The big drivers of global business have major influence on the commercial vehicle business. Several global-scale trends in particular — related to climate protection, competition for resources, social change and demographic shifts — are fundamentally changing the rules of global competition for the truck industry.

Environmental Concerns

The concern about climate change, coupled with environmental regulation, has led to a new level of commitment to increase fuel efficiency and reduce emissions. New engines are being developed to comply with limits on nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulates that were set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2012. The greatest challenge remains regulatory differences: Some regions have tougher limits than others.

The use of alternative power-train technologies — using natural gas, hybrid drives, or fuel cells — is becoming more prevalent. Persistent air pollution, particularly in major cities, could ultimately lead to a driving ban on heavy trucks.

Solutions & Trends

One possible solution is to build lighter vehicles; another is to increase interoperability among different-sized trucks. For instance, using mini-containers that can be swapped from heavy to light vehicles.

Characteristics of infrastructure, of vehicle ownership, and even of truck drivers are changing, and these trends point to the development of new kinds of trucks to match. The long-haul truck is becoming more of a living space for drivers and their families, and so needs to be suitably equipped.

As digital technologies take hold, including for medium and heavy-duty trucks, there is a shortage of skilled drivers, with an associated need to provide driver support.

Social and Economic Changes

Broad social and economic changes are also affecting the trucking industry. The economy is becoming more globalized: Middle classes are shrinking in mature economies and growing in emerging markets. Changes in consumer behavior in the emerging markets, where large numbers of people are mirroring affluent Western lifestyles, are leading to more calls for small, time-critical deliveries.

Migration flows among nations are expected to increase, and people are expected to live longer. All of this presents a new challenge for logistics: For example, it is likely to mean an increase in the number of trucks on the roads.

Growing urbanization and the associated increase in transport volume will make new distribution networks with integrated logistics concepts necessary. Multi-modality will increasingly be needed to transport goods via multiple channels and to move them rapidly from rail to road to ship to air freight. To spread the movement of goods more evenly over time, particularly where infrastructure is already under strain today, trucks also need to be optimized for nighttime goods distribution.

In short, for the global truck industry, the challenge is to transport a significantly higher volume of goods and to develop new transport concepts.

(this article was prepared by Strategy&)

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