Futurist Outlines What Could Be Ahead for Driver Recruiting

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Futurist Nikolas Badminton on June 2 explored how the trucking industry could change in the coming years and what that means for driver recruitment.

Badminton considered a variety of trends and economic factors at the 1-3 June 2022 Recruitment and Retention Conference as it speculated on what could be in store for trucking.

“Let’s look at the market pressure,” Badminton said. “Now we know that the industry is incredibly important, 70% of all goods are moved by the trucking industry in the United States. There is an economic value of over 800 million dollars. That’s everyone from the trucking and the recruiters to the other people who support the industry. But we have seen some interesting things during the pandemic.”

Badminton cited e-commerce as a big shift. He noted that sales increased by nearly $219 billion between 2020 and 2021. By 2025, it is projected to grow from $1.5 trillion to more than $7 trillion as a result.

“The restructuring will change the dynamics for the industry,” Badminton said. “But we also know that there is a shortage of over 80,000 truck drivers in the industry today. By 2030, some people are predicting about 162,000 motorists. But what is interesting is that we will need truck drivers more than ever.”

Badminton added that while the trucking industry is feeling an even greater need for drivers over the next few years, the country’s population is expected to grow rapidly. He also pointed out that emerging mega-regions could accommodate 75% of this population by 2050.

“So regional trucking could be a dominant part of the industry by 2050,” Badminton said. “So how does that change what you think about? How does this change your view of the transport, distribution and production of goods? People in the cities will want things down the street.”

Badminton noted that autonomous truck driving is another important consideration as it could eliminate the need for drivers in many cases. He doesn’t expect it to replace human drivers under any circumstances in the next few decades. However, he notes that there is a lot of interest, including from the venture capital community and the government.

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“The market size will grow to $88 billion by 2027,” Badminton said. “So much is promised here, but why? Well, if we get a fully autonomous truck, we might not need a driver in the truck. Cost savings, efficiency, more safety.”

Badminton added another benefit that these trucks could potentially run almost continuously as there are no breaks or breaks to take. This results in consistent mileage rates and faster delivery. He noted that this technology is still far from its full potential. But that’s what people invest in.

“It’s how people speculate about what the future might be like,” Badminton said. “The work that companies like Ford are doing is really interesting when you think about the future. Companies like TuSimple are starting to build autonomous freight networks in the southern states and they’re getting a lot of investment and interest.”

Badminton believes that technology creates opportunities rather than constraining them through situations such as the replacement of labor with robotics. He noted that while the distant future may feature fully autonomous truck driving, the near future is likely to feature a mix of human drivers and driverless technologies. He pointed to companies now using autonomous trucks for road transport but human drivers elsewhere.

Badminton also pointed to renewable energy as another important factor affecting the future of the trucking industry. He found that by 2050, 86% of the world’s energy needs could be met from renewable sources. He added that an important step is the industries and companies turning to renewable energy technologies. This includes truck traffic. For example, Rush Enterprises has installed solar panels in some of its truck parking lots.

“We know we have to move away from fossil fuels,” Badminton said. “The fact is that a renewable energy based economy is cheaper to run than a fossil fuel based economy. This is shocking information for many people. But we’re making progress. And some people are starting to think about the scenarios that are in front of us.”

The 2022 Recruitment and Retention Conference is hosted by Conversion Interactive Agency with American Trucking Associations and Transport Topics.

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