How to Balance Technology + Humanity: 5 Steps for Carriers

September 20, 2019

The trucking industry is changing rapidly. Increased expectations from customers, new technology, and shifting government regulations create an environment that can be difficult to navigate.

To create a business built for long-term success, carriers know they need to better leverage both technology and people.

As we covered in our original research study, Technology + Humanity: Striking the Balance in Your Business, carriers and shippers of all sizes agreed the optimal balance between technology and human expertise across supply chain tasks was 60% handled by technology and 40% handled by human expertise.

Understanding your business's ideal balance is one thing — achieving it is another. Regardless of what your optimal ratio is or where you are on your journey, you need a plan.

We pulled insights from our research and created a few concrete next steps to help guide your strategy as you set up your business for long-term success.

 

See how American Dream Logistics tripled their fleet size in two years by automating manual tasks and focusing their people on business growth.

 

Step 1: Identify your challenges.

You can’t decide where you’re going if you don’t first establish where you are. Work with other stakeholders in your business to critically evaluate your strengths and weaknesses.

What are you doing well and where can you replicate best practices? Where do you need the most help? Is it due to a lack of tech tools, human expertise, or both?

Considering your biggest challenges (and how well-equipped you are to deal with them) is a good place to start. Here are what 150 other carriers identified as their biggest challenges:

top carrier challenges by business size

Once you have a good idea of where you are right now, you can make more informed decisions about where to focus your limited resources.

 

Step 2: Invest in technology to improve efficiency.

The ability to invest in technology was the most commonly cited carrier challenge overall — it was especially prevalent among carriers with less than 50 trucks. 

When most carriers look to grow their businesses, adding more trucks and hiring more drivers are the obvious choices. Buying a tech platform and paying a person to integrate and manage it may seem to come at the expense of adding capacity, but it is essential for long-term success.

“To stay competitive and relevant in today’s business world, we need to stay current with the changing trends in technology.”

- Fleet Manager, 51+ truck carrier with an 80:20 tech-to-human ratio

Once you make the decision to invest, it’s difficult to know where to start. First, consider your top challenges and determine where technology can simplify your operations.

Here are the core technology platforms that other carriers are using:

 

Beyond core operating platforms, we asked carriers in our study to identify other areas in which they integrate technology into their businesses. If you do not have a digital solution covering these tasks, start researching what is available and consider what makes sense for your business.

 

As you research tools, it’s important to set expectations. What do you want to get for your money? Do you have a way to measure and evaluate performance?

Here are what other carriers expect to receive from their technology investments.

 

Not sure where you stand on the technology-to-humanity spectrum? Take our 2-minute assessment to find out. 

 

Step 3: Dedicate people to critical thinking and strategy.

In the logistics industry, it’s hard to separate yourself from the fast-paced, day-to-day operational activities and take a look at the big picture.

As you invest in more and better technology, it should start to improve efficiency, freeing up your people to do more strategic, critical thinking. As their roles change, think about areas where people can add greater value to your business.

“Technology plays a big part in what we do, but it's mainly just on small back-end things. Humans, meanwhile, play a much larger and important role in handling the forecasting and planning activities.”

- Fleet Owner, 51+ truck carrier with a 25:75 tech-to-human ratio

We asked carriers to identify areas where they wanted additional human expertise. If you do not currently have people focused on these areas, consider allocating some of your team's time towards them as tech tools automate other portions of their jobs.

Carriers overwhelmingly preferred human expertise to handle relationship management. Among 13 different supply chain tasks, communication with customers and 3PL partners were the clear winners for people over technology.

 

See how MDS Trucking uses digital load booking tools to free up people for relationship building

 

Step 4: Focus on driver recruitment and retention. 

Carriers of all sizes agreed that people were essential for communicating with 3PLs and customers — they are equally important for communication within your business.

Attracting and retaining the best possible drivers is critically important for business growth. This is especially true in the current environment, where many carriers cite a lack of qualified candidates in the recruitment pool. 

"Drivers can make or break you in a second. They're the backbone of my — or any — trucking business. They're seeing my customers every day at the dock. I rely on them to be professional and represent [my company] well."

- Monica Byers, President & Owner, Sugar Creek Transportation 

As technology automates more manual processes, dispatchers and fleet managers can spend more time developing driver relationships to improve retention and recruiting. 

 

Step 5: Stay up-to-date on new technology.

Logistics technology is evolving every day. New solutions — and challenges — are constantly coming to market. To create and execute your technology + humanity strategy, you need to stay informed on industry trends, market conditions, and new technology.

Savvy carriers use a variety of sources to get different perspectives. Here are the top sources that carriers utilize to stay current.

 

In Summary

Digital transformation is happening throughout the transportation industry. Carriers of all sizes must evolve. That means new technology, but it also means more — and more skilled — people.

We used our original research to put together five insights that you can use to guide your strategy as you start balancing technology and human expertise in your business.

  1. Identify your challenges.
  2. Invest in technology to improve efficiency.
  3. Dedicate people to critical thinking and strategy.
  4. Focus on driver recruitment and retention. 
  5. Stay up-to-date on new technology. 

 

Want to learn more about balancing technology and humanity in your fleet?

Read and download the research report to see the full results.

READ RESEARCH REPORT

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