A top concern for the transportation industry this year is, once again, that of the continuing truck driver shortage.
The American Transportation Institute has released its annual list of Top Industry Concerns on Sunday at American Trucking Association’s Management Conference and Exhibition, and this ongoing shortage tops the list for the fifth year in a row. In fact, when votes were counted for the most prevalent concerns of industry members, the driver shortage was found to have four times the number of votes as the second highest-ranking concern–truck driver retention.
Following behind the issues of driver shortages and retention problems, the list included driver compensation in third place, lawsuit abuse reform in fourth, and inadequate truck parking availability in fifth. A shortage of diesel technicians ended up in 10th place–the first time this issue has made the list in any capacity.
“The ATRI list of top industry issues provides a critical snapshot of the challenges impacting our industry at any given moment,” said Sherri Garner Brumbaugh, Chairman of ATA and CEO of Garner Trucking. “This year is no exception, as supply chain constraints dominate the nation’s headlines.”
The true value of ATRI’s list, Brumbaugh noted, is that the organization offers methods of solving these pressing problems.
“ATRI’s analysis not only captures the industry’s sentiment on the criticality of each of these issues, but [it] also maps out a course for addressing each [problem] through the stakeholder-ranked strategies.”
More than 2,500 stakeholders throughout the trucking industry–including drivers, industry suppliers, driver trainers, motor carriers, and law enforcement–took part in this year’s survey. Around a quarter of participants identified as truck drivers.
“It really is no surprise that truck driver-related issues–notably, the driver shortage and driver retention–ranked so [highly] on the survey,” said Rebecca Brewster, President of ATRI. “Coming out of the pandemic, with the increased demand for goods and other pressures on the supply chain, getting and keeping drivers has been a real challenge industrywide.”
Brewster noted that the supply chain demand that was exacerbated throughout the boom of e-commerce during the pandemic era has clearly had major effects across many aspects of the industry, as made clear in this survey.
“We also see the impacts of the current supply chain crunch in how highly issues like driver compensation, truck parking, infrastructure, and driver detention ranked on the list.”
Because so many truckers are retiring in the midst of the pandemic while newer truckers making their way into the industry are experiencing slow starts due to delays in commercial driver training and licensing, Chief Economist for American Trucking Associations, Bob Costello, raised the overall number of drivers estimated to be needed in the industry from 61,500 to 80,000.
“This is somewhat pandemic-related; we didn’t train enough drivers,” he said, noting that this insufficient number of trained drivers is making it difficult for the industry to keep up with the growing freight demand. “It’s the traditional things we’ve been talking about for the last two decades–it’s the high average age of drivers, not [having] enough females [in the industry], lifestyle [issues], and then you throw in some things that have exacerbated [the issue].”
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s safety measurement system for compliance, safety, and accountability also ranked highly on ATRI’s list–coming in at sixth place this year.
“Carriers are concerned about the peer groups they’re being scored in,” explained Brewster. “There really is still a lot of concern among the industry over this issue.”
Following closely behind on the list is the issue of driver detention, with ATRI adding that at customer facilities, drivers are often not given restroom or facility access while delayed in their freight deliveries. Additionally, these drivers also are often prohibited from staying onsite at the facility if they run over their hours-of-service time allotment during such a delay.
Finally, ranking eighth on the list was transportation infrastructure, funding, and congestion. This points to major issues such as the 1-40 Hernando de Soto bridge closure earlier this year. Because the bridge served as the Mississippi River connection between Memphis and Arkansas, the industry faced costs of more than $1 million during repairs.