Last week during the ATA’s annual Management Conference & Exhibition, research was shared by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) based on survey responses from more than 2,000 trucking industry stakeholders. This year, there were 28 categories for drivers, carriers and suppliers to choose from. The top 10 trucking issues of 2019 were delivered during the MC&E Big Reveal with commentary from a panel featuring, ATA chief economist Bob Costello, USA Truck president Gary Helms and ATRI president and COO Rebecca Brewster.

The three biggest issues were very familiar, though a few new categories emerged among trucking’s largest pain points of the year. Here is a look at the top 10 trucking issues of 2019, and the full report is available on the ATRI website.

  1. Driver Shortage
  2. HOS
  3. Compensation
  4. Detention Time
  5. Parking
  6. Driver Retention
  7. ELD Mandate
  8. CSA Scores
  9. Infrastructure and Congestion
  10. Economy at Large


Driver shortage remains the biggest trucking industry issue

For the third consecutive year, driver shortage came in first place among categories of concern. A lack of ready and willing drivers has produced issues across the entire supply chain.

One critical challenge will be connecting to a new generation of drivers. The DRIVE-Safe Act went before Congress in 2018 and was reintroduced this year, in an effort to expand training programs and interstate hauling opportunities for 18- to 20-year-old drivers. A fresh crop of drivers will be necessary, since 29 percent of the current workforce is aged 55 or older.

As part of the DRIVE-Safe Act, the industry would incorporate technology to ensure safety of these younger drivers. Trucks operated would include automatic braking systems, front facing video cameras, governed speeds and adaptive cruise control. ELDs will support in helping these younger generation of drivers comply with hours-of-service and meet additional benchmark requirements.


Hours of Service still a concern for drivers and carriers

Since the 2011 ATRI trucking concerns report, HOS has made the top three issues and even led the list twice in a row (2013-14). Drivers and carriers want to find ways to run their fleet efficiently while reducing risk of driver fatigue and accompanying violations along the way.

The driver and carrier response to this year’s survey show they want more flexibility with HOS restrictions, that they want more control over scheduling in their own hands. Various solutions have been proposed, with changes anticipated as the industry adjusts to phased-out paper records.

While ELDs do not create more time on the clock or calendar, they do afford fleets greater visibility to potential violations. Accurate tracking of hours is a way to help drivers avoid violations, and to help dispatch plan routes based on available drivers.

FMCSA is seeking feedback on the proposed HOS flexibility. There are already more than 7,400 comments submitted to the agency on their notice of proposed rulemaking. EROAD conducted a survey on the subject and will be submitting official comments to FMCSA on key issues and topics. If you haven’t joined the discussion, make your voice heard and add your comments.


Driver compensation and retention must be addressed

Pay rates may increase each year, but this does not guarantee that drivers are taking home more pay. The ATRI report suggests driver wages are still not competitive due to inflation and unpaid detention time.

Some carriers, desperate to complete loads while facing driver shortage, will offer higher wages to entice drivers. Compensation models such as salary-plus or percentage-of-load rates are typically not regular pay, however. A short term of higher-than-average pay, in other words, does not benefit carriers or the industry in the long term.

Dialing in a reasonable wage to attract drivers is only half the equation. EROAD’s Driver Leaderboard and Safety Star Programs are examples of ways to motivate drivers that want respect and recognition, which fosters intrinsic motivation beyond the paycheck and encourages them to stay in the business.

As Bob Costello said during the MC&E, “it is expensive to replace a driver.” Fleet managers will have a much better time by focusing on effective training programs, rather than accepting high turnover as part of the business. Better-trained drivers mean lower recruitment overhead, fewer fines and higher morale across the fleet.


New issues include difficult delays and parking problems

This year’s survey placed two new categories among the top 10 trucking issues. From drivers and carriers to suppliers and shippers, no one enjoys detention time. While it is unavoidable, stakeholders throughout the business want to boost efficiency when trucks are onsite at customer facilities.

Fleet telematics offer geofencing as a solution. With geofencing, it is easy to collect and share data that simplifies planning for both sides of detention. Carriers can coordinate loads in a way that keeps drivers away from congestion, while customers can review data to stagger load times in a way that prevents congestion in the first place.

Parking is an issue, since some drivers feel forced to take their 30-minute break and end up parking on highway shoulders or roadside in risky areas. Fleet managers can help prevent this by reviewing telematics data.

Routes can be discussed pre-haul to show where drivers ought to plan to visit rest areas or other safe parking spaces. If your driver continues to push past his 30-minute break on specific routes, take a look and suggest different times when parking may be less congested.


The final deadline

As usual, the ELD mandate was treated as a concern. The final phase takes effect in two months (December 16), and FMCSA has made it clear they will not be extending the deadline. If you are still looking to transition, consider checking out our helpful ELD resources like 7 Steps to Choosing the Right ELD Provider and Planning your move from AOBRDs to ELDs.

While industry-wide issues of HOS, CSA and ELD persist, we must do our best to work together as a whole to find solutions. Global thinking should inform local planning, and technology will continue to evolve to support the needs of fleets, both large and small.

ATRI Survey Reveals Top 10 Trucking Issues in 2019

by | Oct 16, 2019 | , ,

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