ARLINGTON, Va. – The shortage of drivers remains the most pressing issue affecting the trucking industry, the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) said Tuesday.
Driver compensation and retention, parking and soaring insurance premiums are among the other key issues cited by ATRI’s 16th Top Industry Issues report.
“For the fourth year in a row, the driver shortage was the top industry issue overall, as well as topping the motor carrier list of concerns, highlighting the challenges fleets face in recruiting new talent and keeping their current drivers,” ATRI said.
“In fact, driver retention was carriers’ No. 2 issue, and sixth on the combined list.”
The report was discussed Tuesday afternoon by a panel of experts at the American Trucking Associations’ Management Conference and Exhibition.
“It is a very complex issue. We have had this for a number of years,” said Bob Costello, chief economist at ATA.
“What is interesting is the driver shortage went away in April and May, and now it is back as bad as ever. It is not going to go away anytime soon.”
Eric Fuller, president and CEO of U.S. Xpress, said more than 40,000 drivers have left the market in the past six months alone due to various reasons.
“That is a big deficit that I don’t know can be filled in a short period of time,” Fuller said.
Driver compensation was the No. 2 issue on the Top 10 list.
“The first time driver compensation showed up as an issue was on last year’s survey, when it came in at No. 3,” said moderator Rebecca Brewster, president and COO of ATRI.
“Here’s just a little interesting factoid: the very first Top Industry Issues survey we did in 2005, driver shortage was the No. 2 issue that year, but the No. 1 strategy for dealing with driver shortage was listed as increased driver pay,” she said.
Danny Smith, America’s Road Team Captain and a driver with Big G Express, said there are multiple things that could affect compensation. They include detention, hours of service and retention.
The panelists agreed that the drivers deserve better compensation.
“I have yet to find a fleet that said drivers don’t deserve (better pay), In fact, they deserve a lot more,” said Costello.
“But in an industry running on such thin margins, how do you pay that? Costello asked.
Fuller said the driver’s situation is very difficult, and it is hard to find drivers in this environment.
“So, I think pay has to go up.”
The report named the economy as the No. 8 issue, up two spots from last year, drawing Costello’s attention.
“Think about it! There we are, in a global pandemic. We just saw the steepest yet shortest recession in history. And, it is only at No. 8,” he said.
“I think that just speaks volumes for where we are as an industry in the economic cycle right now,” Costello said.
Here are the Top 10 issues identified by ATRI:
- Driver shortage
- Driver compensation
- Truck parking
- Compliance, safety and accountability
- Insurance availability and cost
- Driver retention
- Tort reform
- The economy
- Driver detention
- Hours of service
More than 1,000 truck drivers responded to the survey. Parking, compensation and detention were their top concerns.
In all, ATRI received responses from 3,122 truck drivers, motor carriers and other industry stakeholders – an all-time record for the 16-year-old survey, the organization said.
“Having such a robust sample gives us a very accurate picture of what issues are of most concern to the trucking industry,” said ATRI’s Brewster.
“With this information, the industry can best target its resources to address trucking’s concerns.”
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