Opinion

The More Things Change

the more things change

A report which came out this week, seems to show results which reinforce the old adage, the more things change, the more things stay the same.

The report I’m referring to is called ‘The Future of Trucking: The Way Forward’ and it’s been produced by Isuzu trucks. It has surveyed a wide representation of the industry to gauge exactly where Australian trucking industry and truck market are in 2024 .

It does tell us that there is change taking place, but quite often the reaction of the industry to that change is very similar to how it has reacted to changes in the past.

There is no surprise that trucking industry thinks that in the next three years growth will continue and that we will be seeing profit margins squeezed and rising fuel prices rising.

In my experience in this industry, I can’t remember a time, when we weren’t struggling with already slim profit margins getting ever slimmer and even though there are occasional drops in fuel prices, the general trend is always upwards.

Another thing which has always been with us is that the national freight task is growing and will continue to grow. This creates its own problems, as businesses have to adapt to expansion and the constant growth expectations from customers, in terms of the transport services they provide.

One change which does suggest a new direction for the trucking industry, and may represent an indication of a generational change taking place, is the fact that the initial purchase price of a truck has become a less important consideration and truck buyers are now looking at total cost of ownership (TCO) as a way of evaluating the equipment they will need to buy in order to run their business.

This change is something which is moving market sentiment across towards buying generic trucks straight off the end of a production line and is reducing the amount of customisation which is being done to individual trucks, apart from those in highly specialised freight tasks.

The attitude to new technology is a no-brainer, safety has become a more important aspect of the way operations are developed in trucking. Customers are demanding higher safety standards across the supply chain, at the same time as more and more of these automated and automatic safety systems are becoming standard on the trucks that we buy on a year-to-year basis.

I have to admit I am surprised by the indication by the industry of a ‘strong appetite’ for zero emission trucks. At the moment, the jury’s still out and the future development of zero emission trucks is not clear. Perhaps those responding to the survey are talking about their aspirations rather than their actual future plans. Talking to operators, many suggest to me that they are waiting and seeing how the new technology plays out.

Yes, there will be others who will not go down that wait-and-see route but are willing to stick their neck out and have a go. That is going to especially  be the case in those types of operation where electric trucks are clearly going to be the only solution which is going to be practical, like urban applications and those sorts of operation where are not large distances being covered and most of the work is done within an urban environment.

The trucking industry has always been predisposed to resisting, and then quickly embracing change, as I said, the more things change…

 

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