What Does 2021 Have in Store for the Trailer Industry?


2020 was a tumultuous year, leaving many in the commercial transportation industry with questions about the future. How will the industry grow and change? How will the pandemic continue to affect the industry and supply chain? How will the distribution of a major emergency vaccine change trucking and transportation? Despite the uncertainty, there are plenty of opportunities on the horizon. Here are seven of the top trucking and trailer trends to look for in the new year:

  1. Telematics technology improvements will continue to have a positive impact on the industry.
  2. The use of data and predictive maintenance strategies will expand.
  3. Reefer demand will grow.
  4. Demand for flatbed trailers will increase.
  5. Freight needs will continue to shift.
  6. Rising fuel prices and environmental regulations will force a change in approach.
  7. For infrastructure needs, help may be on the way.

1. Telematics Technology Improvements Will Continue to Have a Positive Impact on the Industry

Broader implementation of telematics solutions will improve efficiency across the board. As older systems are updated with new features, trailers equipped with “smart” technology will allow constant monitoring of freight and equipment in real-time.

Great Dane’s FleetPulse, the first telematics system developed by an OEM, links your entire fleet to the cloud to enable constant monitoring of your equipment. This connection allows you to optimize yard operations, delivery, and the safety of your customers’ cargo. It also helps you detect compliance issues as your equipment crosses states with varying regulations.

These technological advancements can improve the performance of your fleet by identifying fleet-wide patterns and trends, like average cargo weight or loaded vs. unloaded miles, to better serve your customers.

2. The Use of Data and Predictive Maintenance Strategies Will Expand

Telematics allows fleets to collect more trailer data and implement it in robust ways, identifying warnings from your tire inflation system or ABS fault codes before they sideline your equipment or create a dangerous and expensive roadside event.

This data gives you the insight to create a predictive maintenance strategy so you can schedule your equipment for a tune-up before an emerging problem requires emergency, and reactive, maintenance. This saves you repair costs, reduces downtime for your driver and equipment, and guards against potential damage to customer relations due to late shipments.

As carriers decommission 3G networks to clear bandwidth for 4G and 5G, it will be essential to transition to newer technology. Already, 3G devices are showing degradation of service. Transitioning to Great Dane’s 4G LTE telematics solution, FleetPulse, will ensure you can depend on your devices, maintain a reliable data stream, and keep up with the evolution of technology.

3. Reefer Demand Will Grow

2020 highlighted just how important trucking and trailers are to the supply chain, and as markets and lines of business shift, reefers will have to keep up. While some industries ground to a halt, the world relied on trucks for dependable transport of essential goods. Store shelves rely on refrigerated trailers for delivery of produce, meat, and frozen and refrigerated products.

In 2021, reefers will be used in greater numbers as goods production recovers from shutdowns and the economic downturn of 2020, which has hit the restaurant, travel and leisure, and hospitality industries especially hard. The world will continue to depend on reefers as these industries recover and as a solution to a new transportation need: refrigerated distribution and delivery of the COVID-19 vaccines.

4. Demand for Flatbed Trailers Will Increase

In recent years, rising housing demand and shrinking resources have driven up the cost of lumber. With it, the cost of lumber transportation and the volume of flatbeds on the road to deliver that lumber have also risen. In 2020, the housing and construction markets experienced uncertainty, as did every other area of the global economy. However, lumber prices actually spiked by 130% from April to September 2020, according to the National Association of Home Builders. This spike indicates the housing demand from years prior has continued, even through the economic uncertainty of 2020.

As housing demand remains strong, the nation financially recovers, and markets stabilize, construction demand is likely to remain high as well. With a high demand for construction comes a high demand for flatbed trailers.

5. Freight Needs Will Continue to Shift

As a result of the pandemic’s disruption, many trailers in 2020 were packed with essential goods instead of their standard freight. In addition to essential goods, fleets were tasked with managing the increased volume of shipping caused by online shopping’s explosion in popularity. Adaption to these new challenges was the standard for 2020, and as we look towards this next year, we are likely to see a balance back to the “new normal.”

As the economy improves and consumer spending increases, fleet utilization will have to rise to meet shipping demands, which makes it more important than ever to leverage telematics for enhanced efficiency in the supply chain.

Freight loads will increase as vendors make up for lost time, but it may take a considerable amount of time for the supply chain to stay consistent.

6. Rising Fuel Prices and Environmental Regulations Will Force a Change in Approach

Following California’s recent introduction of new legislation dedicated to eliminating reefer emissions and boosting electric truck sales, other states are not far behind. Throughout the industry, one of the most significant 2021 trailer trends will be an increased focus on environmental responsibility.

Smart trailer technology is leveraged to further reduce emissions, allowing operators to reroute trucks to avoid road obstructions and traffic jams, reducing traffic congestion and increasing the efficiency of drive time. Fewer avoidable delays allows for a reduced carbon footprint.

Additionally, design details like trailer skirts, nose and rear fairings, and aerodynamic mudflaps further improve fuel efficiency. The American Trucking Association (ATA) found that rear fairings alone can increase fuel efficiency by 5-15%, and a study by Exa Corporation revealed that vented mudflaps allow drag reduction and can provide nearly 3% fuel savings.

Great Dane reduces its carbon footprint by prioritizing thermal and fuel efficiency. The patented ThermoGuard liner addresses insulation outgassing in its reefers, increasing the lifespan of the equipment and reducing fuel costs.

Great Dane’s Johnson AE Series is another innovation. This truck body has an all-electric refrigeration system, utilizing battery-powered cold plate technology to maintain cargo temperature without burning diesel.

7. For Infrastructure Needs, Help May Be on the Way

Much of the 4 million miles of road in the U.S. are in disrepair. In 2017, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the nation’s bridges a C+ and roads a D. This translates to congestion and unnecessary wear on vehicles and equipment.

While it remains uncertain how the new presidential administration will impact infrastructure, it is an issue that has recently seen competing plans from both sides of the political aisle. Only time will tell if infrastructure improvements are imminent, and what the particulars may be, but it is a topic that is likely to see some federal attention in 2021.

This is another area in which demand for flatbed trailers will increase, as flatbeds will be used to transport heavy building materials to and from construction sites.

Looking Ahead

No one could have predicted all that 2020 had in store, and a full recovery will take much longer than a year. While the outlook for 2021 is positive, it’s important to remember that we have a long way to go before returning to pre-pandemic normal. One of the most important takeaways from the last year is just how important the trucking industry is for keeping America moving. We are thankful for your commitment and are excited to see what’s ahead.

No matter what lies ahead, Great Dane is at the forefront of the updates you need.

Subscribe to the Blog