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Nation’s Shortage of Truck Drivers the Number One Concern of U.S Commercial Motor Carriers

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The shortage of qualified truck drivers is the number one concern for motor carriers, according to a report issued October 24, 2017 by the American Trucking Research Institute (ATRI.) This concern displaces the number one concern of 2016 – electronic logging devices (ELD). Every year, ATRI conducts a survey and distributes a report that lists the top 10 critical issues in the trucking industry in the U.S. The report includes recommended strategies for how the trucking industry can address the top 10 pressing issues.


Driver shortage hasn’t topped the list since 2006. More than 1,500 carriers and drivers responded to this year’s survey. Of the respondents, 21 percent listed driver shortages as their top concern, 10 percent reported they found it to be their second concern, and another 8 percent ranked it as their third concern. As the demand for truck deliveries increases in response to improving economic growth in the U.S., industry stakeholders are concerned that the demand for truck drivers will far outpace the supply of licensed drivers. It is expected that 890,000 truck drivers will be needed over the next decade to maintain the existing workforce.


In the report, ATRI suggests that creating a graduated CDL program that will attract younger drivers to the industry is one strategy that was recommended for addressing the issue. A related strategy is to partner with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to formalize a national truck driver recruitment program that will meet the growing need for qualified truck drivers.


The second issue cited by carriers and drivers alike was the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate, which was ranked number one last year. It is clear that many in the industry remain concerned about the cost and productivity that may be incurred by deploying ELDs. Other ELD-related concerns expressed included how the data will be used beyond hours compliance, and others are concerned that the implementation window will be extended out into the future.


Here is a list of the issues that filled the remaining Number 3 through Number10 spots on the list.


#3. Hours of service regulations

While many reported their concerns were eased with the repeal of the 2013-instituted regulations, there is still concern about hours of service regulations due to the industry’s strong feelings of wanting more flexibility in the rules as well as split sleeper berth flexibility.


#4. Truck parking

The growing lack of parking spots for semi trucks continues to be a costly and dangerous situation for truck drivers.


#5. Driver retention

Driver retention remains a separate, although related issue to driver shortage. Driver turnover has greatly increased this year, causing concern.


#6. Compliance, safety and accountability (CSA)

Some of the industry’s concerns have been mitigated due to the curtailment of public CSA scores. However, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is considering implementing crash accountability into CSA, causing some concern within the industry.


#7. Regulations

Costs related to the highly regulatory nature of the industry continue to be a concern among the survey respondents.


#8. Driver distraction

Those in the industry are very concerned about the number of distracted drivers on the road and would like to see stricter penalties for distracted driving instigated for all types of vehicles.


#9. Infrastructure, congestion and funding

The state of the nation’s roads is a major concern for the trucking industry. Poorly maintained roads can lead to traffic congestion, waste of fuel, increase stress for drivers and negatively impact productivity levels. Furthermore, emerging connectivity and autonomous vehicles are all dependent on a satisfactory infrastructure, demonstrating the relationship of infrastructure to the progress of the industry.


#10. Driver health and wellness

The ability of the industry to retain qualified drivers continues to be a major concern for those in the industry. Roughly 20 percent of drivers that leave their jobs report health concerns as the reason they are leaving. Additionally, improvement of driver health may have positive implications for industry safety.


The ATRI report “Critical Issues in the Trucking Industry – 2017” is an important and useful report for the industry, as well as the impact these issues have on our economy. These top ten, and many other problems, are impacting the nation’s freight system. This annual study helps to better understand and address the plethora of critical issues that continue to plague the industry.


AAOO is dedicated to helping commercial motor carrier owner-operators stay safe.  Learn more about AAOO here.

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Kyle Mitchell
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