The next few years are going to be a fun time in trucking. Okay, perhaps it depends on your definition of ‘fun’; interesting may be a more appropriate term. Either way, the scope of issues the industry will have to deal with – beyond the usual economic ones and the ups and downs of day-to-day business – is enormous. I would hazard to say that in about five years, the industry will be almost unrecognizable compared to today.
To use the latest buzzword, there are a vast array of “disruptive” developments already underway or on the horizon.
In the next year alone we will see the introduction of electronic logging devices (ELDs) across North America. Ontario will be the first, but certainly not the last, jurisdiction to introduce mandatory entry-level training for truck drivers.
Carbon pricing, whether by a tax or some other mechanism such as cap-and-trade, will continue to spread – regardless of where the new US president takes that country’s federal government – because people will continue to want action on climate change.
More often these days, governments – belatedly for sure – appear to be coming to the realization that modern, productive infrastructure is essential for competitiveness, productivity, safety, and the environment. But, most of them are also woefully cash-strapped. They will increasingly resort to taxes or introducing new levies and fees.
Stakes are high
The Trump election, the Brexit vote, opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and general eco-political unrest in the West are all in large part a reflection of the middle class (or what was the middle class) rejection of globalization through the liberalization of trade that had dominated political and economic policy for the past three decades. How this plays itself out over the next few years has enormous implications for world economic growth and political stability. For Canada, which is so reliant upon trade, especially with the US, the stakes are particularly high.
At a more micro level, the increased need for businesses to remain competitive in an environment of change, could run headlong into worker demands for more protection, for less precarious work, for better wages.
As if I need to say it, technology will continue to impact the way we live and the way we work. In trucking, a lot of attention is being paid to autonomous vehicles and there is no doubt they are likely to have a profound impact and sooner than some people might think. I believe they have the potential to make our roads safer and our operations more energy efficient. But, there is one heck of a lot of work that needs to be undertaken for us to get there.
Autonomous vehicles are just one example of the technological revolution that will alter – and I believe in most cases will enhance – not only how our vehicles operate, but every facet of our businesses.
Change is always difficult. The accelerated pace of change we will be confronted with over the coming time will ramp up the challenge meter even more than many of us are used to. Some won’t be able to, or won’t want to, embrace the need for change. That is always the case. However, those that seize the opportunity and are able to adapt will succeed.
That too is always the case.
I believe many of the changes underway are for the good and that the trucking industry will continue to grow and prosper. Over the past 30-plus years I have been involved in the industry, I have witnessed numerous times when the industry – when others were writing it off – was able to turn on a dime, to right the ship, and to become stronger and more dominant in the process. It’s impossible for me not to be optimistic about the industry’s future.
As some of you may know, I will be retiring from OTA and CTA at the end of this year. But, I will be watching with great interest as the future unfolds and, I hope, contributing to the industry in other ways. For about 20 years I have valued the opportunity of sharing my thoughts on the issues of the day with you each month in Truck News. The torch is now being passed to my successors. As John Macrae’s poem urges, “Be yours to hold it high.”
David Bradley is president and CEO of the Canadian Trucking Alliance.