What we can learn from trucking’s Top 10 concerns

Driver availability comprises six of the top eight issues – driver shortage (1), driver retention (2), driver compensation (3) (see a trend here?), truck parking (5), detention/delay (7), and infrastructure/congestion (8) – in this year’s list of the trucking industry’s Top 10 concerns. Addressing the latter three can help alleviate the first three.

The annual list, put out by the American Transportation Research Institute, can be downloaded here.

It contains proposed strategies for addressing each item and compares the Top 10 concerns of drivers to those of fleets.

So, what are the key takeaways from the List?

 

The driver shortage isn’t just about pay and youth

For the fifth year in a row, the driver shortage tops the list. For three years in a row, driver compensation, the logical bi-product of the shortage, is in the top three.

Let’s focus on the items that accentuate the driver shortage. Items that, if addressed, could provide some degree of relief: truck parking, detention/delay, and infrastructure/congestion.

Drivers hemorrhage hours due to these three conditions. Lost hours cause reductions of available productive trucking time as well as driver compensation.

Tackling these issues are a start toward addressing the driver shortage. I said, “a start.” But after years of these issues being perpetually present, let’s do something to remove them.

trucks parked at Onroute
Truck parking spots fill up quickly in the evening at the ONroute rest area on the east-bound side of Highway 401 in Cambridge, Ont. (Photo: Leo Barros)

 

Congestion

Infrastructure/congestion is the subject of the recently passed legislation. Traffic relief, like Christmas, is coming.

But hey, it’s something. After being on the Top Ten for eight of the last nine years, something is happening. Let’s hope this gets it off future lists…in our lifetime.

 

Truck parking

Truck parking is another matter. The $1-billion provision to address this safety and driver issue was dropped from the infrastructure bill. Seriously?

What does parking have to do with the driver shortage, retention, and compensation?

ATRI found that drivers lost an average of US$4,600/year due to early efforts to find parking despite having available hours; ATRI also found that drivers lost an average of 9,300 revenue earning miles/year due to the need to cut their runs short to look for parking; and truck parking was the number one issue among drivers.

So, address the issue and add 9,300 miles/year (shortage) and $4,600/year to drivers (compensation) and you have gone a long way to address the issue.

 

Detention

This is the ultimate wet blanket on productivity. Sitting. Burning available hours. That lost time only adds to the deficit of effective miles driven and exacerbates the shortage and increases demand-driven compensation.

How much time? A 2014 VaTech study found drivers were detained, on average, 3.4 hours at customer facilities. And it is getting worse. ATRI’s 2019 study found delays of two or more hours increased 11.2%, with a 27.4% increase in delays of six or more hours.

We have the technology to adopt means of reducing detentions. Electronic logging devices that our drivers are required to use to document their times and positions can be used as part of a remedy for detention. If ELD data is used to restrict our drivers, shouldn’t it be the basis of programs to restrict detention and delay?

Documentation of time and location by ELDs can be the foundation of contractual or regulatory penalties for excessive detention that is draining miles and drive time from our supply chain. Reporting technology should not be used only as a sword against drivers. Let’s use the data as a shield against detention.

 

What drivers think is important

Need drivers? Then take notice of what ATRI reports that drivers think is important to them?

Driver compensation (tie 1st), truck parking (tie 1st), and detention/delays (2) are at the top of their list. And, as discussed above, all three are interrelated.

ATRI has documented the costs to drivers of the parking shortage and detention/delay. Cure those and improve compensation.

Funding to address truck parking was dropped from the Infrastructure Bill. In doing so, Congress turned a deaf ear to the Number 5 issue in trucking and top issue to drivers. As noted above, parking is an economic issue, depriving drivers of hours and miles. It is a safety issue, forcing drivers to park on ramps.

No funding? Why?

The proposal was $1 billion. Big money, until you view it in relation to the Kazillion dollar price tag of the infrastructure bill.

Risk reduction is also among the Top 10 issues (lawsuit Reform at four; and insurance costs at nine).

From nuclear verdicts to staged accidents, from litigation funding to Judicial Hellholes, our industry is under attack. These issues beg for a multi-focused approach. We have had success in tort reform in various states. These efforts are the macro need to reduce the targeting of trucking. Look at what the medical profession has achieved.

On a micro level, companies need to harden themselves as potential targets. Proactively analyze potential vulnerabilities and prepare for effective response to potential accidents. Aggressively defend any claims, starting immediately after the accident.

ATRI provides invaluable insight into the issues that are important to our industry as a whole and drivers specifically. We need to focus on addressing these issues so they are no longer on future lists.

 

Doug Marcello is a transportation attorney who has earned his CDL. His law practices focuses upon serving the trucking industry. Based in Central Pennsylvania, he has represented trucking companies in cases throughout the US, having been specially admitted in 35 states. He is a frequent speaker at industry events and driver safety meetings. He has also written numerous articles concerning issues confronting the industry and has produced several DVDs relating to accident response and aggressive defense of claims.

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  • Governments and big companies have been turning a deaf ear relating to these problems and will likely keep doing just that as it helps them to control the markets and the people.