Trucking fleets that respond to changing technology and customer expectations will be the ones that succeed.
It’s clear that the consumer-driven supply chain is presenting new challenges to the trucking industry. One of those challenges is the growing business of final-mile delivery that today’s omni-channel supply chain is calling for. What will, it and other services like it, might mean to trucking’s future?
Final-mile refers to the last leg of the supply chain, where the products are delivered to their final destination, whether it’s a large piece of exercise equipment being delivered to an apartment or new chairs and desks arriving at a business office. A scan of the transportation trade media shows that an increasing number of traditional truckload companies are moving into final-mile delivery. While this mode of delivery certainly isn’t a fit for every company, I believe a company’s willingness to at least discuss the pros and cons of changing the make-up of its fleet and how it’s utilized is a sign of a forward-thinking organization.
In the swiftly evolving supply chain, customers’ expectations are different than they were 10 years ago. They use data and market intelligence to help them decide how they spend their money. If trucking companies – even those which today are running thriving businesses – don’t respond in kind, they can be sure that there will be other trucking companies that will – and potentially disrupt their business. Now is the time for transportation companies to be innovative, to use data and technology to gain an advantage in the marketplace.
While taking part in a recent industry roundtable, I posed some things to think about to the leaders there who are currently running very successful trucking companies. With the changes in the consumer’s buying habits, have you thought about the effect these changes will have on the supply chain that fulfills the purchase? Do you see any opportunities to change the way you configure your fleets? For instance, would you be willing to buy more straight trucks and other types of delivery trucks or are you strictly focused on Class 7 and 8 vehicles? As you’re ordering new vehicles and planning your fleets for the next five years, are you really taking into consideration the new supply chain realities?
Recently I visited with fleet managers for a group of respected bakeries providing product to a large chain of fast food restaurants. Naturally, they all wanted to talk about how to transport product more efficiently. But what I really applaud them for is their willingness to ask the question: What’s the next big idea?
How about maximizing the use of delivery fleets? For example, newspaper delivery trucks drop off newspapers overnight and in the early morning. The rest of the day they sit dormant. Why can’t they be doubly utilized? In densely populated urban areas, what if a system of kiosks is created where the consumer can come to pick up deliveries? Will you be able – or willing – to respond to that opportunity? And how open have you really been to incorporating sustainable vehicles into your fleet? Have you considered the sensibilities of the younger consumer, who may place greater importance on doing business with a green fleet?
I don’t know whether final-mile delivery will end up giving new life to some of today’s trucking fleets or maybe it’ll be some other new, big idea. After all, it wasn’t that long ago when the digitization era posed a significant threat to the print and paper industry. Conversely, the industry foresaw and adapted to the new realities and capitalized on the change instead. Whatever it is, it will be the companies that are willing to adapt themselves to meeting the changing needs of the supply chain that will prosper in the future.
We’re interested in your thoughts.