The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) recently revealed its annual Top Industry Issues report. This report included the list of the top 10 critical issues for the North American trucking industry. The annual survey, which gathered responses from both carriers and drivers, featured several returning issues as well as a few new ones.
Not surprisingly, the industry’s on-going driver shortage topped the list for the third year. It’s been estimated that the industry is short about 61,000 drivers. However, there are a number of solutions in the works right now. There are currently discussions to recruit younger drivers and abolish the age restrictions for interstate drivers, programs to attract foreign workers, and an industry-wide effort to attract more women to the industry.
Hours of Service
This is the second year in a row that hours of service rules have come in at number two. The industry has been calling for additional flexibility, and now it appears that they will get it. The FMCSA recently publish proposed changes to HoS regulations, which addressed many of the industry’s top concerns.
Driver compensation is a complex issue that impacts both drivers and carriers. This is the first time that this issue has had the ATRI’s annual list. Trucking companies have had to increase pay rates over the past few years in response to the driver shortage, while drivers feel that their pay does not keep pace with inflation. While pay rates have gone up, a driver’s actual pay might not have increased much as e-commerce is lowering the average length of haul.
Driver detention is another new issue appearing on the ATRI’s list for the first time, but it reflects a growing concern in the industry. Driver delays of two or more hours have gone up by 11.2% and delays of six hours or more are up by 27.4% over the past four years. Increased detention times not only cost carriers money but also put drivers at risk of violating HoS regulations.
The lack of truck parking came in at number five overall but ranked at number three among commercial drivers. This issue has been consistently on the list since 2012. The new ELD mandate and strict HoS regulations mean that drivers are forced to pull over and park or risk being penalized. This has raised a safety concern in the industry, but will hopefully be addressed by the proposed changes to the Hours of Service regulation.
Driver retention continues to be a concern for carriers, but turnover rates have dropped in recent years. Driver turnover rates reached an all-time high at 136% in 2005, but are now below 90%. Even with retention increasing, the issue is still costing the industry millions.
The ELD Mandate was the top concern in 2016, just before it went into effect, but in recent years it has been dropping. The majority of U.S. trucking companies are now compliant, and the deadline for those who were grandfathered in with AOBRD is quickly approaching. The ELD mandate will continue to be on the industry's mind though as Canada recently announced its own mandate. There are a few key differences between the two, and all cross-border freight trucks will be required to be compliant with both.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s CSA program (Compliance, Safety, Accountability) made waves when it first came into effect in 2010. The CSA program collects safety data from carriers and organizes it into seven Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASIC). The industry has accepted the programs permanence, but there are still a few reforms that many would like to see.
Infrastructure and Congestion
This issue has been at the top of the ATRI’s list ever since it began 15 years ago, and will most likely always been a concern for the trucking industry. Congestion is a growing problem in North America, is it’s been estimated that 1.2 billion hours are wasted each year as a result of it.
The overall economy is a concern for every industry. The trucking industry has been keeping a close eye on it as of late. A slowing global economy, whispers of another recession, and possible trade wars are all influencing the industry. A number of trucking companies have shuttered this year, but the industry as a whole continues to remain strong.
It’s a smart idea for all trucking carriers and drivers to keep a close eye on the industry’s top concerns. While there have been some struggles in trucking, it is nothing that we can’t overcome.
“While 2018 was an incredible year for trucking, we’ve seen some challenges in 2019 and certainly finding and retaining qualified drivers remains at the top of the list for our industry, said Barry Pottle, ATA Chairman and president and CEO of Pottle’s Transportation.“ ATRI’s analysis reveals the interconnectedness of these top issues and provides a roadmap for how motor carriers and professional drivers believe we should move forward as an industry.”