What do fleet owners need to maintain successful operations?

Of all the available tools that can help the owners of small and medium-sized fleets prepare for today's transportation industry challenges, basic logistics software is one of the most reliable options. By introducing the ability to plan ahead when scheduling shipments, deliveries and pickups, commercial carriers can more readily respond to sudden external changes that may have otherwise disrupted ongoing activity. Automated technology gives fleet owners more control of their operations to maximize profits in the long run.

Manufacturing growth may improve trucking activity in the near future
Businesses that rely on ground transportation to move goods long distances across the country are in a unique position to benefit from tools such as logistics software. For instance, the Los Angeles Times reported that President Barack Obama indicated in his most recent State of the Union speech that the federal government will be taking a variety of steps to keep the U.S. manufacturing industry on a steady path to growth. Such measures would have a positive impact on the freight industry, as transporting heavy parts and machinery is a central element of factory production.

As it turns out, the trucking industry has already experienced positive growth in recent months. An article from Fleet Owner said the latest annual American Truck Dealers (ATD) conference in New Orleans saw many transportation experts touting the current state of the economy and its impact on ground transportation.

"Trucking is undoubtedly one of America's greatest industries," Dick Witcher, the outgoing chairman of the ATD, explained in a speech. "It employs over 6 million people nationwide. It moves 9.4 billion tons of freight annually. It delivers millions of goods out of factories and onto the shelves of our stores and businesses."

In other words, supporting ground transportation businesses is worth it for the overall economy. However, the forecast isn't all rosy for commercial carriers. In fact, businesses can expect a variety of impediments to growth in the near future from issues such as increased regulatory scrutiny from federal and state agencies, industry-wide driver shortages and the need to balance an increase in activity with available resources. No matter what fleet owners experience in the coming years, the following steps will ensure operations continue running as efficiently as possible:

Don't ignore the need for new technology
Much like entrepreneurs in most other industries, the owners of heavy-duty truck fleets can benefit from equipping their staff with reliable tools to make their daily responsibilities easier. A recent article in Fox Business analyzed 10 hidden costs that over time can have a negative impact on any enterprise's well-being. No. 2 on the list was the failure to equip certain departments with the technology necessary for completing many complex tasks. For trucking firms, this means managers may want to pay close attention to the ongoing struggles of their employees. If traffic jams or inefficient assignment schedules are inhibiting the ability to make deliveries on time, route optimization software can easily solve these problems. In fact, managers can use these tools to gather dynamic customer information to make more informed decisions about the best use of time and resources. Overlooking the importance of technology in the workplace is simply an ineffective business strategy in the long run.

Use logistics software, other tools to attract new drivers
The trucking industry has dealt with a driver shortage problem for several years. However, the issue has only been magnified in recent months, as the average employee in this sector is nearing the federally-recognized retirement age. A recent article in Commercial Carrier Journal said the limited availability of skilled drivers is currently the No. 1 problem for transportation businesses in 2014. It doesn't help that new regulations are making these issues even worse for fleet owners.

"We are facing easily the largest collection of regulatory changes in history," Eric Starks, president of the transportation intelligence firm FTR Associates, told the publication. "There are 20 regulations that already started or are coming into play that either take a driver out of the system or cause a productivity dip that requires adding another driver."

Updating operations with advanced technology such as logistics software may alleviate many of the challenges associated with this ongoing employment problem. Individuals are often reluctant to pursue careers in transportation because of the need to put in long hours. Software programs that make it easier to maximize efficiency on roadways can help organizations earn a reputation for having a more satisfying quality-of-life factor.

Small and medium-sized businesses often struggle to balance a limited number of resources. In some cases, this may encourage fleet owners to avoid introducing new technology into the workplace. Nevertheless, even small upfront investments in logistics software can lead to major payoffs in the long run. These tools are designed to boost efficiency, meaning they may help managers solve the very issues they're dealing with on a regular basis.