Driver Shortage Overtakes ELD Mandate as Carriers’ Top Concern
Driver Shortage Overtakes ELD Mandate as Carriers’ Top Concern

In its annual survey, the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) — a research wing of the American Trucking Association (ATA) — figured out that the driver shortage problem has become the biggest concern in America’s trucking industry.

And in doing so, the driver shortage problem has officially overtaken other prominent issues, such as the upcoming ELD mandate and Hours-of-Service regulations, which are now ranked as #2 and #3 respectively.

The report is based on a survey that was conducted in U.S., Mexico, and Canada. 1,557 people responded to the questions. Respondents included motor carriers, drivers, and industry insiders.

Let’s dive deeper and see what else the report has to say.

The ATRI’s Survey Report

The ATRI report came out last month on the second day of the American Trucking Association’s Management Conference & Exhibition that took place in Orlando, Fla.

The report begins with an overview of how the year 2017 performed as far as the trucking industry goes. It also highlighted all the key regulations that took place during the period. The report also mentioned the struggle of OOIDA against the ELD mandate that ultimately ended in vain.

“The past year has seen continued legislative and regulatory activity affecting the trucking industry. However, unlike recent years, much of the regulatory activity in 2017 brought resolution to several critical industry challenges. Chief among these actions was a final determination on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Hours-of-Service (HOS) provisions, the removal of the barriers toward the implementation of FMCSA’s Electronic Logging Device (ELD) mandate, and a final rule on the minimum entry-level CDL training requirements,” highlights the report.

The publication then went on to rank the top 10 most critical issues in the trucking industry for the year 2017. Suggestions and recommendations were also presented in the report for each of the top 10 issues.

Regarding the driver shortage problem, Chris Spear, the ATA’s Chief Executive, said:

“Identifying the right mix of partners and strategies to effectively address the driver shortage is one of our top goals for the industry.”

Here are the top 10 critical trucking industry issues for the current year, according to the ATRI report, and the recommended suggestions for each problem.

1. Driver Shortage

Driver shortage surges to take the top position being the severest issue concerning motor carriers this year. In the report, the American Trucking Associations (ATA) estimates a shortfall of 48,000 drivers. It also projects that the shortage could increase to 175,000 by 2026. Now, that’s an alarming situation!

The report proposed the following strategies to combat the driver shortage problem:

  •   Support state and federal authorities in introducing a CDL graduate program to attract young drivers.
  •   Formalize a national truck driver recruitment program by partnering with the U.S. Department of Labor.
  •   Streamline licensing requirements between DOT and DOD with the assistance of U.S. Department of Transportation and the Department of Defense.

2. ELD Mandate

The ELD mandate — which was the biggest issue in 2016 — now fell down to the number two position. This is despite the mandate coming into full effect on December 18, 2017. The report analyzes that the ELD mandate is still an issue because the cost of ELD implementation concerns some fleets.

To deal with the matter, the report proposes the following actions:

  •   Probe the impacts of ELDs on safety and productivity of the fleet.
  •   Assess how the ELD data is put into use by authorities.
  •   Ensure that the ELD implementation deadline does not extend beyond December 2017.

3. Hours-of-Service

Hours-of-service ranks third this time — being in the top three critical issues for the seventh consecutive year. This is because, “due in large part to the industry’s desire for increased flexibility in the rules,” the report concludes.

The following strategies were presented in the ATRI report to counter concerns regarding HOS regulations:

  •   Seek flexibility in the current sleeper berth provision.
  •   Research and quantify the impacts of customer detention on truck drivers and trucking operations.
  •   Assess how highly automated technologies impact HOS and other regulations and identify the future direction of rulemaking in the light of those facts.

4. Truck Parking

The report notes that the growing need for parking of trucks and the scarcity of the available space create “a dangerous and costly situation for truck drivers who are often forced to drive beyond allowable HOS rules or park in undesignated and, in many cases, unsafe locations.”

The following suggestions might improve the situation:

  •   Invest in new truck parking facilities.
  •   Publicize the safety consequences of non-availability of truck parking.
  •   Research how real-time truck parking availability impacts operations and what is the role of truck parking reservation systems.

5. Driver Retention

“As such, it was not surprising to see Driver Retention move up three spots in 2017, ranking as the fifth biggest industry concern,” shares the report.

Driver retention is a real issue that impacts the growth of trucking businesses considerably. Carriers are finding it more and more difficult to retain good drivers, which amplifies the driver shortage problem even more.

Following are some tips that the ATRI report recommend:

  •   Identify how incentivizing driving performance impacts the overall efficiency, safety, and productivity of fleet operations.
  •   Study the relationship between driver compensation models and driver productivity.
  •   Share retention strategies and practices online that are customizable by carrier fleet size and sector.

6. Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA)

In 2016, the CSA issue was in the top five. The FMCSA recently introduced a Crash Accountability Pilot Program that allows carriers to request a review for potentially non-preventable crashes. This pilot program has brought down the CSA issue to the number six position.

Furthermore, to improve the performance in this regard, here are some suggestions:

  •   Scrutinize how the FMCSA’s crash accountability pilot program is doing by removing non-preventable crashes from carrier scores.
  •   Ensure that the Congressionally mandated National Academies of Sciences review of CSA is successfully implemented.
  •   Reduce CSA scores’ BASICS for carriers who choose to participate in the FMCSA’s ‘Beyond Compliance’ program.

7. Cost of Trucking Regulations

Trucking regulations earlier took the third spot, but now has settled at seventh in the order. This demotion is perhaps due to the White House Executive Order that requires federal agencies to ‘remove two regulations for each new regulation proposed.’

“Nonetheless, the costs associated with regulations continues as a top 10 concern for the industry,” says the report.

The proposed strategies for this are:

  •   Evaluate the government’s projected industry costs against real-world industry costs “that accrue from the new regulations”.
  •   Create recommended industry metrics and an improved Regulatory Impact analysis model that will help in accurately projecting industry costs for future regulations.

8. Driver Distractions

Driver distraction continues to be the Achilles heels for motor carriers. It is the eighth biggest concern in 2017. Last year, 3,450 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes because of driver distraction.

Let’s hope the following suggestions mentioned in the ATRI report help the issue:

  •   Support harsher penalties and enforcement actions for distracted driving behaviors.
  •   Encourage formulating a national standard of distracted driving for motorists.
  •   Considering the role of onboard technologies, suggest how distractions can be avoided using in-cab devices.

9. Poor Infrastructure and Traffic Congestion

According to the ATRI report, “Poorly maintained roads and traffic congestion create wear and tear on vehicles, waste fuel and increase emissions, create additional stress for drivers, and negatively impact industry productivity.”

The report suggests two possible solutions for this:

  •   Advocate accumulating highway funds by increasing fuel tax and other user fees. Also, prevent diversion of revenue to non-highway projects.
  •   Pool new funds for truck bottlenecks on major freight routes.

10. Driver’s Health and Wellness

It is estimated that 20 percent of drivers who leave their jobs cite health problems as an important factor in their decision. This is why the health and wellness of drivers make it into the top 10 biggest trucking industry issues for the year 2017.

The report suggests the following:

  •   Make exercise facilities and healthy food easily available at truck stops.
  •   Study drivers’ health and use the collected data for future regulations.
  •   Identify how investing in drivers’ health and wellness impacts productivity.

What’s Next?

Although driver shortage has officially overtaken other prominent issues, such as ELD mandate and hours-of-service rules, truckers still need to prepare for them before December 18, 2017.

The ELD mandate compliance date is just over a month away. If you haven’t installed electronic logging devices yet, it is time to hustle.

Use our ELD features comparison and ELD price comparison tools to quickly find out the perfect, most cost-effective ELD solution for your company.

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