January 05, 2022
As the country begins another year with concerns of pandemic and continuing supply chain issues, it is vital that tucking and transportation companies have a strategy that can be nimble and flexible enough to not only survive these challenging times but to thrive in them.
While companies typically focus on a yearly vision by quarter, it is also important to have strategic management throughout the year, not just quarterly implementation. A strong strategic management plan should be proactive in evaluating the entire year and up to 3 years ahead if possible. Understanding that the trucking industry is facing several challenges, it is still recommended you address them in the context of a SWOT (strength, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats).
Unless you have a comprehensive understanding of your SWOT, it will be impossible to create a plan for the quarter, not to mention the year. The development of specific plans utilizing the strengths, minimizing weaknesses, and overcoming external threats is to succeed in achieving quarterly and long-term goals while solidifying a leading position within your industry.
While you have probably already completed your strategic plan for the year, there are important factors to consider as you implement. These three things will influence how well your plan will work.
• Flexibility • Innovation • People
The country and the world have learned a lot from living through a pandemic for the last two years but the most prevalent thing that the trucking industry has understood is the need to be flexible and as nimble as possible. In 2020 when the world shut down, businesses were shut and people were navigating their lives from home, it was the trucking companies that continued to work delivering products, supplies, and food while facing the biggest challenges the industry had to offer.
The need to be flexible with COVID protocols implemented almost overnight and the plans to deal with shortages and supply chain issues are still something the industry is facing. While there is a lot out of our control, there are things we can control but the need to be flexible is paramount in the process.
Team collaboration is vital in the ability to be flexible. Communication should be clear and constant as issues come up so that everyone has the same understanding of the situation. Empathy for your colleagues is critical in creating a strong culture that can face any challenge together.
Innovation is a vague word and can be interpreted in many ways but in the trucking industry, it includes everything from software to hardware and everything in between. Most notably innovation in the trucks themselves. Investing in more economical vehicles that have lower emissions can save enormously and help a company to thrive. Old trucks cannot meet emissions requirements, which means replacement of efficient equipment with hybrid or new standards of emissions can be an ongoing capital need. New vehicle purchase with innovative tech also offers drivers efficiencies and comfort that older trucks could not. Additionally, the Tax Reform Act offers lower taxes to update vehicles making it a worthy investment.
Innovative tech also comes in the form of mobile apps and software improving efficiencies in everything from vehicle tracking, route planning, and logistics. These apps and programs can be a source of confidence for drivers and efficiencies as well. An app that manages weight means that drivers may never need to leave their trucks saving valuable time on an already limited schedule. Satellite tracking software is critical in locating trucks and trailers at any given time as well as where they can be utilized to boost revenue. The history of maintenance, the time for repair is also critical and should be integrated with operations software to monitor maintenance and repair in real-time.
Innovative tech is developed every day and trucking companies would be wise to track the progress. Data collection from Software as a Service (SaaS) can not only be valuable to the company offering the service (e.g. load boards), but that data can also be valuable to the companies using the service. Optimized software can be found in every aspect of the trucking and transportation industry, and if you are not aware of how they can help, you will be left behind.
Let’s face it, the backbone of the trucking industry is the truck driver. The trucking industry has been facing a driver shortage for years now and it seems to be increasing. There are a lot of reasons for it but suffice it to say, it is far from resolved. Employee shortages are happening in all industries including hospitality, restaurant, travel, and retail. According to the Department of Labor, a record 4.5 million people quit their jobs in November of 2021.
While a low wage is a primary reason for the mass exodus, it is not always the case. People, especially a younger generation of employees, are looking for a job with a culture of positivity, ownership, reward, and innovation in tech. However, even with the use of technology, there is still a continuing need to bring new drivers into the business.
It will be critical for companies to train, nurture and make not just the drivers but the entire staff feels like they are part of a bigger picture, are gaining a lifelong skill, and are appreciated for it not only in compensation but in culture.
Companies that focus on creating a rich culture of honest communications, respectful management, and competitive compensation will be the companies that will gain a leading position and a time of uncertainty.
So, while trucking companies are facing some of the biggest hurdles the industry has ever seen, if the right plans are in place for the short term and the long term, goals can be met through flexibility, innovation, and focus on people.
Even innovative leadership applies to our priority for people as technology should not only drive business, but it should also make the work more efficient for our employees, partners, and customers. With thoughtful consideration of strengths, weaknesses, and threats along with an innovative and flexible people focused mindset, even the most challenging goals can be met with success in the year to come.