New research from ATRI identifies e-commerce impacts on the trucking industry

3 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineFebruary 12, 2019

The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) has released an analysis of the impacts that emerging e-commerce trends are having on the trucking industry, including the challenges and opportunities that more regionalised retail supply chains and the proliferation of urban ‘last mile‘ deliveries have presented. ATRI‘s research advisory committee identified this as a top research priority.

The analysis provides background on emerging e-commerce and omni-channel retailing trends, and maps the implications of these trends to trucking operations and the industry‘s top 10 issues. Key findings in ATRI‘s report include:

  • From 1999-2017, e-commerce sales increased from less than one percent of total US retail sales to more than nine percent, reflecting a 3000 percent increase in e-commerce sales.

  • Annual growth of e-commerce has ranged between 13 and 16 percent over the past five years, outpacing the one to five percent annual growth in traditional retail sales.

  • Retailers are becoming more flexible in how they transact with consumers by decentralising their distribution/fulfilment networks to bring inventory closer to consumers.

  • There were 2130 fewer department stores and 385,000 fewer jobs at these stores in 2017 compared with 2015; there were 1937 more courier services operating and just over 85,000 new employees hired in the sector during this time period.

‘Last Mile Fulfilment Centres‘ represented 73 percent of the industrial real estate market in 2017, a 15 percentage point increase from the previous year.

Registrations for single-unit trucks increased by 7.8 percent between 2007 and 2016 compared with 4.4 percent growth in combination truck registrations.

The number of intra-regional and last-mile truck trips has increased while the average length of haul has declined. Average trip lengths have decreased 37 percent since 2000, while urban vehicle miles travelled have increased for much of this time period.

Intrastate and local hauls for e-commerce could serve as a training opportunity for 18 to 20-year-old drivers, representing a huge new pool of potential interstate CDL drivers.

“ATRI‘s research provides a critical roadmap for trucking industry stakeholders to address the challenges and benefits of e-commerce and omni-channel retailing,” said Tom Benusa, CIO of Transport America. “These trends are game-changing, and our industry must adapt quickly to ensure that trucking continues to be the preeminent freight mode.”

A copy of this report is available here: