Last week, the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) the research arm of the American Trucking Associations (ATA), released its annual Top Industry Issues report. This report identifies the top ten critical issues facing the trucking industry in North America. The analysis also includes the major strategies for addressing each. This year’s report was based on 1500 survey responses from both drivers and carriers.
- Issue number 1 this year has been in the top three for 12 of the 14 years this survey has been conducted – Driver Shortage. Currently, the driver shortage nationwide stands at about 50,000, according to the ATA. From a driver perspective, this has been beneficial since carriers have been forced to increase pay, benefits, and bonuses during the past year. Capacity is tight, not because of lack of equipment but due to the shortage of drivers. Right now, the major strategy for dealing with the shortage seems to be the development of programs and legislation that would facilitate the entry of 18-20-year-old drivers into interstate commerce. Since 48 states allow drivers in this age bracket to drive in intrastate commerce, there are experienced drivers in this category.
- Hours of Service, a top three issue for the past 8 consecutive years, is once again high on the list. After years of discussion and litigation, there still are two major concerns. Current rules require a long-haul driver to spend 8 consecutive hours in the sleeper berth. Drivers would prefer to rest when they are tired and flex their schedules so they can drive during the less congested hours. Customer detention is also still a problem since many shippers and/or receivers do not move trucks in and out as quickly as they should.
- Driver Retention moved up the list this year, and it appears the industry is trending toward the highest annual turnover since 2013. Carriers continue to try to find the right mix of salary, benefits, sign on bonuses and time off for their drivers. The costs of recruitment and training have increased significantly.
- ELDs are still high on the list, but since they have been mandated for several months, concern is dwindling. Carriers however, are starting to assess how ELDs are affecting productivity and safety, and drivers still are a little suspicious of how the data will be used.
- Truck Parking. Now that ELDs are the law, drivers must park wherever they happen to be when their HOS are up. This is becoming a major issue and drivers ranked it as their second most important concern. ATRI suggests that truck parking facilities be expanded and identified for drivers.
- Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA). CSA has been with us since 2010, and continues to be problematic in many areas. The most viable solution seems to be working with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to ensure that the recommendations of the National Academy of Sciences review of CSA are implemented. This study, mandated by Congress, made some excellent suggestions on improving the evaluation of carrier safety performance.
- Driver Distraction. With the expanded use of smart phones and other personal or on-board technologies, driver distraction has become a major concern. (This problem of course, is not unique to truck drivers.) The solutions to this problem are education, enforcement, and harsher penalties for all – not just truckers. Every year, distracted driving is the cause of a significant number of crashes.
- -10. Infrastructure, Driver Health/Welfare, and the Economy round out the list. All of us are awaiting some action in Washington on the infrastructure crisis. Carriers are working to develop and encourage better exercise and eating decisions for drivers, as well as provide facilities where exercise equipment and healthy food are available. Finally, while the economy has been growing rapidly, recent governmental actions such as tariffs and possible trade wars are making everyone a little uncomfortable.
While both carriers and drivers have issues, their opinions do not always coincide. Carriers listed Driver Shortages, Driver Retention, and Hours of Service as their top three issues, and drivers listed Hours of Service, Truck Parking, and ELDs as their top three.