I've been covering trucking for a long time, much longer than I'm going to publicly admit, and I'm involved on a daily basis with most of the major issues that affect fleets. Yet every time someone asks me “What's the big news in trucking?” I find myself at a loss for words, a very uncomfortable feeling for someone who makes a living with words.
The problem is I don't know where to start. Do I point to the uncertain legal mess surrounding hours of service as the key issue for the industry? Or the new CSA safety auditing initiative? You can't forget emissions, which leads to a long discussion about absorbing the cost and operational changes of new technology, the coming requirements for fuel economy standards, alternative fuel choices and mandates.
Moving away from regulation, I could point to the pressures created by high diesel prices, the need to attract and train large numbers of new drivers, and the cost of new equipment. The generally slow pace of economic recovery and all the attendant uncertainties for business growth and investment are certainly worth consideration as a leading issue for any fleet. But then so is keeping on top of rapidly developing new technologies flowing into trucks of all types and revolutionizing our understanding of vehicle safety.
Then there's the way information and communications technologies are completely reshaping the way truck fleets are managed, the way the costs of running those fleets are identified, and the way fleet managers need to reshape their businesses in light of that new information.
On a deeper level, the real problem with identifying a single “big” issue is that unlike many other industries, trucking is not a single monolithic business. Rather, it's a collection of businesses that happen to use trucks.
We have traditional trucking companies that exist to haul freight. There are service fleets like those run by utilities that are essentially mobile toolkits. Others collect refuse, or support construction projects. Some fleets run thousands of vans and pickups, while others are solely Class 8 tractors and trailers, and many are a mix of commercial vehicles of all sizes. And trailers? A dry van hauler is quite different than a refrigerated operation, as is a flatbed or heavy hauler. Every one of these operations has its own characteristics and problems, and few are common across even a simple majority of fleets.
So I end up tongue-tied. I just can't answer what seems to be a simple question with a simple answer.
But these days, media also means a healthy dose of social media, so let me ask you, what do you see as the single biggest problem or issue facing your fleet? If you use Facebook, you can post your answer on the Fleet Owner page, and while you're there be sure to “like” the page so you can follow the discussion. Or you can link to me at LinkedIn and post your suggestions there. If you prefer the short and brief, Fleet Owner's Twitter account is @fleetowner; just use the #fleetissues tag so I can find it quickly. I'd even be interested in seeing any video on the topic on YouTube, as long as you don't mind me reposting it on fleetowner.com. And, of course, if social media isn't your thing, you can use good old email ([email protected]) to nominate your biggest issue for trucking.
It should be a good discussion.