Autonomous Trucks, ELDs, and More at ATA’s Management Conference and Exhibition.TheRoad
Autonomous trucks. Safety. Today’s and tomorrow’s marketplace. The future of trucking. These, as well as a significant number of others, were key discussion topics at this year’s American Trucking Association’s (ATA) Management Conference and Exhibition. In my role at C.H. Robinson, I study market pressures, disruptors, and evolutionary market cycles to bring valuable insights to our customers. This year, I was able to attend ATA’s conference to listen to the debates, ideas, and insights of today’s trucking industry.
Possibly the most intriguing conversations I took part in centered on the evolution of trucking and what the future holds. We all know that the industry and the market will continue to change and evolve. Nothing stays the same. The headline topics and some emerging ones were addressed at ATA’s conference as meaningful evolutions coming to the industry within the next 20 years. Making this an interesting event were the differing—and sometimes opposing—ideas. Two key topics I heard multiple times include autonomous trucks and electronic logging devices (ELDs).
Will Trucks Drive Themselves?
Everyday there are articles, opinions, and blog posts talking about when driverless trucks will hit the road. One thing is for certain: the technology exists today (or very near term), but to bring it mainstream involves some remaining technical, regulatory, and legislative hurdles. Successfully bringing at least some of that technology forward will take lot of work and collaboration between regulators, truck manufacturers, transportation companies, and others. The conversations this past week at ATA’s Management Conference and Exhibition highlight another truth: there is interest in seeing how far autonomous trucks can go (literally and figuratively) and the conversation isn’t waning. But there is no doubt that trucks will continue to get smarter and safer, augmenting the driver’s skills as the industry and U.S. government work through the idea of a driverless truck.
How Will ELDs Change Trucking?
ELDs: another key issue for carriers. And this one is more pressing, as the regulation is set to take effect in just over a year. It’s a hot topic that spurred many conversations on how the industry will be impacted and adjust to accommodate the mandate. Estimates indicate that 60%-70% of carriers still need to implement ELDs before the mandate in December; 30-40% are already in compliance. That means a significant number of carriers are weighing their options, identifying how to best comply, and determining how it may or may not affect their business moving forward. Many folks at ATA’s Management Conference and Exhibition were discussing the pros, the cons, and the market impact of this regulation and left knowing that the impact of the ELD mandate is not perfectly clear.
My Bottom Line
Meetings with carriers from around the country provided me the opportunity to experience the professionalism of this industry’s best and hear them voice their opinions on the market. I am anxious to see where the road (no pun intended) of transportation heads in the future. What were your biggest takeaways from ATA?