When was the last time you purchased something online? The phenomenon of online shopping has become something of a juggernaut in recent years, affecting various industries, notably shipping and logistics. Put simply, ecommerce is defined as the buying and selling of goods via digital channels, using the internet and a smartphone or tablet.

Even before Covid helped propel socially distanced online shopping into overdrive, ecommerce was rising in popularity, at a rapid pace. Data from Oberlo indicates that about 27% of the global population shopped online in 2021, some 2.14 billion people. That number represents a significant increase from the estimated 1.32 billion online shoppers in 2014 and is expected to continue its upward climb.

It’s important to note that few online shoppers only order one item, and many people make an online purchase every day. All of those packages have to get from point A to point B somehow, and that’s where the trucking industry fits into the big picture. In our modern digital world fueled by technological advancement, trucking and ecommerce effectively go hand in hand. As such, the trucking industry is adapting various forms of technology to keep up with ecommerce trends.

The rise of ecommerce has brought about various challenges (and solutions) as far as shipping, fulfillment, and supply chain operations are concerned. Here’s what you need to know about how ecommerce trends in fulfillment and demand are impacting the trucking industry.

The Trucking Industry, Logistics, and Ecommerce

To say that the trucking industry is massive is somewhat of an understatement: According to Statista, trucking is “responsible for most of the overland freight movement” in the U.S. And as of 2019, the trucking industry brought in $791.7 billion in revenue, while employing some 947,000 drivers.

Generally speaking, the trucking industry can be divided into three distinct sectors, including couriers. In the final journey of the supply chain, couriers such as FedEx, UPS, and the USPS experienced an increased demand in the early days of the Covid pandemic, and it hasn’t slowed down since. During the second quarter of 2021, the UPS alone delivered more than 21 million packages every day, at both the business-to-customer and business-to-business levels.

If delivery, whether via courier or another form of online order fulfillment, is the last step in the journey, logistics serves as the backbone of ecommerce. You may not realize it, but ecommerce shipping and fulfillment require a seemingly infinite number of steps to keep everything running smoothly. For starters, even before a customer places an order, products must be available for purchase and stocked in a warehouse or similar fulfillment facility.

Streamlining the order fulfillment process also involves company transparency and a user-friendly platform for placing orders. Freight trucks are involved throughout the processes, allowing warehouses to remain well-stocked and customer orders fulfilled efficiently. Depending on a company’s size, they may elect to use their own trucks for product shipping, or third-party fulfillment services like trucking companies.

Trends in Trucking Technology

To stay on top of ecommerce trends and the continued popularity of online shopping, trucking companies have had to adapt, using new forms of technology. Autonomous vehicles and artificial intelligence (AI) are among the innovative tech that’s shaping the trucking industry for years to come.

Across nearly every level of shipping and logistics, AI has become a key component in daily operations. In distribution center back offices and on the road, AI can help increase efficiency and productivity while reducing errors, saving time and money in the long run. The technology is also able to adapt to changing shipping conditions, analyzing data patterns and making changes where necessary.

AI technology has also changed the way we travel, and the routes we take. Essential for navigation in our bustling modern world, GPS systems run on AI, and they are more advanced than ever. Far from a simple navigational tool, modern GPS systems can detect accidents and road hazards, and provide lane-keeping assistance. Fleet companies can also monitor driver performance and speed via AI, as well as log information about driving hours, fuel consumption, and more.

Looking to the Future of Trucking

AI is also making our roads safer, for truckers and everyday commuters alike, and even government officials are harnessing the new technologies in the name of roadway safety. The U.S. Department of Transportation, for instance, claims that advancements in trucking technology may help to “prevent crashes and save lives.” The agency is committed to reducing the number of roadway accidents involving commercial motor vehicles and encouraging safe driving behaviors.

From safety protocols to improved navigation, the trucking industry continues to be shaped by ecommerce fulfillment trends. Technological advancements in navigation, order fulfillment, and vehicle monitoring are helping streamline the shipping process at every level, allowing for increased revenues and improved delivery times. As long as ecommerce continues to be part of daily life, the trucking industry will adapt and evolve alongside it.

Indiana Lee, contributing writer