By Jodie Teuton, Chairwoman, American Truck Dealers
Summer has turned to fall, and a new season signifies changes in our truck industry. Despite projections that we are entering a softening economy, the demand for truck technology is only increasing. Our industry is moving forward at lightning speed, and another autonomous truck has officially been tested on public roads.
In September, Americas Commercial Transportation (ACT) Research forecasted that the commercial vehicle market is slowing down and we will soon see a drop in build-rates for heavy-duty trucks and trailers. But that hasn’t stopped progress, and customers are ready for the next generation of trucks. In fact, Japanese manufacturer UD Trucks recently released a level 4 autonomous truck that simulated the transport of sugar beets on a stretch of public road in Japan. In June, Starsky Robotics tested a fully unmanned autonomous truck on a nine-mile stretch of public highway in Florida. And just over a week ago, Volvo unveiled its all-new Class 8 electric tractor at its customer center in Virginia. Production is set to begin next year.
Our industry’s landscape is evolving, but I want to emphasize that our core foundation remains. ATD is constantly examining how U.S. truck dealerships are changing and how our businesses will look in the future. I’d like to again reference ATD’s study, “The Commercial Truck Dealer Future Landscape,” and highlight how it projects our growth up to the year 2027. We are clearly seeing the advent of new power sources, but the change to the dealer model is not drastic; it won’t upend our ecosystem. The study also shows that truck dealers will continue to sell combustion engines well into the future! We have yet to see how new technology will impact customer demand and how new laws will affect our regulations.
No matter what new technologically advanced trucks come out, dealers will be ready to sell them. More than ever, truck dealers and their employees are adjusting to this changing landscape while meeting our customers’ needs. All dealers should prioritize best practices, including recruiting, hiring and retaining the best employees for our stores and emphasizing that in this business training never ends.
While the demand for truck technology rises, dealers must prepare for the next generation of trucks and educating our customers about them.
Teuton is vice president of Kenworth of Louisiana, a full-service dealership with locations in Baton Rouge, Houma, Lafayette, Lake Charles, Monroe, New Orleans and Shreveport; full-service Hino dealerships in Baton Rouge and Monroe; and Southland Truck Leasing at all dealership locations. ATD, a division of the National Automobile Dealers Association, represents more than 1,800 heavy- and medium-duty truck dealerships.