carriers to abandon existing partnerships with shippers in order to chase higher profit margins elsewhere. Similarly, in the past, when shippers have had more leverage, the same has been true with shippers moving on from existing carrier relationships to find lower rates.
“This volatility is extremely disruptive to both carriers and shippers,” Cotrone said. “Coming out of the pandemic, I think we have a greater appreciation for loyal partners vs, transactional relationships, which may change the way we do business in the future.”
2023 and Beyond
As we look into next year and beyond, the industry players that are going to succeed are the ones that adapt and find ways to work more closely and easily with shippers, carriers and 3PLs, according to Williams.
“Part of making it easier is not looking at a shipper in the traditional role of a shipper or a carrier in the traditional role of a carrier, but more simply as ‘people creating freight that has to get moved’ and ‘people that can move freight,’” Williams said. “Looking at the entire workflow from end-to-end and solving the issues of fragmentation is what will move the industry forward.”
Cotrone acknowledged that a hot topic for 2023 is the talk around economic recession. “Right now, from a trucking and supply chain standpoint, we’re not seeing it as much as you hear about it in the news,” Cotrone said.
“When you look at the bulk and flatbed markets, which are traditionally an important indicator of what’s to come in, they are doing relatively well,” Williams added.
She says that going into a recession, when most other industries are battening down the hatches and preparing for the worst, has historically been an ideal time for trucking companies to grow.
“I've heard so many carriers in the marketplace talking about growth, and if they had access to equipment, they would be growing right now,” Williams stated. “To me, that's an indication of boldness that I find optimistic.”