I doubt very many of us are unhappy to see 2020 in the rear-view mirror, but what does 2021 hold for the industry?
If there’s anything positive that can be said for the past year, it is how it has illustrated the vital role trucking plays in people’s lives. COVID caused the nation to recognize how reliant we, as a society, are on trucks. And there is hope. As vaccines become available to more and more of the population, we can actually see a light at the end of this awful tunnel.
So, with 2020 fading, what are the major issues for 2021 as it relates to our industry?
Planning – There are still so many unknowns when it comes to timing for an economic recovery; yet companies still have to develop forecasts and business plans. I personally have always had April 1 in mind as far as dealing with the short-term challenges of COVID-19. Hopefully, Q2 or Q3 of 2021 will see a return to some semblance of normalcy. What we do know is that truck and trailer order have picked up over the past several months. That indicates that people are making investments in their businesses rather than just maintaining the status quo and that definitely hits a positive note.
Electric trucks – With a new administration, there is likely to be an effort to speed up the development and use of alternative fueled vehicles. We have seen considerable movement coming from established OEMs when it comes to investments in electronic vehicles, including partnerships with technology companies. We are also facing a 2027 emissions standard mandate that will impact how we look at our business. Electric trucks will undoubtedly help us achieve those goals; however, this leads us to a current obstacle that we need to consider…
Infrastructure – Electric trucks are not doing anyone any good if there is nowhere to charge them. If there is going to be growth in the use of electric trucks then there needs to be a huge investment in a nationwide charging infrastructure. This need comes at the same time as the nation continues to get low and/or failing grades for the condition of our roads, highways, and bridges. These all need major, extensive upgrades so I am hoping that the new administration will address these deficiencies and use Highway Trust Fund money to make improvements in addition to building charging capabilities.
Insurance – We are getting killed when it comes to nuclear verdicts in truck accident cases. A June 2020 report from ATRI shows how tough this situation has gotten. From 2010 to 2018, the size of verdicts awards grew by an annual rate of 51.7%. The increase in the number of verdicts and size of awards has resulted in higher insurance costs and litigation fees (when applicable) for companies. One way to hopefully mitigate this is for companies to promote a very strong safety culture throughout the organization.
Driver/technician shortage – This is the issue that never seems to go away. It continues to be an incredible challenge and that is especially true when it comes to technicians. The one bright spot is one I noted above: that the pandemic showed how society relies on trucks. Hopefully, we will be able to use this new perception of the industry to attract more people, not just as drivers and technicians, but also for those in management. This is truly an opportunity we cannot let go to waste.
These are just some of the issues we will be facing in 2021, but I feel incredibly positive about the future for the industry and for all of us. So, a happy 2021 to all!
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