In the heart of Chattanooga, Tennessee, FreightWaves hosted the Future of Freight Festival (F3), bringing together freight and technology companies from across the country to talk innovation and supply chain. The three-day event featured interactive sponsor booths, rapid-fire demos, and thought-provoking speakers discussing key factors impacting freight markets and the latest trends pushing the industry forward.
Sessions ranged from autonomous trucks to venture capital commentary to reshoring. Here are the top trends that emerged from the over 30 sessions at FreightWaves Future of Freight Festival, F3.
Finding Success in a Slumping Economy is Top of Mind
It’s no surprise the current economic climate was a common thread through every session and conversation at the coffee table. With DAT Freight & Analytics showing a 43.8% year-over-year drop in spot loads in August, everyone is feeling the impacts of the market fluctuation.
When discussing the market’s impact on carriers specifically, Bill Drigert, co-founder and head of operations at Uber Freight, said, “it’s been an incredibly volatile market over the last two and a half years and very difficult for carriers to predict what’s going to happen in the next six months.”
Many speakers offered advice on how to navigate during a weakening economy such as watching operating costs, investing in creating efficient processes, and keeping your eyes on the long-term. CEO of FreightWaves Craig Fuller explained, “the markets will do what the markets will do. If people are invested in the long term, these are just waves that happen. If you’ve been in freight, these are just normal waves.”
A down economy is only part of the cyclical nature of the freight industry and it will bounce back again. And the advice is clear: be ready for when it does.
Now is the Time for Innovation
With the current economy top of mind, many experts at F3 emphasized the importance of innovation during a recession.
Mike Plasencia, co-founder and managing director of RyderVentures, championed this theme during his fireside chat with FreightWaves. “Innovation isn’t slowing down. The supply chain is tight, so we’ve never been more open to innovation than we are now,” said Plasencia. He went on to explain how visibility is one innovation that is now table stakes for every logistics company.
Innovation abound at F3 with the new technologies on display at every vendor’s booth. Autonomous trucking was on display with companies like Aeye showcasing its lidar and sensor-based systems that act as the eyes for driverless cars and trucks, recreating real-world obstacles and hazards in a virtual space. Other companies promoted new innovations in visibility like Skybitz, a trailer tracking solution with a smart sensor integration that monitors everything from doors to tire pressure.
Data is Key for Freight Brokers
Data is the biggest opportunity for strengthening the supply chain. Data lives throughout the supply chain and is being mined in different silos - cash flow, pricing, trailer tracking and more. There is not a lack of data, however the industry is missing aggregated data distilled into learnings to guide forecasting and decision making.
When discussing data’s impact on the supply chain, Ajay Agarwal, partner of Bain Capital Ventures, emphasized, “data exists everywhere that powers this supply chain on paper, in spreadsheets, etc. Pulling this data together can be really powerful and is going to bring immense value to space.”
One example is Leaf Logistics, who is harnessing data to make a transparent industry-wide network. Chuck Toye, the self proclaimed “product custodian” of Leaf Logistics, explained, “when we put shipper and carrier data together, we discover opportunities for cooperation and can create efficiencies across the supply chain.”
FreightWaves F3 made one thing clear: freight technology is on the rise. There are more tools now than ever to provide businesses with greater visibility over their assets and operations. The hesitancy to adopt technology is quickly being replaced by the need to drive change.