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The Trucking Industry's Top 10

The Trucking Industry’s Top 10

For the past decade, the American Trucking Associations has turned to the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) to survey trucking industry stakeholders to identify the top issues of concern. The dynamic shifting of industry priorities over the past ten years demonstrates the complexity of operating in an industry so vital to the economy yet so impacted by forces outside of our immediate control.

In the early years of the survey, the rising cost and limited availability of fuel registered as a top concern, along with the driver shortage. With the onset of the Great Recession, the economy first emerged as an industry concern in 2008 and spent three years as the number one industry issue from 2009 – 2011. Other issues in the survey’s early years but which have since dropped off the top 10 list include truck security, driver training, insurance costs and environmental issues. While still representing significant challenges for the industry, these issues have been eclipsed by emerging concerns including the lack of available truck parking, the upcoming Electronic Logging Device (ELD) mandate and commercial driver health and wellness.

In the survey’s first six years, industry stakeholder concern over the growing scope of federal and state oversight of trucking was captured as one issue, Government Regulations, which peaked in 2009 at the number two spot on the survey. However, that concern disaggregated into several stand-alone issues in more recent years, among them hours-of-service and the deployment of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program. CSA first appeared on the top industry issues lie in 2010, ranking second overall and it has continued to rank in the top five issues since.

One issue has been on the list, and among the top five concerns annually, since the survey started in 2005. The hours-of-service (HOS) rules continue to dominate the collective industry’s concern and that level of concern has been closely tied to the impacts of federal rulemaking, regulation changes, rule vacating and the most recent changes to the rules, which went into effect in 2013.

In 2014 the HOS rules were once again the top ranked issue by survey participants as the supply chain continues to experience negative impacts from the changes to the rules which limit the use of the 34-hour restart provision and mandate a 30-minute rest break before driving after eight hours. Among the impacts being experienced by the industry are 80 percent of surveyed motor carriers in ATRI’s research, Operational and Economic Impacts of the New Hours-of-Service Rules, who indicated a loss of productivity attributable to the new rules.

Coming in as a very close second place this year is the Driver Shortage which, like the HOS rules, continues to plague the supply chain at large as motor carriers struggle to find qualified drivers to meet freight demand. Anecdotally, numerous carriers are now turning away revenue and loads due exclusively to the driver shortage, which could have an impact on economic growth as well as inflation.

Rounding out the top three this year is CSA, reflecting continued industry concern over the way that carrier safety performance is evaluated under CSA. Number four on the list is Driver Retention, closely tied to the Driver Shortage, as carriers struggle to identify strategies for maintaining their best drivers while simultaneously searching for qualified new entrants.

Rounding out the top five issues in the annual survey is the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) mandate. The emergence of the mandate as an industry concern coincided with the passage of MAP-21 in 2012, which included a requirement that FMCSA issue a final rule on ELD use for HOS tracking. Earlier this year, FMCSA issued a Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to address a number of concerns identified by industry stakeholders in the first ELD proposed rule, but the industry continues to await the issuance of the ELD Final Rule.

Issues 6-10 in the 2014 annual survey are all critical and impact motor carriers on a day-to-day basis and the inter-connectivity of the issues is unmistakable. Truck Parking (#6) has received increased attention as the new HOS rules brought heightened awareness to the dramatic shortage of safe and available parking. In many locations around the country, the scarcity of truck parking can sometimes create a dangerous dilemma for drivers who must choose between continuing to drive beyond allowable HOS rules to find safe parking or park the vehicle in an undesignated location.

Number seven on this year’s list is a combination of issues that impact the trucking industry’s workplace – Infrastructure/Congestion/Transportation Funding. In 2013 ATRI identified trucking industry costs of $9.2 billion associated with congestion on the Interstate system. The negative impacts of congestion, crumbling infrastructure and the expiration of MAP-21 and the need for a long-term transportation funding solution ensure that these issues will remain on the industry’s top 10 list for the foreseeable future.

The number eight issue, Driver Health and Wellness, is appearing on the top ten list for the third year in a row. Given the concerns over driver retention and the driver shortage, as well as potential health issues related to truck driver lifestyle challenges, there has been a concerted effort to make the trucking industry healthier.

No issue experienced a larger drop in ranking than this year’s number nine issue, the Economy. It first appeared on the top ten list in 2008 and for three years it remained the number one issue (2009 – 2011). However, as the economy has continued to recover, it has been dropping in ranking and this year it dropped from number four to number nine on the list.

This year there was a new entrant to the list of top ten concerns. Coming in at number ten, Driver Distraction reflects the growing attention on the dangers of texting and driving by all drivers and their impact on highway safety.

The Top Industry Issues Survey provides an important indicator of where the industry’s attention is focused and which issues may rise to prominence in the near future. It’s an important tool for providing direction to industry groups at the state and national levels in terms of the issues and strategies that motor carriers believe will have the most impact on the industry for years to come. Armed with this information, state trucking associations and the American Trucking Associations are better equipped to address the issues more broadly and proactively.

ATRI is the trucking industry’s 501(c)(3) not-for-profit research organization. It is engaged in critical research relating to freight transportation’s essential role in maintaining a safe, secure and efficient transportation system. A copy of the 2014 Top Industry Issues Survey analysis report is available from ATRI at www.atri-online.org.

2014 Top Industry Issues
1. Hours-of-Service
2. Driver Shortage
3. CSA
4. Driver Retention
5. Electronic Logging Device Mandate
6. Truck Parking
7. Infrastructure/Congestion/Transportation Funding
8. Driver Health/Wellness
9. Economy
10. Driver Distraction

Rebecca M. Brewster
President and COO
American Transportation Research Institute



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