Omnitracs' Road Ahead blog

Farewell, 2020: What shaped our industry this year — and what we can learn from it


Life was certainly much, much, much different as we bid adieu to 2019 this time last year. 

With everything that our industry and world have endured this year, closing this year-long chapter requires reflection. That’s why we’re breaking down some of the top things that have stood out in our industry in 2020, along with how we can use these reflections for a more prosperous 2021.

COVID-19: The virus felt around the globe

There’s no way to discuss 2020 without talking about the pandemic that has shaped and altered many of our lives. As of December 31, there have been over 83 million COVID-19 cases and over 1.8 million deaths worldwide.

In March, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) released an Emergency Declaration on Hours of Service (HOS) exemptions for truckers transporting emergency pandemic relief, along with additional waivers and exemptions in the coming weeks and months. While these temporary adjustments have helped truckers navigate these challenging times more efficiently, there is another clear takeaway our industry witnessed from the pandemic: a long and overdue appreciation for truckers.

When the World Health Organization declared the pandemic in March 2020, many stayed home to combat the spread. One group of people who weren’t able to do so were essential workers, including medical professionals, grocery store employees, and truck drivers. To say we rely on truckers is an understatement. We wouldn’t have the supplies we need — from food to medical supplies — without them. With truckers also playing a critical role in vaccine distribution, it’s more apparent than ever how invaluable they are.

As we move forward into the next year, transportation professionals and the public should continue to extend appreciation and gratitude toward truckers. Whether that be providing drivers with easy-to-use and efficient driver workflow solutions or saying a simple “thank you” to a driver at a rest stop, there’s a multitude of ways to show appreciation.

Cybersecurity awareness

In 2020, hackers heavily targeted our industry. Many attacks involved ransomware and significant attempts to cause operational disruptions, costing major trucking and logistics companies millions of dollars in recovery efforts.

This year, we interviewed our chief information security officer, Sharon Reynolds, and discussed cybersecurity in transportation and beyond. She emphasized how the risk profile has shifted in 2020 since office data has now come into employee homes. While truckers aren’t working from home, many of the back-office teams that make up trucking and transportation businesses are.

To continue implementing effective cybersecurity measures at home, in the office, and from the driver’s seat, companies need to educate and empower their teams to identify possible cybersecurity threats before it’s too late. According to Reynolds, this goes beyond holding basic training courses. Companies need to educate their teams on real and practical actions they can take, such as automatically identifying potential red flags, to keep the companies they work for safe and secure.

A continued emphasis on vehicle and driver safety

Two weeks ago, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) released its 2020 International Roadcheck results. Across North America, more than 50,000 inspections were conducted by law enforcement officials on drivers and their vehicles between the 9th and 11th of September, and the results are eye-opening.

Large trucks, cargo tanks, hazmat, non-hazmat, and passenger carrier vehicles were inspected using safety-related criteria. Out of all the vehicles surveyed in the U.S., Mexico, and Canada, 12,254 had out-of-service vehicle violations. The officials found 25.8% of out-of-service violations were for brake systems, followed by 19% for tires, 13.5% for lights, 12.9% for cargo securement, and 12.8% for brake adjustments.

There were also 3,247 out-of-service driver violations. Leading the violations with a staggering 34.7% was HOS violations, followed by 21.8% for other violations (moving violations, cell phone use, etc.), 21.2% for wrong class licenses, 14% for false logs, and 4.3% for suspended licenses.

Businesses concerned with out-of-service violations in 2021 can utilize robust and reliable Electronic Logging Device (ELD) and HOS solutions to prevent violations before they occur with customizable alerts. Staying ahead of potential violations ensures your trips remain on schedule and your compliance fees are in line with your business costs.

An increasing driver shortage from an increasing pandemic

Unsurprisingly to many, the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) found that driver shortage was the number one issue plaguing the trucking industry in 2020 — a problem that has remained in the number one slot for four consecutive years.

This year, the sporadic supply and demand cycles caused by the pandemic have shined an even brighter spotlight on the importance of retaining drivers to keep business moving. According to WorkHound, a survey and feedback platform used by transportation professionals, driver turnover slowed as the pandemic began. Toward the mid-summer months, however, driver shortage numbers began to increase steadily. WorkHound speculates this is due to pandemic fatigue and anxieties around potential coronavirus exposures at work. When possible, businesses in our industry can prioritize health and safety protocols and incentivize drivers with a greater work-life balance and shorter, regional transports to reduce turnover.

Driver compensation, truck parking availability, and rising insurance costs were some of the few standouts that also made ATRI’s anticipated list comprised of survey responses from over 3,100 truckers, motor carriers, and industry stakeholders.

This year certainly has been a significant one, to say the least! Here are some things we’re predicting for the eagerly-anticipated 2021 year. We wish all our readers and customers a happy and safe New Year!