7 truck driving trends to watch in 2020

January 13, 2020 Casey Nighbor

The world of trucking is constantly changing and evolving. 2019 was a volatile year that was felt across the industry as a whole. As 2020 approaches, we examine the 7 biggest emerging trends for trucking.

1. New driver and carrier regulations

There several new regulations that occurred at the end of 2019 or are beginning in 2020. All have the potential for profound impact on the trucking industry. Here are the highlights of changes so you can avoid violations and fines.

Electronic Logging Device Implementation

This federal law went into effect December 16, 2019 and requires most motor carrier to use electronic logging devices (ELDs) to track driver hours of service. The deadline for full compliance has passed but fines for ELD violations range from $1,000-$10,000.


Assembly Bill 5 or AB5 makes it harder for companies to label workers as independent contractors in the state of California.

This new law does not just apply to Uber and Lyft drivers or office workers brought on as independent contractors. This new law also drastically impacts the way the trucking industry in California operates.

The new law assumes workers are employees. To prove otherwise, the hiring company has the burden of demonstrating that the worker meets a very specific test.

Learn more about AB5 and its implications in the trucking industry here.

Drug and alcohol clearinghouse

By January 6, 2020, all fleets are required to follow the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse. This keeps commercial drivers who have a violated federal drug or alcohol rule from lying about those results and getting a job with another carrier.

Fleets are required to submit:

-Any employees’ DOT drug and alcohol violations under Part 382 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, and

-Verification of a CDL driver’s completed steps in the DOT return-to-duty process

New entry level training

Starting in February 2020, the minimum CDL training standards will be set on a federal level. The new  entry-level driver training (ELDT( program incorporates new requirements from the FMCSA and will be implemented in public, state and private CDL schools.

2. Self-driving technology and AI

2019 was a big year for the emergence of autonomous truck driving start-ups and tests. While self-driving trucks are still in their infancy, it has the potential to be an industry disruptor if state and federal regulations work in their favor. Expect to hear more and more about this topic in 2020. In the meantime, AI advances and new software can help carrier and drivers reach peak efficiency while still prioritizing safety. A report by research firm MarketsandMarkets estimates that the AI market for the transportation industry is projected to grow at an annual growth rate of almost 18 percent from 2017 to 2030.

3. State of the market

Current predictions show that the market may flip in 2020 for trucking. 2019 showed a slight downturn overall in the industry and current forecasts show that reversing in 2020. Most regulations in 2020 aren’t predicted to impact the market negatively and many are hoping rates will remain firm and drive growth.

4. Driver shortage

The driver shortage has been a growing issue in the trucking world for a number of years now. The trend is predicted to continue into 2020. The shortage is due to a high number of predicted retirements of current drivers over the next decade. While the shortage is still hovering around its 2018 peak, there are new initiatives across the industry to attract new drivers by increasing diversity. One notable example is an increased promotion of trucking driving to women and other minority groups. While this problem won’t be solved overnight, 2020 will hopefully mark a year of positive growth in this area.

5. Carrier instability

Due to market changes, 2019 was a tough year for many carriers. Several large and small companies closed their doors of filed for bankruptcy this year, putting thousands of drivers out of work. Experts are divided on whether this trend will continue in 2020 or the industry will just start consolidating. Mergers are predicted as a solution for many companies if the market doesn’t take an upturn in 2020.

6. Influence of eCommerce

The eCommerce retail boom has impacted and distributed a variety of industries, with the rapid growth of online shopping and fast fashion. But a critical piece of this success comes from trucking. Because of trucks, eCommerce has been able to quickly move products around for production, distribution and delivery. Any improvements or growth in this industry will hopefully trickle down to the trucking industry as well.

7. Tariffs and Trade Wars

Recent trade wars with China and an increase in tariffs due to potential changes in NAFTA have already impacted the trucking industry in 2019. Although the trade wars with China have recently made some headway, the uncertainty could impact the industry in 2020. With less trade, less freight needs to be moved from port to port. Freight recovery will be dependent on the recovery of equipment and goods supply and demand. This is a close issue to watch because it has the potential to make or break the truck industry as a whole in 2020.

About the Author

About Casey: Content marketing manager, frequently reading, aspiring chef, failed plant mom, connoisseur of tater tots, beauty products and airplane food.

Follow on Linkedin More Content by Casey Nighbor
Previous Article
Simple tips for safe winter driving
Simple tips for safe winter driving

When the temperatures plunge and the snow starts falling, even the most experienced truck drivers can have ...

Next Article
Tips to reduce stress during the holidays
Tips to reduce stress during the holidays

The holidays are a joyous, but stressful, time of year. With personal obligations and increased holiday tra...