The transportation sector has experienced several challenges so far in the current decade. The first main difficulty occurred in 2020 when the Covid-19 virus became recognized as a global pandemic. Governments raced to impose movement restrictions on its citizens to slow the spread of the virus and protect healthcare systems. Millions of people were infected with the virus in a relatively short period of time, including staff working in all parts of the transportation industry. It was difficult to allow business continuity in this sector when there were restrictions on group gatherings in the workplace (for example, this caused staffing problems in many warehouses where shipped goods were processed for onwards transit).

In addition, there was a significant increase in the amount of goods purchased online during the pandemic. These goods still needed to be delivered to customers in a timely manner, but the increased demand for online deliveries and a surge in transportation workers getting infected made this an extremely difficult period for the whole industry.

Today, the rising cost of fuel prices (partly due to the ongoing war in Ukraine) presents a new challenge for companies in this sector who rely on fleets of vehicles to deliver their goods. However, the outlook in the transportation sector is becoming more positive, thanks to some emerging trends.

This article describes two emerging trends in the transportation industry and their impacts on working practices.

Electric vehicles for bulk haulage

As previously mentioned, fuel prices have continued to rise in recent months, and at present, gas prices in America are steadily approaching $4 per liter. Whilst they were higher during the first months of the war in Ukraine, they still represent a significant cost for any transportation firm that relies on a fleet of its own vehicles to deliver goods.

It is therefore of little surprise that many leaders in freight transport see electric vehicles as a key part of their future fleet plans. Key vehicle producers such as Scania are now investing heavily in this technology and have developed vehicles that can carry loads with a range of up to 350km (217 miles) before charging is needed.

As battery technology and energy storage capacity improves this makes the concept of an electric powered freight transport fleet more practical. Today’s electric vehicles can comfortably transport heavy loads over distance. For example, the transport of stainless steel tubing is commonly required to serve the food, beverage and pharmaceutical manufacturing industries.

Stainless steel tubing is commonly used in the construction of production lines in this sector that rely on corrosion-free factory infrastructure and the safe and sanitary transfer of substances. Bulk supplies of stainless steel tubing for industry can now be handled by electric vehicles as the battery technology has evolved.

Previously, moving heavy materials such as steel would dramatically reduce the range of electric transportation, but now even bulk loads can be effectively driven significant distances with such vehicles. In addition, the time needed to fully charge an electric truck is now 90 minutes or less, which and is expected to reduce in the future as the technology continues to progress.

Freelancing opportunities for freight drivers

Fleet management costs are one of the key sources of expenditure for many transportation firms. The need to purchase suitable vehicles and periodically service or maintain them can be extremely expensive for some firms. However, in recent years, many shipping and freight firms are moving towards a freelance model of delivery for some transport contracts.

In this model, a freelance worker with access to suitable transportation bids on shipping work (normally via an online jobs board which they register with). The lowest bid typically secures the job and is tasked with fulfilling the delivery.

Shipping firms generate income by taking a percentage of the shipping fee for providing the work. Whilst this may not generate the same levels of revenue that owning a fleet of vehicles does, it may be used to build or expand transportation firms without the need for substantial investment in vehicles.