2017 has been a busy year for the logistics industry. In the past 12 months, we’ve seen natural disasters, government mandates, and technology innovations impact supply chains. As the final week of the year comes to a close, we’re looking back at the top logistics stories and topics of 2017.
The ELD mandate went into effect on December 18, after several attempts to delay the initiative. The ELD mandate requires most motor carriers and drivers, who are currently required to prepare hours-of-service (HOS) records, to use electronic logging devices to record their time on and off-duty. The mandate went live with an enforcement grace period, which means vehicles not equipped with the required ELD device will not be placed out of service or receive points against their safety scores until April 2018. Many analysts predict ELDs will impact capacity and rates through 2018, and could result in a capacity decline of approximately 4-7 percent.
- Big Data, AI, and Machine Learning
According to Logistics Management, more data has been generated in the past two years than in the entire history of humans. This growing accessibility to thousands of data points has businesses looking for ways to translate numbers into actionable insights. In 2017, AI and machine learning technology received a lot of attention in the logistics industry for their ability to process massive amounts of data, analyze trends, predict scenarios, and provide shippers with real-time knowledge to make faster and better business decisions.
In 2017, retailers, e-commerce, transport and tech companies worldwide tested drone deliveries of various products from medical supplies to fast-food orders. While current regulations prevent wide-scale implementation of drones, these pilot programs are helping companies gain experience with drone technology, which could be the key to meeting delivery demands in rural, urban, rugged and remote areas.
- Warehouse Automation
Consumer pressure to fulfill and ship orders same day is pushing warehouses to automate more processes. In 2017, robotics, voice picking, and mobile scanners made waves as innovations that are increasingly helping warehouses drive down order cycle time and meet delivery demands of consumers.
- Autonomous Trucks
The driver shortage was named the number one critical issue facing the transportation industry by the American Transportation Research Institute’s (ATRI) annual list. Many are hopeful that autonomous trucks will help solve the growing driver shortage in the trucking industry. While we’re still a long way from autonomous trucks being mainstream, in 2017, several companies made investments and developed pilot programs to help move the technology forward. In November, the start-up, Embark, began delivering refrigerators in Southern California via self-driving “robo-trucks,” while major players like Volvo, Daimler and Tesla are working on their own autonomous trucks.
- Digital Freight Matching
Digital freight matching, or the “Uberization” of freight, generated a lot of attention this year as Uber officially launched its Uber Freight app in May. The concept of matching available capacity to demand is not new in the logistics space, and many 3PLs, like GlobalTranz, have been doing it for years using proprietary technology. While Uber has a track record of success in connecting passengers with drivers, commercial trucking and large freight movement is much more complex. Uberization and digital freight matching will continue to evolve in 2018. At GlobalTranz, we look forward to working alongside or in partnership with on-demand freight options as we continue to grow our full-service freight management solutions.
2017 e-commerce holiday sales hit record numbers, and online buying continues to trend upward in both B2C and B2B markets. E-commerce has transformed supply chains by emphasizing the importance of final-mile deliveries and automating warehouse and fulfillment operations. As more retailers boost their omni-channel capabilities to compete with Amazon and other e-commerce giants, the logistics industry will be called upon to develop solutions to help businesses meet customer delivery demands and create competitive advantages.
- Final Mile
As consumer delivery expectations increase and companies compete with Amazon’s delivery promises, final mile delivery solutions are becoming critical to the success of retailers, grocers and e-commerce businesses. Final mile deliveries are a difficult piece of the supply chain because they require individualized shipping to unreliable destinations due to consumer availability. Full-service logistics companies are becoming strategic partners for businesses in the final mile space because they provide access to a broad range of carrier types and services that can be combined into custom solutions to meet the growing consumer delivery expectations.
- Natural Disasters
Hurricanes Harvey and Irma caused nearly $200 billion in damages to Texas and Florida. The storms put an incredible strain on the supply chain as flooding and power outages closed ports and prevented trucks from entering affected areas. Hurricanes took about 5-10% of capacity from the market and significantly impacted rates. Many industry experts predict that we’ll continue to see tight capacity into 2018 from hurricane rebuilding efforts, the ELD mandate and a healthy GDP producing high freight demand.
Everyone is talking about blockchain, including the logistics industry. Blockchain can create a more connected and efficient supply chain by enabling real-time, secure, and inalterable information sharing between shippers, carriers, brokers, and more. In 2017, GlobalTranz became one of the first 3PLs to join BiTA (Blockchain in Trucking Alliance), to develop industry-specific standards and help grow and educate the logistics industry about this promising technology. Eventually, blockchain technology will impact logistics, but today we’re in the infancy stages.
2017 has been an influential year for supply chain and logistics management. The industry is evolving and technology continues to be at the forefront. As a technology-driven 3PL, we look forward to continuing to develop innovative solutions that help businesses drive supply chain efficiencies and deliver overall cost savings in 2018 and beyond.
From everyone at GlobalTranz, Happy New Year!