April 4, 2024

Truckload 2024 Small Carriers vs Large Carriers Panel - Comparing Market Challenges, Opportunities, and Technology

Last week, the Channel19 team attended and exhibited at the TCA TruckLoad 2024 convention in Nashville, Tennessee. This event is essential for carriers of all sizes across North America, from dry vans to flatbeds and refrigerated trucks. The Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) has been dedicated to the truckload sector since its inception in 1938. During the event, we had the opportunity to attend two significant panels: the Large Carrier Panel and the Small Carrier Panel. Both panels shed light on the current landscape of trucking entrepreneurship, market challenges, opportunities, and technology's pivotal role in shaping the trucking industry's future.

About the Panels:

The Large Carrier Panel featured CEOs from leading trucking companies, including Schneider National, Mullen Group, KLLM Transport, and Covenant Logistics Group. They discussed the strategies and challenges of operating at a large scale. The Small Carrier Panel, on the other hand, presented a slightly different perspective. It showcased the experiences and tactics of nimble operators with fleets ranging from 20 to 50+ trucks, including insights from Gallano Trucking, TransPro Freight Systems, Double Diamond Transport, and Diamond Transportation. 

Navigating the Longest Freight Recession in Recent History

At the TCA TruckLoad 2024 convention, the prevailing mood was influenced by the ongoing freight recession, which has been named the longest in history. The downturn's impact was a universal theme that echoed across large and small carrier panels.

Murray Mullen, the CEO of Mullen Group, captured the sentiment well by noting how the current economic environment “has been a humbling experience for all”. The unexpected turn of events in 2022 and 2023 left many questioning the future, with no clear end to the downturn.

Jim Richards of KLLM Transport, specialising in refrigerated freight that typically weathers economic storms better than most, described this period as the most challenging in the company's three-decade history, with operational costs increasing by double digits. 

Despite the collective uncertainty about when the market might rebound, there was a shared optimism that we might see the light at the end of the tunnel, suggesting that we are closer to the end than the beginning, but no bets were made on when the end might be.

The advice to carriers, big and small, was clear: focus on what can be controlled today to prepare for a brighter tomorrow. For Adam Blanchard of Double Diamond Transport, smaller carriers should seek cost-saving early on in their foundation, such as securing fuel and tire discounts through peer networks and looking at technology and outsourcing to reduce labor costs. 

Mark Rourke, CEO of Schneider National, pointed to the digitization of information as a crucial tool. By leveraging technology, companies can adapt more swiftly to market changes, potentially leading to a quicker and more pronounced recovery thanks to a collective, deeper understanding of market dynamics. While fraught with challenges, this period presents a unique opportunity to reset, rethink, and retool for the future.

Prioritizing Safety Through Technology

For both sessions, safety was a central theme emphasized by both small and large carriers. Initially hesitant about the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) mandate, small carriers like Adam Blanchard from Double Diamond Transport have since recognized the technology's benefits. He admitted, "Before, we were at a disadvantage to large companies...now we see it as a positive." 

This shift towards embracing safety technology has leveled the playing field between small and large operations. Dave Gallano of Gallano Trucking, an early technology adopter, integrated ELDs into his fleet before it became required. His forward-thinking approach extends to using inward and outward-facing cameras despite initial resistance from drivers. Gallano maintains that the safety improvements these technologies bring, such as enhanced visibility, reduced blind spots, and minimized driver fatigue, far outweigh the initial cost and effort of implementation. He sums up his philosophy with,

"Sometimes you can't see the ROI, but you know it's the right thing to do." 

Larger carriers share this sentiment. Mark Mullen highlighted how cameras improve safety and prevent costs that far exceed the initial investment in technology. Jim Richards of KLLM Transport Services champions the comprehensive adoption of safety technology, underscoring its value beyond mere compliance or litigation advantages.

"It's a fantastic safety tool from a coaching perspective," he said, pointing out the transformative impact of using camera technology to enhance driver training and road safety.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence (AI) was a common thread in discussions at the TCA TruckLoad 2024 convention, capturing the interest of both small and large carrier panels. In an industry that thrives on efficiency and innovation, AI stands out as a potentially transformative force and could offer new ways to streamline data and enhance fleet efficiency.

Murray Mullen of the Mullen Group shared his perspective on the pivotal role AI could play in improving data transfer between systems, drivers, and clients. He remarked, "Data transfer will be a game-changer," emphasizing AI's potential to refine the flow of millions of pieces of information in real-time, a task human capabilities alone cannot match.

This enthusiasm for AI as a tool to enhance operational efficiency and reduce costs was a sentiment echoed across the panel.

Panelists discussed AI's evolution from robotic process automation (RPA) to more sophisticated applications that drive significant efficiencies within repetitive processes. AI offers a promising return on investment through its ability to optimize day-to-day operations, urging industry players to explore its potential.

However, small carriers expressed a more cautious optimism. They acknowledged the benefits of AI but preferred to let larger carriers lead the way in adopting cutting-edge technology. The key, they advised, is to identify and demonstrate a tangible return on investment before taking the plunge. Adam from the small carrier panel highlighted the importance of technology that doesn't just add to the bottom line by increasing revenue but also by reducing costs, including potential impacts on labor.

The discussion underscored the importance of managing change effectively as the industry moves towards broader AI adoption. Getting buy-in from key stakeholders by clearly communicating new technologies' what, why, and how is crucial to overcoming resistance and ensuring successful implementation.

The consensus on AI was optimistic yet pragmatic, with an eye toward practical benefits and a keen awareness of integration challenges. As AI technology evolves and success stories emerge, interest and investment in AI are expected to grow, marking a new era of efficiency and innovation in the trucking industry.


Throughout the convention, the trucking industry discussed the challenges and opportunities of rapid technological evolution. The consensus was that innovation is critical to navigating these changes successfully. From safety to the potential of AI, it's clear that trucking's future depends on adopting technologies that address immediate challenges and pave the way for a more efficient, safe, and sustainable industry.

Our AI-powered exception management software for fleets is designed to help tackle these challenges. By integrating AI to predict and mitigate delays, reduce fuel consumption, and optimize fleet utilization, our solution is poised to address the concerns raised at the convention. 

Embracing technology is about keeping up with the present and securing a competitive edge for the future. 

Our AI-powered software offers carriers a tangible way to leap forward, turning today's industry insights and aspirations into tomorrow's operational realities. We aim to empower carriers with the tools they need to thrive in an ever-evolving landscape.

Stay informed and inspired

with our latest insights.

Recent News
April 9, 2024

Watch: Reducing Delays and Increasing On Time Deliveries with Intelligent Prediction with Channel19 CEO, Tony Singh at MATS 2024.

April 4, 2024

Truckload 2024 Small Carriers vs Large Carriers Panel - Comparing Market Challenges, Opportunities, and Technology