Sunday, March 18, 2018

Annual ATA report lists driver shortage as trucking's most pressing issue in 2017

Monday, October 23, 2017
by LYNDON FINNEY/The Trucker Staff

Truck drivers who responded to the American Transportation Research Institute’s survey on industry concerns listed truck parking as their second most pressing concern. Among the strategies to alleviate the problem is to support and encourage investment in new truck-parking facilities such as this parking area located on Interstate 40 near Little Rock, Arkansas. (The Trucker file photo)
Truck drivers who responded to the American Transportation Research Institute’s survey on industry concerns listed truck parking as their second most pressing concern. Among the strategies to alleviate the problem is to support and encourage investment in new truck-parking facilities such as this parking area located on Interstate 40 near Little Rock, Arkansas. (The Trucker file photo)

ORLANDO, Fla. — The driver shortage surged to the top of the American Transportation Research Institute’s 2017 critical industry issues report released Sunday at the American Trucking Associations Management Conference and Exhibition.

It was the first time since 2006 that the driver shortage wound up as the top issue.

ATRI opened the survey to all trucking stakeholders, with 1,557 responding from the United States, Mexico and Canada.

A majority of the respondents were motor carriers (50.4 percent), with commercial drivers making up 35.7 percent and other industry stakeholders accounting for 13.9 percent.

Motor carriers and drivers didn’t necessarily see eye to eye on the top issues. While motor carriers pointed to the driver shortage as the most critical issue, the issue was not among the drivers’ top 10 concerns. Electronic logging devices continued to be their top concern. ELDs were second among motor carriers

Another striking finding was the fact that truck parking was rated No. 2 by drivers, but only No. 9 by motor carriers.

Among all respondents, the ELD mandate was No. 2, Hours of Service No. 3.

In 2016, all respondents ranked the ELD mandate No. 1, driver shortage was No. 7.

Here are the 2017 top 10 industry concerns as ranked by all respondents:

  1. Driver shortage
  2. ELD mandate
  3. Hours of Service
  4. Truck parking
  5. Driver retention
  6. CSA
  7. Cumulative impacts of regulations
  8. Driver distraction
  9. Infrastructure/congestion funding
  10. Driver health/wellness

Hours of service, which was No. 2 in 2016 and No. 1 in both 2014 and 2015, remained high on the list despite the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s issuance of a final ruling earlier this year to permanently remove the more restrictive 34-hour restart provisions, including the requirement for two-consecutive 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. off-duty periods as well as the restriction that the restart could only be used once every 168 hours.

The HOS rules remained a top concern in the number three spot on the list as motor carriers and drivers look for increased flexibility in the rules.

The industry’s concern over the driver shortage was accentuated during the conference when ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello released the findings of his latest report into the driver shortage, warning the trucking industry could be short 50,000 drivers by the end of 2017, up from 2016’s shortage of 36,500 and even higher than 2015’s shortfall of 45,000.

In addition to ranking each industry issue, respondents were asked to rank strategies for overcoming each concern.

For the driver shortage, the top three strategies included:

  • Advocate for state and federal authorities to develop a graduated commercial driver license program to attract safe, younger drivers to the industry. Trucking stakeholders have long contended the fact that drivers cannot run interstate routes until age 21 causes many who might become truck drivers to go into other professions.
  • Partner with the U.S. Department of Labor to formalize a national truck driver recruitment program. Truck driving projected to be one of the occupations with the most job growth between 2014 and 2024. Further corroborating the industry’s significant recruiting needs is the estimated 890,000 truck drivers that will be needed over the next decade to maintain the existing workforce.
  • Work with the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Department of Defense to equalize and streamline licensing requirements between DOT and DOD. Some in the industry are looking to the U.S. DOT and DOD to create a simplified and consistent set of licensing requirements. Reducing the red tape and complexity of obtaining a CDL would serve to remove a potential barrier of entry for prospective truck drivers.

“Identifying the right mix of partners and strategies to effectively address the driver shortage is one of our top goals for the industry” ATA President and CEO Chris Spear said.

Top strategies for the ELD concern included:

  • Research and quantify industry impacts on safety and productivity from full deployment of ELDs. Selected by a majority (50.8 percent) of respondents again in 2017, the industry’s belief that research is needed to quantify the costs and benefits of ELDs indicates that significant uncertainty remains about the impacts of industrywide ELD deployment, ATRI said in releasing the report. While ELD costs vary, the fixed costs of an ELD can range from $170 to over $1,500 per unit. Research also predicts that implementation of the mandate will result in productivity losses of 3 to 5 percent.   Yet in its Regulatory Impact Analysis, FMCSA projects that the industry will save $2.44 billion in administrative costs. 
  • Assess the landscape of appropriate and inappropriate uses of newly available ELD data.
  • Ensure that the implementation window is not extended beyond December 2017.

Top strategies for the Hours of Service concern included:

  • Continue to push for increased flexibility in the current sleeper berth provision. The current rule specifies that drivers using the provision must take at least eight consecutive hours in the sleeper berth, plus a separate two hours either in the sleeper berth, off duty, or any combination of the two. Additional flexibility in the rule would allow drivers to rest when tired and would provide an opportunity for drivers to adjust their driving schedules to avoid some of the worst congestion chokepoints; the latter being the focus of one of ATRI’s top research priorities for 2017. An FMCSA pilot study to assess the benefits of allowing split-sleep in conjunction with a fatigue management program began in July 2017. 
  • Research and quantify the true safety and economic impacts of customer detention on truck drivers and trucking operations.
  • Analyze how highly automated technologies could affect the HOS rules and identify what research and data would be necessary to justify future rules changes.

Strategies for curbing top parking concerns included:

  • Support and encourage investment in new truck parking facilities. A large majority of survey respondents (64.9 percent) have continued to indicate that increasing truck parking capacity is their preferred strategy for addressing the pervasive shortage of truck parking. However, funding for truck stops and rest areas is usually one of the first items cut during periods of state budget shortfalls. Reopening shuttered parking facilities and investing in new facilities are the most direct strategies aimed at alleviating the chronic and growing shortage of truck parking.  New research is also exploring the potential for repurposing vacant urban and suburban land parcels for truck parking. 
  • Educate the public sector on the safety consequences resulting from closing public parking facilities and failing to expand truck parking availability.
  • Research the role and value of real-time truck parking information availability and truck parking reservation systems.


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