Businesses in the freight and logistics industry have faced a number of challenges in recent years, from the pandemic to the Ever Given incident, which caused major supply chain disruption and delays.
Looking to the future, however, there will be clear growth potential and opportunities for businesses that are focused on innovation and continuing to push their enterprise forward.
To stay relevant in this fast-moving space, you need to have your finger on the pulse of trends that will shape and transform the sector in the years to come.
Rising interest in autonomous vehicles
Autonomous vehicles look set to become a more common sight on global roads in the coming years, with forecasts suggesting they will account for approximately 12% of car registrations by 2030.
This trend is likely to be felt in freight as well as the consumer market, with businesses showing greater interest in the benefits they can gain from incorporating autonomous vehicles into their fleets.
International logistics giant DHL has said the automotive industry "could be on the verge of the next major upheaval", and trucks are likely to lead the way. The firm highlighted the various benefits that autonomous driving could generate for freight logistics, including enhanced safety and efficiency.
Furthermore, self-driving vehicles could help to address the fact that many countries are facing serious shortages of qualified drivers.
Freight forwarding, like every other industry, has felt the increasingly pronounced effects of digitalization in the 21st century. This trend will only gather pace in the near future. A growing proportion of businesses will take advantage of the potential of digital solutions to achieve benefits such as the automation of routine tasks and effective analysis of supply and demand trends.
According to Allied Market Research, the global digital freight forwarding market was valued at $2.92 billion in 2020 and will be worth $22.92 billion by 2030, growing at a compound annual rate of 23.1%.
Maersk, one of the world's biggest shipping companies, has said the accelerating digital transformation could fuel further consolidation in the industry as businesses look to step up their tech capabilities.
Sustainability is a top priority and a key factor in buying decisions for a growing share of consumers. A 2021 report by the Economist Intelligence Unit, commissioned by WWF, showed a 71% increase in searches for sustainable goods in the previous five years.
This shift in customer expectations should be reflected in business strategy, policies and processes if you want to stay relevant and maintain a positive brand image. It's particularly important for the logistics industry to place an emphasis on this issue, considering the scale of the sector's potential impact on the environment.
Forecasts suggest freight transport could account for 42% of global direct CO2 emissions by 2050, up from 8% today. Eco-conscious businesses that want to stay on the right side of sustainability trends will be focused on finding new ways to raise efficiency and make their operations more environmentally friendly. Leveraging the potential of new technologies is likely to be a key part of these efforts.
Trade diversification away from China
China's rapid economic growth in recent decades has been driven by its industrial and manufacturing sectors, cementing its status as the 'world's factory'. It was the largest supplier of goods to the US in 2020, with exports from China to America reaching a value of more than $434 billion during that year.
However, future trends could see a shift in focus away from China, with Southeast Asian markets and India the most likely to benefit from this trade diversification, according to market research firm Ti.
DHL made a similar prediction in its Trade Growth Atlas 2022, projecting that China's share of global trade expansion would fall by half - dropping to 13% - between 2021 and 2026.
Growth of real-time analytics
Real-time data analytics can offer a range of powerful benefits for freight companies and the countless businesses and customers that rely on them. If you have access to technology that allows you to track live shipments, you can provide updates on when the goods are likely to arrive and make more informed predictions about potential delays and other problems.
There are many other potential applications of this technology, from responsive inventory management to optimization of delivery routes.
As the freight industry continues to evolve in the coming years, the most innovative businesses will look to take full advantage of real-time analytics as part of their efforts to become more efficient and future-proof their operations.
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