Navigating the Future of Transportation: Insights from Descartes’ 2023 Benchmark Survey

by Editorial Team

Unveiling the Strategic Importance of Transportation Management: A Comprehensive Analysis of Descartes’ 2023 Benchmark Survey

Transportation management is no longer a mere operational necessity but a strategic weapon for businesses. This article delves into Descartes’ 2023 Benchmark Survey, revealing the strategies, tactics, and technology-thinking of top-performing organizations in the realm of transportation.


Descartes, the global leader in providing on-demand, software-as-a-service solutions focused on improving the productivity, security, and sustainability of logistics-intensive businesses, has conducted an annual benchmark survey since 2017. The survey identifies the strategies, tactics, and technology-thinking of top-performing organizations in transportation management. The 2023 survey, titled “Transportation Management in Transition,” offers valuable insights into the current state and future trends of the industry.

The survey reveals a strong correlation between a company’s financial performance and the strategic importance senior management places on transportation. It shows that industry-leading financial performance is more prevalent among companies that view transportation management as a competitive weapon. Conversely, companies that view transportation management as not important tend to have poorer financial performance.

One of the key findings of the survey is the growing participation of the logistics community. Freight brokers are the top business type represented, accounting for 24% of respondents. Almost two-thirds of respondents (66%) work in the logistics community, with manufacturers leading the shipper group.

In terms of transportation modes, truckload usage dominates, with 89% of respondents using this mode and accounting for 56% of the volume. This represents a 9% increase in usage and a 4% increase in volume compared to 2022. Less than truckload (LTL) and ocean ranked second and third in both categories.

The survey also highlights the importance of technical enablers in launching metaverse use cases. These enablers include cloud computing, AI/ML, industrial data collection, and network. For instance, cloud computing enables the storage and processing of the large quantities of data inputs and outputs required to orchestrate metaverse use cases. AI/ML is indispensable for modeling digital twins and creating realistic environments and simulations and interpreting data/making predictions.

However, the deployment of metaverse use cases is not without risks. The primary concerns for metaverse use cases are cyber, information security, and data privacy, with over 60% of respondents citing these as primary risks. Cyber and information security risks are paramount across a range of digital use cases but are amplified by the drastic increase in data, that industrial and enterprise metaverse use cases will produce. Data privacy risks can prove especially complex, particularly as companies expand the scope and scale of use cases to reflect a more interwoven, data-driven virtual ecosystem, incorporating valuable, potentially sensitive, data assets.

Key Trends and Practices

The survey asked respondents several questions related to transportation management regarding the future significance of current market and business drivers, value measurement, where information is used, and concerns about competitive strategies.

Driver shortage (42%) and carrier capacity (40%) remain the overall market drivers, but are down ~8%. Fuel costs continued their rapid rise in importance, moving from #4 in 2022 (25%) to #3 overall in 2023 (40%). Fuel costs were the top response for Not Important respondents (56%)—almost 1.8X more important than for Competitive Weapon respondents (32%).

Technology Implications

The survey also asked participants about how they view the role of technology as well as their strategies and plans for adopting, investing in, and leveraging it to create value for their companies.

In 2023, the survey tied for the most early adopter responses (22%) in the 7-year history of the study. Competitive Weapon (32%) and Top Performers (31%) were 2X and 1.5X respectively more likely to be an early adopter versus Not Important (16%) and Poorer Performer respondents (21%). Not Important (21%) and Poorer Performer (17%) respondents were almost 3X more likely to be a laggard than Competitive Weapon (8%) and Top Performer (6%) respondents.

Takeaways:

  1. Transportation management is a strategic weapon for businesses, with a strong correlation between a company’s financial performance and the strategic importance senior management places on transportation.
  2. The logistics community is increasingly participating in transportation management, with freight brokers leading the way.
  3. Truckload usage dominates the transportation modes, with an increase in usage and volume compared to the previous year.
  4. Technical enablers, including cloud computing and AI/ML, are crucial in launching metaverse use cases.
  5. Cyber, information security, and data privacy are primary concerns for metaverse use cases, amplified by the drastic increase in data that these use cases will produce.

How is your organization addressing the driver shortage and carrier capacity issues? What strategies are you employing to manage fuel costs? How are you leveraging technology in your transportation management? We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences.

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