NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Everyone has issues they have to deal with, and the trucking industry has its fair share, with the much chagrined driver shortage coming in at the top of the list.
The American Transport Research Institute (ATRI) has compiled the Top 10 issues the trucking industry is currently facing, none of which would come as a shock, according to vice-president Dan Murray.
The driver shortage has been a hurdle the industry has been trying to clear for some time, with an aging driver demographic and few young professionals knocking down the industry’s door.
“We are really, really old,” said Murray during Omnitracs Outlook 2018, adding that trucking has the lowest percentage of young people getting into the workforce.
To help combat this issue, the ATRI has developed a “young driver assessment tool” that is used to test young drivers against more experienced professionals to identify who would be an ideal fit for a career behind the wheel.
Working with the University of Minnesota, the ATRI looked at historical data to test drivers to see if they have the necessary skills to be successful as a commercial truck driver.
The institute is also surveying older drivers and their younger counterparts to see if there are any disconnects in messaging which attempts to lure younger drivers into the industry.
Coming second is the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate in the U.S., an issue that spent plenty of time in the top spot prior to the legislation becoming law this past December.
Hours-of-service came in at number three, while truck parking, driver retention, compliance, safety, accountability (CSA), the economic impact of regulations, driver distraction, infrastructure/congestion/funding, and driver health and wellness rounded out the Top 10.
Safe, available space for drivers to park is not only a considerable problem in the U.S. and Canada, but is also having a financial impact on drivers and carriers.
Murray said the ATRI worked with a couple of hundred drivers to document their experience with parking areas, as well as determining how often drivers park illegally. Of those surveyed, 36% said they park illegally three to four times a week, and 25% said they do the deed one to two times on a weekly basis.
According to ATRI research, drivers lose $4,600 annually looking for a place to pull over and park, showing there is a vital need for more space.
Top industry concerns do differ between drivers and carriers. Drivers in the U.S. still feel the ELD mandate is the top issue they have to deal with, with parking coming in at number two followed by hours-of-service.
For carriers, the driver shortage is the top worry, the ELD mandate second, and driver retention third.
Another large detriment to profitability in the industry is congestion, accounting for the loss of $63.4 billion in 2015 and millions of hours of productivity.
Also, appearing at number 10 on the list of concerns for drivers is the idea that autonomous trucks will take over, resulting in major job losses.
Though he pointed out several benefits of autonomous trucks, Murray said they would not be replacing drivers any time soon for one simple reason.
“Technology is here today, but it’s not the technology that is going to slow this arena down,” he said, pointing to social acceptance as the culprit. “The idea that there’s no driver and someone’s in the back or the passenger’s seat is going to be a problem.”
Murray said he believes autonomous truck technology will help attract more millennials to the industry, and that railroads would be in “serious trouble” if autonomous trucks began hitting the road.
“Nobody has the delivery time and performance of the trucking industry.”