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How the Supply Chain Is Shaping Domestic Trucking in 2024

Following the 2023 freight downturn, carriers and brokers stay in this extended freight recession for the first half of 2024. While this is intimidating, it is not permanent, as we can see fluctuations in the horizon. Freight demand cycles will balance out with the approach of the produce season, setting carriers and brokers at ease.

Understanding the supply chain’s impact on freight, why there is a temporary downturn, and the role of trucking in the supply chain will give you insight into the positive outcome for freight and its rates. It will also empower you to effectively navigate supply chain distribution, optimize your transport processes, and gain a competitive advantage.

The Role of Trucking in the Supply Chain

Trucking is critical to safeguarding supply chains. From crucial medical supplies to groceries, this service ensures that consumers can access the essentials while fueling our economy. Truck drivers fulfill these specific roles in the supply chain:

  • Last-mile delivery: Although trucks often work in combination with other transport modes, they are the primary source of domestic transport, moving 11.4 billion tons of freight in 2022.
  • Timely deliveries: Truckers help lower inventory holding costs while meeting precise deadlines with meticulous planning and just-in-time inventory management practices.
  • Flexibility and accessibility: Trucks can reach many inaccessible locations, such as remote areas or those with limited infrastructure. Truck drivers can take on multifaceted roles, including accounting, logistics, and merchandising aspects, to go above and beyond in their service delivery.
  • Handling various cargo: Each cargo load is different, with unique handling and transportation needs. Truck drivers’ keen insight and experience help them safely transport cargo, ensuring it arrives at the final destination in perfect condition.
  • E-commerce fulfillment: As e-commerce rises, trucking plays a crucial role in online order fulfillment, helping meet customer expectations for quick, reliable deliveries.

Truck drivers also face several challenges which they often navigate thanks to their unwavering determination to deliver reliable, valuable services:

  • Truck drivers handle challenging obstacles on the road, like detours, construction zones, and traffic jams.
  • They work long hours to meet delivery deadlines despite stringent regulations set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to ensure their alertness and protection.
  • Drivers often sacrifice family time, such as missing birthdays and family events, to ensure the supply chain’s last-mile delivery runs smoothly.

Navigating Supply Chain Distribution

Supply chain distribution relies heavily on efficient routing by using technology to optimize delivery routes and minimize empty miles. One of the biggest challenges in supply chain distribution is unforeseen disruptions resulting from extreme weather, geopolitical uncertainty, and energy shortages. Navigating these challenges requires:

  • Visibility and tracking: Real-time tracking systems and tools to monitor truck movements provide accurate estimated arrival times.
  • Innovative technologies: Embracing the Internet of Things (IoT) technology-enabled sensors, telematics, route optimization software, and GPS tracking can support truck drivers and boost the supply chain’s overall performance.
  • Collaborative partnerships: Fostering collaborative partnerships with logistics providers, suppliers, and trucking companies will streamline operations and enhance the supply chain’s resilience.
  • Scenario evaluation: Supply chain stakeholders should run simulations and end-to-end scenarios to identify potential challenges and ways to mitigate these effectively.

Other challenges extend to:

  • Supply shortages
  • Inflexibility to meet customer demands
  • A reduction in productivity
  • Drops and surges in segment demands
  • Challenges with inventory placement
  • Port of entry disruptions
  • Labor shortages

Current Events Affecting the Supply Chain

Several positive events and trends will reshape the domestic trucking industry, leaving us with a more efficient, connected, and sustainable way forward. Trends that are shaping the supply chain right now include:

  • Automation: Automation boosts supply chain cost-effectiveness, efficiency, and safety. Features like adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assistance pave the way to autonomous operations, addressing challenges like driver shortages while improving delivery timelines.
  • Data-driven management: Data-driven insights, combined with advanced telematics and analytics, are monitoring vehicle performance, predicting maintenance needs, and boosting fuel efficiency. Real-time tracking is fast becoming standard practice, improving customer satisfaction, and operational efficiency.
  • Flexible practices: The onset of global supply chain interruptions encourages domestic trucking companies to focus on their agility and resilience. The essence of this practice is to gracefully absorb disruptive events and quickly work towards a service level equal to or better than pre-disruption.
  • Electric fleet: Electric trucks are starting to emerge in the shift towards sustainability. Investing in electric vehicle fleets and supporting infrastructure will take time, but we can expect to see more widespread adoption of this technology.

The Effect of the Bridge Collapse in Baltimore

On the morning of Tuesday, March 26th, 2024, a cargo ship called the Dali ran into the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, causing part of the bridge to collapse. In addition to the tragic loss of life, this event will cause significant hurdles for the shipping industry, cutting off access to an essential point of entry for many national and international suppliers.

The Port of Baltimore, where the accident occurred, handled over $80 billion in cargo during 2023, serving over 50 ocean carriers and doing 1,800 annual port calls. The port also supports nearly 140,000 jobs and plays a crucial role in many different supply chains and logistics. As crews work to clear the port and repair the bridge, the national and global supply chain will take a hit.

Disruptions at a port of entry increase delivery times and transportation costs and compromise product quality. Trucking companies, in particular, now need to reroute or reschedule their shipments, which leads to delays and inefficiencies in freight movement. Working through these snowballing challenges effectively requires advanced planning, real-time visibility into truck movements, and collaboration among stakeholders.

Partner With Keller Trucking for Your Freight Needs

The challenges in 2024’s freight market are very similar to those in 2023. However, post-recession growth is on the horizon. Trucking is vital in navigating and shaping supply chains, especially in domestic logistics. Staying up to date on technological innovation can help us navigate this bump in the road with ease.

Keller Trucking, an affiliate of Keller Logistics Group, has stayed up-to-date on freight trends since 1978. With us, you get custom solutions with advanced technology and industry compliance with over 300 tractors and 900 dry van food-grade trailers. When you partner with us, you can expect highly competitive domestic trucking rates, additional warehousing, contract packaging, and distribution services. Contact us today for a comprehensive quote or call 419-784-4805 for urgent queries.

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