• DTS.USA
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    0.010
    0.4%
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    -0.040
    -1.4%
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  • OTRI.USA
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    100.000
    0.8%
  • DTS.USA
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    -0.1%
  • NTI.USA
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    0.010
    0.4%
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    -0.040
    -1.4%
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    -0.030
    -1.5%
  • OTRI.USA
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    0.040
    0.5%
  • OTVI.USA
    12,810.370
    100.000
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BusinessTrucking

Survey says driver shortage, driver compensation top trucking industry concerns

Motor carriers and drivers diverge in ranking what matters most to them

Motor carriers and commercial drivers agree on just four of the Top 10 challenges facing the trucking industry, according to the American Transportation Research Institute’s (ATRI) annual study. 

The shortage of for-hire, long-haul drivers was the top issue in ATRI’s annual survey that has taken the industry’s pulse for the last 15 years.

ATRI released the 2019 critical issues results October 6 at the American Trucking Associations’ (ATA) Management Conference and Exhibition in San Diego. 

Motor carriers, who made up 51% of the 2,000 respondents, overwhelmingly picked the driver shortage, which the ATA pegged at 60,800 at the end of 2018. The issue did not crack the Top 10 for commercial drivers.

Drivers, comprising 35% of respondents, listed driver compensation as their top issue. It made the overall list for the first time, ranking third. Carriers, who raised driver pay an average of 6% in 2018 when truck capacity was tight, did not list the issue in their Top 10.

The lack of acknowledgement by the two groups on driver shortage vs. driver pay points to a longstanding chicken-and-egg argument over whether the industry would have a shortage if drivers were better paid. 

What is not in dispute is that many drivers are reaching retirement age with few young people trained to take their place. The ATA projects a shortage of 105,000 for-hire drivers by 2023 if nothing changes. The shortage could balloon to 160,000 by 2028.

“There is no one reason. There is no one solution,” said Bob Costello, the ATA’s chief economist who regularly projects driver shortage and turnover numbers.” This is not just an issue in the U.S. It affects Europe, Mexico and China, too.”

The average age of a driver trainee is 35 years old, USA Truck Inc. CEO James Reed said during an ATA panel discussion. Rather than seeking trucking as a career in their 20s, young people pursue other options. As they marry and start families, the permanence of a trucking career as “a real job” becomes appealing.

“How do you break that cycle?” Reed asked.

Gary Helms, a driver for Covenant Transportation Group, said recruiting middle-aged men and women seeking a second career could help. He became a trucker after a 25-year career in construction. He also hopes 18-to-20-year-olds will be cleared to drive across state lines.

“Anybody can be trained,” Helms said. “These new trucks practically drive themselves.”

The ATA is lobbying for pending legislation that would allow 18-to-20-year-olds to drive inter-state rather than just within one state’s borders. 

Carriers are trying to attract women, who make up 47% of the workforce but account for just 6% of truck drivers.

Converting some of the nearly 1 million drivers for ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft to trucking is another possibility, Costello said.

Where they agree

Carriers and drivers listed the same issue on their surveys in four areas: hours of service (No. 2 overall); driver detention and delays at customer facilities (No. 4 overall); the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate (No. 7 overall); and transportation infrastructure/congestion and funding (No. 9 overall).  

Hours of service, which ATRI President and Chief Operating Officer Rebecca Brewster said has made the list every year, continues to vex both carriers and drivers. Flexibility is central to rule changes proposed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. But even those proposals fall short, Reed said.

“We need to find a way to it back in the hands of professional drivers,” he said. “Ultimately, they know best.”

Detention and delays at shipper facilities made the list for the first time. Carriers and drivers ranked it sixth and fifth respectively. Waiting times to load or unload of six hours or longer rose 27% between 2014 and 2018, according to an ATRI study.

For drivers, the pain points are watching their 14-hour driving clock tick away while detained. A lack of break areas and clean restroom facilities also matter. Carriers look to the bottom line cost of their equipment sitting instead of earning money.

“I will price lanes differently based on dwell times and how (shipping facilities) treat our drivers,” Reed said.

The ELD mandate continues to fall lower on the list. Drivers ranked it fourth. Carriers placed it eighth. The deadline is December 16 for the final stage of electronic logging – converting trucks from Automatic On Board Recording Devices (AOBRDs) to ELDs.

Carriers and drivers agreed on the ninth overall critical issue – infrastructure repairs, how to pay for them and the impact on traffic congestion.

A 2018 ATRI study found that congestion and traffic bottlenecks account for 1.2 billion hours of lost productivity annually. That is the equivalent of 425,000 drivers sitting idle for a full year, And the idling consumes 6.87 billion gallons of fuel, Brewster said.

“Imagine what we could do if we could eradicate that cost,” Reed said. “The federal government has not shown the will to address this.”

The ATA maintains its proposed federal fuel tax increase of five cents a year over four years is the most economical and efficient way to address critical infrastructure needs. A $2 trillion package that President Donald Trump campaigned is stalled in Congress.

“The takeaway for me is how closely tied together these issues are,” Brewster told FreightWaves. “There is no way to pick just one and fix it.”

Overall 2019 ATRI critical issues list:

1. Driver shortage

2. Hours of Service

3. Driver compensation

4. Detention/delay at customer facilities

5. Truck parking

6. Driver  retention

7. ELD mandate

8. CSA

9. Transportation infrastructure/congestion/funding

10. Economy

Carriers and drivers critical issue priorities

Commercial Drivers Motor Carriers

1. Driver compensation 1. Driver shortage  

2. Hours of service 2. Driver retention

3. Truck parking 3. Hours of service

4, ELD mandate 4. CSA

5. Detention/delay at customer facilities 5. Infrastructure/

congestion/funding

6. Speed limiters 6. Detention/delay at customer

facilities

7. Driver training standard 7. Economy

8. Driver distraction 8. ELD mandate

9. Infrastructure/ 9. Insurance cost/availability

congestion/funding

10. Autonomous truck technology 10. Tort reform

The FREIGHTWAVES TOP 500 For-Hire Carriers list includes USA Truck (No. 51).

Alan Adler

Alan Adler is a Detroit-based award-winning journalist who worked for The Associated Press, the Detroit Free Press and most recently as Detroit Bureau Chief for Trucks.com. He also spent two decades in domestic and international media relations and executive communications with General Motors.

60 Comments

  1. There is no driver shortage. Their are empty truck at the mega carriers, but the freight volume and the available truck ratio is off in the shippers favor. If not why are freight rates down? The mega carriers need to quite buying so many trucks not hire more drivers. That would also help the parking problem. Don’t let greedy CEO’s convince you different. Less trucks = less trucks sitting, more trucks running, and higher freight rates. Stop listening to the ATA, they are there to protect the businesses, and start paying attention to the facts.

    1. I agree 100%.if you think for one minute the ATA is there for the driver then you need to wake up or park your Truck !!.need to do like in the 70’s strike!!!!park it for a week and let them see how they get there things..Ca.you can then drive to state line and purchase your gas and things you need so truckers won’t have to!!!

      1. You can’t bully GOLIATH(government) . You need to be diplomatic otherwise government will create new regulations and or use regulations to prevent you from abusing of your liberty to harm and or jeopardise its economy . What you’re suggesting is a form of terrorism and extortion .

        I understand your frustrations , however, we can be much wiser than that .

        Portugal fuel haulers and their union understood when government told fuel haulers it’s enough and would implement a law if they continued !

        Be wise my friend , not emotional .

        In my humble opinion …………….

      1. Dude, once you learn how to drive a 18 wheeler, you don’t forget. I drove a damn semi for 18 years delivering fuel, until I screwed up my back. You don’t forget shit. Why would you even entertain the idea of even climbing back into that rig. Once you’re out, stay out. Leave that shit to these kids that have nothing better to do but run up & down the highway. Be Blessed brother & stay safe!

    1. The bottom line is PAY!!!!!!! Truck drivers today don’t make shit. Due your research! Truck drivers made more money in the 70’s & 80’s than we do right now. When the union’s were more prevalent & meaningful. You’re lucky if you can find a job paying $15 hr to drive a fucking semi. I made $18 hr. back in the early 2000’s driving a forklift truck. They say driving a semi is considered unskilled labor. Let me ask you this! If you were to take a semi into any metropolitan area & just got the fuck out & left it in the middle of downtown. If you are not a SKILLED SEMI DRIVER, you will not be able to move that truck. How’s that for unskilled labor 🤔

      1. In order to get your CDL you need just up to 2 months of school, and you can drive a Semi. It’s not correct to say unskilled labor, but totally agree you need a short time for getting your CDL…The whole issue is because the rates are not regulated, and they form based on the market, so companies don’t realize that taking shitty payloads the contribute to their bancrupcy.

  2. If there is such a driver shortage, I would think that would mean that there is much more freight to haul than drivers to haul it, but all these companies are going out of business because they can’t find enough freight to haul, and there are times when even my company has trouble finding freight.
    Also it can be a struggle to find places to park now. If there were as many more drivers as they say we should have, where are all of them going to go? There just isn’t room for that many more drivers.

    1. The ELDs cause most of the truckers to run the same hours thats why there is not anywhere to park. Drivers are leaving truck stops towards there delivery at the same time 6am then drive 5hr then take their milk n cookie break (1/2hr.) and then another 5hrs drive then 1hr to find a spot to park for the night..if there lucky..there were no shootings over parking back in the paper log days? If you have flexable hours? which is the way civilized people travel, each person would be on a personal schudule so that in its self would solve the parking problem. And make the general public much safer as there would not be miles long lines of big rig (turtle) races everyday? I know as ive driven since 1992 out here on the road..throw electronic time recorders out of the cockpit and let people be people so they can plan a safe trip to move america forward…….GentryGentry

  3. “New trucks practically drive themselves” ….great more steering wheel holders is what this industry needs…but are new driver or autonomous vehicle going to be taking over my job anytime soon(flatbed,stepdeck,RGN freight )….I have another 5-6 years left in this industry as an owner-operator and can’t see anyone in my family taking on this career…..they are to busy with their social lives and friends and do not want to be away from home over 200 days of the year…..crossing the international border between Canada/USA once a week to complete trips …..seems schools are funneling these students into other trades ….I use technology every day in trucking Qualcomm Elog,Smartphone,GPS……I still know how to use an atlas though….

  4. From the day.the technology lobby has started asking/grabbing for more share in our trucking industry; driver shortage-less freight,etc.,etc theories.started showing up.They are lobbying with administrations and creating more lanes/stories to enter the industry. Tech is welcome.but.csnt decide our.future.Adminstations are corrupt as they.get theirpersonal share to support technologies causes.Our unions are also sold out.
    Too many cooks spoil the broth….stay.away and let us live and work.

  5. How can there be a driver shortage when there is a freight shortage? Maybe there would be less driver shortage, if shipper or consign, dont take 10+ hours to unload a palleted product. Right now freight is down, thus there shouldn’t be a driver shortage, because if there was, wouldn’t wages be going up because of how rare we are? Oh look, it’s the same. This BS, the only placea there is not enough parking is around cities, where we deliver to, otherwise Truck stop parking lots are pretty MT, depending where in the country you are.

  6. The big carriers want to add drivers so they can grab a larger share of the market from each other. When they say driver shortage, they mean they lack the drivers to snag freight contracts away from other carriers. The industry is a little over capacity right now, but every company wants a bigger piece of the pie.

    The real issue here is that carriers aren’t willing to compensate drivers to sit around and be that available capacity. If drivers were paid a comparable wage to be away from home stuck at a truck stop or customer waiting on a load, they wouldn’t have a hard time hiring more drivers, but that’s not what happens. Drivers are given nothing or next to nothing for not running. They sit, not making money, watching the bills pile up at home and trying to justify the whole experience. Then they quit and the ATA throws up their hands like they don’t understand.

    1. You are right on the money about that…take your thoughts ? and a comment I just sugested and con join them and we got a good start better than any of the arm chair 1/4 back that pull the trigger in la la land ?

    2. Sometimes I just don’t understand drivers, even if I was driving for over 6years. One of my driver at the Conestoga is making 24-2800/week and he’s saying I’m paying less than other companies (we pay 65-68c/m), after he left and got hired to the company that is paying him 70c/m but he makes only 2200/week…so drivers are not paid in our days???
      How should I understand this???

  7. You are right on the money about that…take your thoughts ? and a comment I just sugested and con join them and we got a good start better than any of the arm chair 1/4 back that pull the trigger in la la land ?