The Big List of Trucking Industry Concerns

ORLANDO, FL. — The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) released its top ten list of trucking industry concerns this week.

The 2013 survey, which was commissioned by the American Trucking Associations (ATA), had a 41 percent increase in responses compared to 2012: A total of 1,327 respondents, from both the U.S. and Canada, completed the survey.

The report compares the results of previous years’ surveys, creating a predictive indicator of emerging priorities in the trucking industry, ATRI noted.

So what’s keeping you up at night?

Hours of service

Federal rules governing commercial driver Hours-of-Service (HOS) claimed the top position in 2013 after ranking second in 2012 and 2011, with a majority of survey respondents (58%) listing this as their first, second or third most important issue.

The new rules limit use of the 34-hour restart and require a minimum 30-minute break before driving after 8 hours on-duty. Many in the industry believe that these new HOS rules will have a negative impact on productivity.

There are also concerns that the safety benefits that FMCSA expects these changes to generate will not materialize: A study by ATRI on the changes to the 34-hour restart provision projected that the restart changes alone would cost the industry $189 million dollars, as opposed to the $133 million benefit projected by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).


No surprise here, but down one from last year. According to ATRI, the gap in concern between HOS and CSA is quite large.

Still, CSA is a significant concern ATRI said, and is ranked first, second or third by 42 percent of respondents.

First implemented nationally by FMCSA in late 2010, industry groups have since picked out a number of challenges within CSA. “Two of the most significant areas of concern surrounding CSA are the lack of crash accountability in CSA scoring and the inability of CSA scores to accurately predict carrier safety performance. Research by ATRI released in 2012 found that only three out of five publicly available Behavior Analysis Safety Improvement Category (BASIC) scores were positively correlated with crash rates.”

Driver Shortage

ATRI said that at the height of the last period of economic expansion, the driver shortage ranked highly among the top industry issues (first place in 2006 and second place in 2005 and 2007).

“Once the recession began to intensify in 2008, the driver shortage dropped in importance and did not make the top ten list in 2009. However, when the Driver Shortage issue returned in 2010, it climbed quickly in significance.

ATRI also noted the diveregence in opinion of the subject: Among motor carrier executive respondents, the driver shortage was the top issue of concern, among commercial driver respondents, the issue didn’t even rank.

“Regardless of the disconnect in perceptions, the driver shortage is a major concern for many in the industry. ATA estimates the driver shortage at between 20,000 and 25,000 drivers. Over a quarter (26%) of respondents feel strongly enough about the driver shortage to rank it first, second or third.


The economy finally dropped to third after taking the top spot for three years straight (2009-2011), and is now in fourth place on the 2013 top ten list.

“The economic recovery, even with the more recent slowdown, has reduced this issue’s significance relative to more pressing concerns,” ATRI said.

ATA’s Chief Economist has been calling for economic growth to continue, but at a moderate pace (2.5 percent growth in GDP forecasted for 2014).

“Congressional inaction over increasing debt levels, funding the government and raising the debt ceiling would likely have negative impacts on growth forecasts,” added ATRI.

Electronic Logging Device Mandate

At number five, the Electronic Logging Device Mandate (ELD) mandate is the highest rank of any issue related to onboard truck technology in the nine-year history of the survey.

“In 2011, FMCSA was forced to vacate a proposed ELD rule due to a court decision regarding concerns over driver harassment. FMCSA is expected to release a supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking (SNPRM) in the next several months that will address ELD performance standards, requirements for the use of ELDs, requirements related to HOS supporting documents, and assurances that ELD mandates will not result in driver harassment,” ATRI explained.

The nature of the proposed rule will determine where this ranks on the list next year, ATRI said.

Truck Parking

Truck Parking made its debut in 2012 and has climbed two spots to the sixth position in 2013. The reason?

The new HOS requirement for drivers to take a 30-minute break before continuing to drive after 8 hours on-duty went into effect, plus the 34-hour restart, demand for truck parking has increased.

Now add in a growing economy.

“A lack of truck parking can sometimes force a driver to choose between driving beyond available HOS to find safe parking, or parking in an undesignated, unsafe and/or illegal location.”

Driver Retention

“There is increased competition among motor carriers for qualified drivers due in large part to the increased scrutiny of drivers and carriers under CSA,” the reports authors noted.

Many drivers have also left the industry for oil and construction positions.

“During the 2nd quarter of 2013, ATA’s annualized driver turnover was 99 percent among large truckload fleets, indicating very high levels of turnover. The issue of Driver Retention goes beyond driver pay, and touches on issues surrounding driver quality of life, demographics and workplace environment.”

Fuel Supply and Fuel Prices

This is the lowest ranking for Fuel Supply/Fuel Prices since the survey began in 2005.

“Unfortunately for the trucking industry, the lower ranking appears to have more to do with less price volatility than lower prices: the 2012 average weekly diesel prices were the highest in the history of the survey and have remained high through 2013

A previous ATRI study released this year found that “fuel and oil was the single highest motor carrier cost center, even more costly than driver wages and benefits combined.”


Issues involving transportation infrastructure or funding have been in the top ten list since the inception of the survey.

“While a new two-year highway authorization bill was passed in July 2012, several high-profile infrastructure failures have brought the issue of infrastructure quality into the national consciousness. The latest highway authorization bill, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21), expires in September 2014, which means that the debate over how to adequately fund transportation infrastructure will be a major topic over the next 12 months.”

Driver Health and Wellness

This is the second year in a row for driver health and wellness.

More than one in ten respondents (11%) feel this issue is important enough to rank it first, second or third, ATRI said.

That’s even higher among driver respondents, ranking eighth.

“Given the concerns over driver retention and the driver shortage, as well as potential health issues related to truck driver lifestyle challenges, there has been a concerted effort to make the trucking industry healthier. In addition to obvious lifestyle benefits, an improvement in driver health may also have positive implications for industry safety as research has found a positive correlation between driver health and driver safety,” ATRI explained.

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