The haulage industry is in an exciting place. With self-driving cars on the horizon, Brexit looming and the industry still in the wake of the oil crisis, times are turbulent and, for some, thrilling. But what do the experts predict for the coming year?
While innovation is present in any healthy industry, the general opinion is that haulage companies will be seeing a lot of it, and soon. According to Tookan, visibility is the order of the day, with customers increasingly expecting a granular view of exactly what’s happening with their order and when. In order to meet these demands for visibility, Tookan thinks that the industry will make leaps and bounds in technological innovation.
Steve Banker writing for Forbes, meanwhile, places the emphasis squarely on robotics, whether in driverless vehicles or in warehouses. Whereas Forbes does not expect robots to be driving our trucks or working in warehouses in any significant way in 2017, we can certainly expect investment in these areas to skyrocket during the coming year, with Apple, Amazon, Google and all major car companies having announced serious investment in this field.
Particularly relevant to UK haulage companies, but with implications reaching across the continent (particularly western Europe), is the question of Brexit. Banker feels that Brexit negotiations will take long enough that we won’t start to see an impact on the UK-Europe trade this year, but not all experts agree. James Stamp, writing for KPMG, expects to see serious restructuring and preparation by all UK haulage companies so as to not be left unprepared when Brexit does come.
Stamp’s outlook on service disruptions remains bleak, with a prediction that disruption will become the norm over the following year. This he attributes to a continued rapid growth in demand for logistics services and infrastructure, with a lack of ability or large scale inclination to make the investment necessary to meet this demand.
Stamp also points out that excellent customer service when problems arise is possibly the single best way to build customer loyalty, meaning that haulage companies will be expected to inform their customers effectively of any disruptions and maintain top flight customer service departments to manage the situation when disruptions inevitably occur.
With many customers equipping themselves with a wealth of apps and other information channels to remain informed of their transport, Stamp reckons that it’s a necessity for logistics workers and other transport professionals to have access to a similar level of information, and that operators who do not take heed will fall behind throughout the year, appearing incompetent to their client base. Moreover, Stamp feels that information on customers and demographics will become more important than ever, with market research and consumer engagement both seeing a wide range of new strategies, as well as increased budget and emphasis.
Whatever you think of the experts’ opinions, it’s clear that haulage companies are living through a time of change. One thing is clear: things will not stay the same, and they may change in ways that aren’t quite what we expect.
Norman Dulwich is a Correspondent for Haulage Exchange, the leading online trade network for the road transport industry. Connecting professionals across the UK and Europe through their website, Haulage Exchange provides services for matching haulage companies with jobs in road transport and haulage work. Over 4,000 transport exchange businesses are networked together through their website, trading jobs and capacity in a safe 'wholesale' environment.
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