As we near the end of 2018, I spent some time reflecting on what I think is likely to occur in several key issues and areas of our industry in the coming year.
- Driver shortage: This will continue unabated. Some fleets are starting to put other kinds of incentives beyond signing bonuses in place. The truth is that signing bonuses have proven to be only moderately successful. We will see more things like mileage bonuses, longevity bonuses, safety bonuses and other performance-based incentives rewarding different aspects of the driver’s activity. These bonuses will boost driver pay in a different way than a simple cost-per-mile increase and will reward drivers for their efforts toward meeting goals.
- Recruitment/retention efforts will ramp up: There will be a major push and significant investment in things relayed to driver recruitment, employee communication and assimilation. Getting drivers is only half the story; keeping them is the real challenge. Resources will be deployed in an effort to see that once hired, drivers stick around. Communications will take on a more important role as younger employees expect to be communicated with frequently and demand transparency in the workplace.
- Long lead times will affect replacement cycles: As it stands today, lead times are so stretched that many OEMs don't have build slots until well into 2019 and some are already totally built-out for the entire year. This situation is going to continue to affect asset replacement cycles which will put pressure on maintenance operations to keep trucks up-and-running as they are forced to continue to operate current assets longer than originally planned.
- Used truck uncertainty: While used truck values have remained high because of lack of availability of new trucks, there is a growing belief by industry experts that there will be a softening of used truck values in 2019.
- Electric truck development will continue: We will continue to see strides being made in the development of electric vehicles. However, the fact remains that since most fleets turn their assets over on a three, four or five year replacement cycle, any type of mass conversion to electric vehicles is still quite a ways off.
So there you have it. I am sure there are other concerns and observations that can be added to the list as the New Year plays out. But the challenges of finding and retaining personnel and acquiring vehicles will need our full attention and creative problem-solving in the coming months.