It is almost impossible today to find a global supply chain where trucking isn’t included. Trucking, also known as ground shipping or ground freight, is used as the most logical extension of air and ocean transportation, connecting the other pieces of the puzzle, influencing warehousing and customs, therefore being an important factor in a brand’s logistics plan.

Ground freight solutions

Ground shipping - what does it mean? Within the different types of freight, ground shipping refers to the mode of transport in logistics that moves goods from origin to destination via extensive road networks. What is the difference between inland and ground freight? While inland transportation encompasses all containerised movement such as truck, rail, barge, etc., ground freight trucking refers to all non-containerised movement, and can be divided into Full Truckload (FTL) and Less-than-Truckload (LTL).

The benefits of choosing ground freight

Why should a brand choose to integrate ground freight into its supply chain plans? Why is it convenient? What are the benefits? Ground freight trucking:

  • Reduces complexity, connecting several supply chain pieces in a streamlined process.
  • Gives reliability. It is a transportation service that you can rely on, gaining control even if plans change.
  • Offers flexibility. From business-to-business deliveries to final mile, it allows one to move goods between various types of supply chain nodes like warehouses, fulfilment centres, cross docks, manufacturing sites, stores, and more.
  • Accommodates all cargo. A vast kind of commodities and goods can be shipped with ground freight trucking (even with odd sizes and/or heavy loads).
  • Provides speed. It requires a faster setup compared to other modes of transportation, from manufacturer to distributor.
  • Finally, it usually comes at low prices. Trucking is recognised as t he best value for moving goods short distance.

What companies benefits the most from ground freight trucking?

All businesses can benefit from ground freight trucking, regardless of the type of cargo they move. However, recent years have shown that industries such as Lifestyle, Retail, FMCG (especially in Europe) and Tech are especially boosted by this transportation mode. “Trucking does not have to be perceived as a commoditized service, where everything is the same. Depending on their supply chain, businesses should identify their specific needs and perceive trucking as an exciting space that can be configured to their strategies” adds Ian Drummond, Business Development Manager, Maersk Ground Freight. Moreover, the size of businesses is also important. While large businesses work with extended supply chains, juggling a large number of stores and restocking in large numbers with the use of containers, a small-medium sized company, with a little bit more fragmentation – having parts that need to go in all these different distributions - would greatly benefit from ground freight trucking.

What are the trends observed for ground freight trucking?

For businesses looking to maximize ground freight trucking for the rest of the year , here are a few key trends to watch:

  1. End-to-end customer experience: With businesses trying hard to keep their supply chain flow on time and undamaged, the need for strong support along the way has been and will continue to be key. The beginning of 2024 has tested companies and their reliability, so there is an active search for customer experience from their logistic providers where the partnership is strong, and even if processes are online, companies can get in touch and receive strategic help on how to proceed and re-plan.
  2. Sustainability solutions: Ground freight trucking has seen a surge in demand for more sustainable solutions. Companies have been asking for better ways to reach their decarbonisation goals through the use of EV trucks, etc. but also pushing for more opportunity to use technology like vehicle routing and/or carbon reporting”. The industry will therefore augment its focus on trucking decarbonisation initiatives to support its customers with it.
  3. Moving and then reverting: While initially the trend within the ground freight trucking industry has seen the rise of businesses buying their own trucks and delivering their own cargo. After that, these same companies were experiencing an overwhelming amount of pressure and issues with their logistics, so they started to employ the help of additional external trucker carriers to diversify their supply chains. Technology in the field today has greatly enhanced companies' ability to manage their ground freight network, but they still face challenges in utilizing the technology to best optimize for their supply chain. Many companies find themselves in a position where they have the right tool, but they are also left feeling they could still optimize further with different partners. For this reason, they are currently looking for better partners to balance the overhead of network management, versus getting help from trusted partners that have the cross-industry insights to support their optimisation best. Moving again then, then reverting. It seems a balance has not yet been reached.

Ground freight: What can we expect in the future?

When looking into the horizon for this sector, one of the hot topics is certainly self-driving trucks, their advent on the market, as well as the related role of governments. How will that affect the job market? What is the role of logistics companies in it? How will regulations guide its use? Secondly, another area that will take centre stage is consolidation, with fewer providers being able to actually integrate international and domestic transportation. Lastly, the use of data and AI is already projected to be a massive topic within ground freight solutions, with technology-enabled operations and their implementation for tracking, tracing, better visibility, scheduling, routing, etc. The use of AI will also support the use of collected data and effectively optimise supply chains through multimodality. Particularly, companies that will partner with a seasoned logistic provider that can support with extended global data, will allow them to compare their data with more industry players, and optimise themselves, instead of keeping their own numbers in silos.

In summary, to better predict and plan their ground freight trucking, companies will need to balance their ability to independently manage their trucking, while also being able to select a global integrated provider that they can trust. This model will allow them to find solutions that mirror their needs and support with resilience, decarbonisation, technology, and innovation.

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