2020 Trucking Issue: There’s a silver lining after all

This marks the 10th year that we’ve devoted the lion’s share of our November pages to perhaps the most dominant—and by far the most complex—mode of transportation: motor freight. And while trying to stay abreast of the changing volume and capacity trends is a daunting task during even a normal year, 2020 is one for the history books.

However, if there’s a common theme that runs through this year’s collection of trucking-centric features, it’s that staggering adversity almost always pushes us to make strategic changes for the better—and they tend to be changes that shippers already had on their to-do lists.

“It was like the opening scene of a dystopian film,” says contributing editor Bridget McCrea. “Coming out of 2019, truckers were still desperate for drivers, insurance costs were shooting through the roof, and national reports of rising incidences and settlement payments were forcing many into bankruptcy.”

As a result, shippers were seeing their rates rise and capacity shrink, a situation that already had them scrambling for the trucking service they needed just to keep their heads above water. “Then March hit…and shippers found themselves in an even deeper hole,” says McCrea.

And it was the view from that vantage point that forced many shippers to realize that the time for action was now. “As we speak to shippers, analysts and academics about the ongoing response, the market can hold it’s head high,” adds McCrea. “Our sources tell us that more logistics operations are turning to technology and partner collaboration across the entire freight management continuum—moves that many have been meaning to make for years.”

Indeed, as McCrea reports this month, logistics professionals know all too well that the pandemic is not the only disruption they’re going to have to manage through, and we’re now seeing more finally turn to transportation management systems, burgeoning digital freight management platforms, and other advanced risk management technology tools to help prepare for whatever is next.

Coppell, Texas-based Hatch Chile Co. is a terrific example of a shipper pushed in the right direction. Group news editor Jeff Berman shares the story of how Hatch, a packaged food company that sells southwestern U.S.-based products, saw volumes hit record levels at the onset of the pandemic, with demand for certain products jumping more than 100% due to consumers cooking more meals at home.

As Berman reports, this put the logistics team in a tough position. “They knew they needed to move fast to make some changes to uphold their on-time customer delivery promise,” he says. “The logistics team had worked with traditional freight brokers, but the communications process was primarily e-mail- and phone-based. They realized now that was too time consuming and outdated.”

So, Hatch decided to give Uber Freight’s digital freight matching platform a go—and the results were impressive. “The team immediately noticed the stark contrast to the intermittent rounds of e-mails and phone tag, as the platform provided almost instantaneous quotes—coupled with the ability to book a load with minimal manual interference and big savings as an end result,” adds Berman.

We’ll surely be writing more technology adoption stories over the course of 2021. And when we look back, 2020 will go down as the year that gave the push that many logistics operations needed to make their transformation a reality.

About the Author

Michael Levans, Group Editorial Director

Michael Levans is Group Editorial Director of Peerless Media’s Supply Chain Group of publications and websites including Logistics Management, Supply Chain Management Review, Modern Materials Handling, and Material Handling Product News. He’s a 23-year publishing veteran who started out at the Pittsburgh Press as a business reporter and has spent the last 17 years in the business-to-business press. He’s been covering the logistics and supply chain markets for the past seven years. You can reach him at [email protected]