2021 Trucking Industry Recap – Examining the Industry's Past and Future

The trucking industry is on a constant journey – both literally and figuratively.

With the full data and key trends of 2021 now in, we can get a clear view of trucking’s rear view, along with a glimpse at what’s up ahead.

A lot has changed – those of us in the field have learned a lot, and we’re applying our new understanding to help make the trip ahead that much better for drivers and customers.

The trucking industry has seen shifts both on the road and off, under the hood, and in the container. Thanks to changes in technology and the economy, trucking’s journey through 2022 may have some turns in the road coming up.

Here we’ll examine how everything from COVID to autonomous vehicles changed the 2021 trucking industry – plus what it will mean for trucking in 2022 and beyond.

It Was a Tough Road for the 2021 Trucking Industry

The 2021 trucking industry was already on a tough journey, about a year into the pandemic with everything from freight volumes to timelines to hiring numbers thrown into disarray as a result.

With the strain of shutdowns, sluggish consumer spending, and supply chain struggles all stacking up, trucking companies were forced to readjust their strategies.

We know that trucking can be a team activity, but the concept of riding together goes beyond just team driving. Even though trucking companies compete, everyone is united around the common goal of keeping freight flowing, no matter how tough the situation. Many trucking companies collaborated or consolidated, making 2021 the year of many major freight deals.

While this meant there was a lot of activity going on in the offices of trucking companies, the containers were sometimes lighter than usual.

COVID’s Impact Lingers and Will for Years

Economic uncertainties impacted freight prices and volumes, leading many companies to set new financial goals based on the extreme and unusual circumstances of the time.

Just as 2021 taught companies that they should embrace flexibility and agility in their plans, they’ll carry this philosophy throughout 2022 and beyond. While some restrictions are lessening and making it easier to keep freight moving, the losses of the last couple of years will be felt for the foreseeable future.

With new variants and new data shaking up freight markets indefinitely, trucking’s chief task will shift to adaptability, truly reinforcing the field’s mantra of always getting the delivery done no matter what.

How Has the Trucking Job Market Changed?

It should be mentioned that some of trucking’s issues have been around long before the pandemic. One example is the abundance of trucking jobs compared to people waiting to fill them. While this wasn’t started by COVID, it was certainly exacerbated by it.

The worsening hiring situation has led to many carriers offering improved pay and benefit structures, making it more lucrative for people to consider a trucking career.

How is Technology Impacting Trucking in 2022?

While some may brand it as an “old school” industry, trucking has been on the digital transformation journey just like all other industries for the past couple of years.

The 2021 trucking industry sped up on this journey out of necessity, as technology has proven to help reduce costs, manage logistical concerns, and empower the field’s top performers to innovate. While we know that the supply chain struggles faced by the trucking industry are due to changing factors in external economic conditions, these aren’t the only factors that influence supply.

Business processes also play a big role in keeping shipments accurate and on track. Expect to see more trucking companies relying on technology for supply chain processes like procurement in 2022. Expect to see automation, the blockchain, and many other solutions show greater ROI for trucking companies this year.

What Does the Tesla Semi Mean for Trucking’s Future?

It’s hard to talk about the major innovations in trucking industry technology without mentioning rigs like the Tesla Semi.

Boasting claims of a more efficient engine, smarter safety technology, and even autonomous driving capabilities, it has those in the trucking industry and out of it both with plenty of questions.

The safety question comes down to the simple concern that self-driving trucks may not be totally trustworthy. A self-driving passenger car is a risk in and of itself, but now imagine that same risk with double the length and ten times the weight.

The Tesla Semi and other autonomous innovations in the trucking industry will be required to go through a great deal of safety testing to ensure reliability. In some cases, specialized infrastructure may be made to allow these vehicles to travel alone, away from passenger traffic at first, to ensure they can be trusted to stay on track.

Will Trucking Jobs Be Impacted by Technology?

We couldn’t mention the impact of smarter trucks and technology in general on the field without talking about how it connects to trucking jobs.

While some people may like the idea of life on the road, can you really make trucking a career with technology poised to take over the roads? The answer is a resounding yes.

While autonomous vehicles will make their way onto the roads in greater numbers in coming years, this is not because human drivers are being phased out. They’re more valuable than ever, and the emergence of driverless trucks serves to show how severe the shortage of drivers is for trucking in 2022.

Build a Future in the Trucking Industry with Hermes

The trucking industry’s foundational nature in the economy means that it serves as a guiding force in some ways. As the field finds its way around the continuing and emerging challenges of COVID and the economy, it will serve as a support system for the rest of the country.

Trucking keeps store shelves, gas pumps, and our home cupboards full – and the field’s unending commitment to economic progress makes it a fine place to find work.

The trucking industry is in a period of change, and to come through it we need talented truck drivers who are dedicated to their craft. You don’t need experience to apply, just a CDL and a desire for a successful trucking career. To learn more about our competitive pay and benefits system, plus our highly supportive work environment, click here

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