Key Factors Shaping Transportation Management in 2024; Insights from the Descartes 8th Annual Transportation Management Benchmark Survey

Recently, Descartes’ Mike Hane sat down with Adrian Gonzalez with Talking Logistics about the findings from the 2024 Transportation Management Benchmark Survey, which analyzed feedback from 630 global respondents representing both shippers and logistics service providers. The discussion goes behind the numbers in the survey to shed light on the current state and future direction of transportation management, providing valuable takeaways for industry professionals. Read on to discover the key points from this insightful conversation.

Introduction: Navigating the Complex World of Transportation Management

Transportation management is a dynamic and ever-evolving field. Whether it's managing capacity and rates, adhering to new regulations, or balancing cost with service and compliance, the challenges are numerous. Descartes' annual benchmark survey, conducted since 2017, offers a comprehensive look at the trends, strategies, and technologies adopted by top-performing organizations in the industry. This year's survey, with an expanded respondent base of 630 professionals, provides a wealth of insights.

Key Findings from the Benchmark Survey

Transportation as a Competitive Weapon

One of the standout findings from the survey is the significant impact of executive perception on transportation management. Companies that view transportation as a ‘Competitive Weapon’ vs. those that view it as ‘Not Important’ are more likely to invest in transportation management technologies. ‘Competitive Weapon’ companies not only have higher expectations for business growth, but also prioritize innovation and customer service. In contrast, ‘Not Important’ organizations tend to focus more on cost-cutting measures and expect lower growth for their business.

Continued Focus on Visibility

Visibility remains a top investment area for transportation management technologies. Despite the high inflationary times, top-performing companies continue to invest in visibility solutions, recognizing their critical role in optimizing operations and improving customer service. The trend towards enhanced visibility is driven by the need to manage complex supply chains more effectively and to respond to customer demands in real time.

Technological Investment and Adoption

Despite current inflationary challenges in the market, three-fourths of respondents indicating they are increasing the TM IT investments for the next two years with ‘Top Performer’ companies being two and a half times more likely to increase investments 5+% compared to ‘Poorer Performer’ companies. The top focus areas for technological investment include visibility, order management, and, notably this year, fleet routing. The rise of fleet routing may highlight the growing importance of private and dedicated fleets in capturing capacity and optimizing operations. Performance management dropped out of the top 3 investment areas in this year’s survey.

Market Forces and Regulatory Impact

The survey also explored the impact of various market forces and regulations on the transportation industry. Fuel costs, environmental regulations, and carrier charges emerged as the top concerns. While fuel costs remain a perennial concern, the increasing focus on environmental regulations reflects the industry's shift towards sustainability and compliance with emerging reporting requirements. Driver shortage and carrier capacity dropped out of the top 3 impacts in this year’s survey.

The Role of Sustainability

Sustainability is becoming an integral part of strategic planning for many companies. Over 60% of respondents consider sustainability in their strategic decisions or factor it into their daily decisions. However, the survey also revealed that while sustainability is important, it is not a top priority for technological investment. The industry is moving towards more sustainable practices, driven by both regulatory pressures and consumer expectations.

Truckload (TL) Freight Visibility Gap

47% of respondents identified Truckload (TL) as the mode requiring the most improvement in real-time visibility. Truckload has been the top choice for this question since the survey began in 2017. Some reasons for this perception is the inherent complexity of TL networks. Adding to this, many Truckload carriers are being frequently added and removed within a network, so a company’s on-boarding efforts don't end. TL Visibility accuracy can also vary wildly among different providers, and companies must employ a continuous improvement process to ensure that visibility doesn’t deteriorate over time. See our blog post on this specific topic here.

Conclusion: Embracing Strategic Transportation Management

The benchmark survey underscores the importance of executives viewing transportation management as a competitive weapon. Companies that adopt this perspective are better positioned to navigate the complexities of the industry, invest in the right technologies, and achieve profitable growth. As the industry continues to evolve, staying ahead of the curve requires a proactive approach to technological investment and a commitment to continuous improvement.

Watch the Full Discussion

For a deeper dive into the survey findings and expert insights, we invite you to watch the full video recording of our discussion. Click the link below to access the video and gain a comprehensive understanding of the latest trends shaping transportation management in 2024.

Read the Survey


2024 Global Transportation Management Benchmark Report

Descartes conducts annual benchmark research among global transportation professionals. The 2024 study reveals key industry trends, leading transportation management strategies, and future IT investment outlooks.

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