With 2022 in the rearview, it’s a new year with a fresh outlook. And in the world of commercial transportation, anything can happen. Here are Motive’s top predictions for 2023.

1. Workers for new construction projects will be hard to find

When President Biden signed the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill into law in November 2021, people across the supply chain exhaled at the prospect of all that new work. This year, a less rosy picture is developing as a shortage of craft workers and commercial transportation drivers threatens to derail new building projects before they even begin. The infrastructure bill calls for repairs to be made to 65,000 miles of road and 1,500 bridges. The only question now is, who will make them? 

2. Demand for electric vehicles will surge

As charging infrastructure for electric vehicles (EVs) grows, demand for EVs is accelerating too. From construction to last-mile delivery, people want in on the EV action. In 2023, commercial EVs will be more accessible than ever. 

In construction, electrification of mini-excavators and other urban machines is leading the way as cities strive to reduce emissions and noise. In last-mile delivery, expect Walmart to deliver groceries through an all-electric fleet this year, especially after purchasing up to 10,000 EVs from Canoo last year. 

Among Class 8 vehicles, expect an abundance of battery-electric and electric fuel cell options, along with more charging access. Last year, Navistar launched Michigan’s first public EV charging station off I-94, one of the largest freight arteries in the Midwest. The station is optimized for charging large commercial vehicles, including Class 8 electric trucks. 

3. We’ll see the impact of AB 5 enforcement

Known formally as “California Assembly Bill 5” and casually as “the gig worker law,” AB 5 originally was intended to ensure that gig workers were treated fairly by Uber and Lyft. While Lyft and Uber evaded the impacts of this controversial independent contractor rule, the California trucking industry, somehow, did not. 

California trucking fleets that rely on the driving services of independent contractors must now make their owner-operators employees or risk being sued and fined for misclassifying workers. With as many as 70,000 independent owner-operators throughout California, this is no small issue — and one that ignores the fact that owner-operators actually like working for themselves. All eyes will be on the California trucking industry as we begin to see how strictly the AB 5 rule is enforced, and how costly non-compliance proves to be.

4. Faced with a labor shortage, fleets will turn to AI for help

In 2022, artificial intelligence (AI) made headlines for its artistry. In 2023, the buzz will focus on AI’s ability to improve safety and productivity. According to the article “Top 5 Edge AI Trends to Watch in 2023, “more companies are looking to use AI to add proactive and flexible safety measures to industrial environments.” 

That’s certainly true in commercial transportation, where fleets are turning to AI dash cams to identify and stop unsafe driving behaviors before an accident occurs. AI-based tools improve safety as much as they increase retention, relying on automated coaching to develop and retain valued team members. That’s the magic of AI. And with the lack of talent on the market, fleets need all the magic they can get.

5. Challenges will arise with Canadian ELD mandate enforcement

U.S. trucking fleets have had to comply with the ELD mandate since December 2017, but their colleagues across the Canadian border are getting their first taste of the ELD mandate right now. ELD enforcement in Canada went into effect January 1, impacting Canadian fleets as well as U.S. fleets that operate in Canada. Though businesses have been preparing for the Canadian ELD mandate for much of the last year, the newly enforced rules will make for a bumpy ride. 

Transport Canada is moving quickly to ensure that security protocols and encryption standards are in place for enforcement officers and commercial transportation fleets to take advantage of. But encryption standards aren’t implemented everywhere. That means some emails may not be able to be sent and read properly, and law enforcement may not be able to read logs roadside. Other challenges are sure to crop up as well. Take a deep breath, we’ll all get through it. 

Still unprepared for the rollout? Watch Motive’s webinar on the Canadian ELD mandate to get up to speed quickly.

6. Autonomous vehicles will advance, but at a moderate pace

Every year seems like “this will be the year” that autonomous vehicles (AVs) will make a splash. Yet the years come and go with more of a ripple from AVs than a splash. That’s why, even with all the meaningful advancements being made in AVs, we don’t expect rapid gains in autonomous vehicle technology this year. 

As Freightwaves reports, “FMCSA has a long-awaited proposed rule on automated driving systems (ADS) penciled on its calendar for January, but industry insiders believe this date will pass without a Federal Register notice.” One DOT official explained, “It’s a major rulemaking, and the agency tends not to come out with major rulemakings at the beginning of the year — especially with a new Congress being seated and the party change [in the House].” In other words, AVs still look like an innovation of the future.

7. Speed limiters will attract much attention and little resolution 

Last spring, when the FMCSA issued a notice of intent to mandate speed limits on commercial transportation trucks in 2023, the notice generated more than 15,000 concerned responses from independent owner-operators and small fleets. As the year progressed, concerns didn’t exactly subside. By the time the American Transportation Research Institute released its Top Industry Issues Report for 2022, speed limiters ranked in the top 10 for the first time. 

Owner-operators and small fleets argue that the safety benefits and stressful impacts of such a mandate are questionable, while large fleets and safety groups advocate for a 70 mph speed limit. Expect the FMCSA to release its speed limiter proposal this summer, letting it play out slowly in the lead-up to the 2024 election. 

2022 commercial transportation in review 

Want more? Watch Motive’s year-in-review webinar or read Motive’s 2022 year-in-review blog post.