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After a tumultuous 2017, the New Year is shaping up to be an eventful and momentous year for Freight Transportation. These are a few of the trends to watch in 2018.

Trump Year 2 - the Sophomore Jinx and Crisis Management

America and the world have lived through year one of an American rookie politician and president. It was painful and disruptive with few solid accomplishments to point to. There is little consensus on the financial impact of the Tax Reform bill that was passed, Trump’s one big legislative achievement.

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We live in a remarkable era. When people look back at this era 15 or 20 years from now, many will say that this was a golden era for jobs. Most people interested in working have jobs. Employment in Canada and the United States is at almost record levels. Looking ahead to the future, this could change dramatically. If you examine many of the core sectors and jobs in our economy, they are being transformed by technology.

Many manufacturing jobs are being replaced by robots, automation and off-shoring to counties with a lower cost structure. Low-skilled, repetitive factory jobs can now be performed by machines. Similarly, as products are being manufactured, robots allow companies to pack more products into their warehouses, and to speed up picking, so that they can put more products into rapid fulfillment. As an example, Amazon expects to hire another 100,000 workers in the next eighteen months, many of them in their fulfillment centers.

Autonomous and semi-autonomous trucks may soon be able to take most of these goods to their destinations. Many of the almost 4 million truck driving jobs in our economy, specifically the long-haul trucking jobs, could become obsolete.

Ecommerce is having a profound impact on both wholesale and retail jobs. Consumers can now place an order online and have the products delivered directly from the manufacturer to their homes, by-passing a warehouse and/or retail store. In a recent blog (http://www.dantranscon.com/index.php/blog?view=entry&id=290 ), I highlighted the number of malls and stores being closed throughout North America. While some retail jobs may be replaced by warehousing positions, many will be lost.

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Donald Trump. Robotics. Omni-Channel Fulfillment. The New NAFTA. Freight Marketplaces. Autonomous Vehicles. The Internet of Things. Andrew Scheer. Brexit. Climate Change. Last-Mile Delivery. Legalized Marijuana. E-commerce. Emmanuel Macron. The Amazon Effect. Drones. Digital Freight Management. Uber. Clean Energy. This is just a partial list of the major forces shaping the world of Freight Transportation in 2017.

This year's Surface Transportation Summit (www.surfacetransportationsummit.com) will focus on the strategies and tactics that shippers and carriers can employ to address these forces. The event will take place at the International Centre in Toronto on October 11. This is a joint venture between Newcom Business Media and Dan Goodwill & Associates with the support of the Freight Management Association of Canada and the Canadian Trucking Alliance. Northbridge Insurance will be the Gold sponsor, with Navistar, Volvo Trucks and Isaac Instruments, the silver sponsors and Trailer Wizards, the bronze sponsor.

In a year when political and economic alliances, new technologies and environmental policies are changing rapidly, the Summit will provide strategies and tactics to address these forces.  Here is an overview of the agenda and speakers.

The first track is entitled, The Donald Trump Effect and The Economy in 2018: What trends will impact your business? Carlos Gomes, Senior Economist with Scotiabank, will share data on the Key Economic Indicators for 2017 and then provide his insights into the economy in the New Year. John Larkin, one of America’s foremost transportation industry analysts, will share his thoughts on the some of the most important developments in the US transportation industry. Walter Spracklin, Equity Transportation Analyst, RBC Capital Markets, will provide his insights on the Canadian transportation industry.  Sylvie Messier, Corporate Transportation & Customs Manager, IPEX and Doug Munro, President and Owner, Maritime-Ontario Freight Lines Limited will share their thoughts on this topic in a panel discussion.

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Over the past couple of weeks, I have had the privilege of sitting in on a discussion and reading some papers on the Future of Freight Transportation. I specifically would like to acknowledge the work of Steve Sashihara at Princeton Consultants and a recent Supply Chain Digest report that helped shape my ideas for this blog. While I previously had some sense of what was going on (i.e. ecommerce, Amazon) in this sector, I was surprised by the range and profound nature of the changes that are taking place. I would like to share some of the major changes with you.

Manufacturing in the Future

The big drivers of change are automation, digital technology, and robotics. Manufacturing is increasingly being performed by robots; automated systems are sorting the products and then loading them on trucks. Sensors are becoming ubiquitous and are now on products, pallets, SKUs, drivers, facilities, tractors and trailers. Conveyor systems move the right product to the right piece of trucking equipment at the right time. Loading software tells you how and where to load the product on the truck or trailer to maximize cube utilization and avoid load imbalances.

With the advent of 3D printing and artificial intelligence, companies can manufacture their products in the locations closest to their customers and/or distribution facilities. What this tells you is that the jobs of assemblers, sorters, fork lift drivers and loaders will increasingly be replaced by machines. While some manufacturing may come back to the United States or Canada, many of the traditional jobs will not.

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