The American Transportation Research Institute’s Research Advisory Committee has determined the research topics to be prioritized by the group–a list that was recently approved by ATRI’s board of directors.
The list of topics was developed and given the stamp of approval at a recent Atlanta meeting, and committee members identifying the top industry priority list components included leaders of labor unions, government officials, academics and experts, as well as trucking company executives.
2021’s top research priority? How to best recruit and retain young truck drivers–between 18 and 20 years old–into the trucking industry.
To determine the best methods of recruiting, training, and retaining young truck drivers in the industry, ATRI plans to utilize an effective case study approach. This kind of focus is aligned with the entire industry’s efforts to ease the challenge of the current truck driver shortage–a top industry issue on ATRI’s list for the fourth consecutive year.
At the end of 2018, the overall trucker shortage was estimated to reach 60,800 drivers by American Trucking Associations.
However, ATRI’s recent top-ranking focus is not just to bring about additional truck drivers, but to incentivize young workers to join the industry in regards to a “whole host of career options in the trucking industry,” explained President of ATRI, Rebecca Brewster.
“I like that [this priority] is taking a more holistic approach [toward]: How do we just get more young people into this industry and keep them here?” Brewster said.
However, it doesn’t seem that it will be enough just to drawn younger people into trucking–a method that hasn’t brought much relief to the country’s driver shortage. What needs major focus, Brewster said, are overarching retention efforts.
“It’s not just enough to come up with messaging and understanding how to make this industry appealing to them, but, [rather], how do we effectively train that cohort of individuals and how do we keep them in the industry?” she said.
Environmental topics are also priorities of ATRI, such as the need to better understand the benefits zero-emission trucks and their impact on the environment. The research that will take place around this topic will include a comparative study in regards to the environmental impact and life cycles of diesel Class 8 trucks in comparison to those of electric trucks. The study will also involve analysis of methods of operations, disposal, and manufacturing.
Additionally, as more and more trucks transition to the electric engine, ATRI has prioritized research into how best to create better truck charging infrastructure capabilities. To study this, the group will research overall grid connectivity availability, charging requirements of trucks and other vehicles, and scenarios regarding power demand and supply.
As climate change challenges and other environmental problems gain more attention and focus within both state and federal agencies, according to Brewster, 2021 is the first year that the topics of electric vehicle charging infrastructure and zero-emission truck impacts have become top priorities for ATRI. Also adding to the need for focus on these subjects is the American Jobs Plan proposed by President Biden, which suggests the allocation of $174 billion into the electric vehicle market across the country.
“ATRI’s Research Advisory Committee has identified a number of areas that are having a profound impact on the trucking industry and will continue to for the foreseeable future,” noted Sean McNally, a spokesman for ATA. “ATRI’s research is invaluable to ATA as we advocate for solutions to these challenges, so we are looking forward to the results of their studies.”
Other major areas of focus which made ATRI’s Top Priority List include an update to the group’s report from 2019 which looked into how controlled substance law changes are affecting state workforces and roadway safety. The impacts of decriminalizing drugs such as marijuana on the trucking industry have still yet to be extensively studied.
Finally, the last prioritized item on ATRI’s list is analyzing the effects of driver-facing cameras. The group intends to study their impact in regards to litigation, workforces, and overall safety for both drivers and fleets as a whole.