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Runaway diesel prices top trucking industry’s critical issues list

Driver shortage slips to second-most critical issue after 5 years in top spot

Rebecca Brewster, president and COO of the American Transportation Research Institute, reveals the trucking industry's top concerns for 2022. (Photo: Alan Adler/FreightWaves)

SAN DIEGO — Soaring diesel prices displaced the driver shortage after five years in the top spot in the American Transportation Research Institute’s 18th annual Critical Issues in the Trucking Industry.

“It certainly brings attention to it when it overtakes something [like driver shortage],” Rebecca Brewster, ATRI president and COO, told FreightWaves.

The independent research group that works closely with the American Trucking Associations  released its 18th annual survey Saturday during the ATA’s Management Conference and Exhibition.

Truck parking showed up No. 10 on the motor carrier’s side and No. 1 on the driver’s list. It finished third overall, up from fifth in 2021. The issue of where drivers stop to rest has finished no lower than sixth since 2013.

‘Tremendous issue for their driver workforce’

“I think this is an acknowledgement this year that the motor carriers see what a tremendous issue this is for their driver workforce because it has so many tentacles,” Brewster said. “You see it show up in our ability to recruit drivers, to retain drivers, to bring more women into the profession.

“When you think about all the attention on the truck parking issue from the U.S. DOT [Department of Transportation], from the Biden administration, and every time you see it written about, it references that drivers have identified this as their top concern,” she said.

Florida and Tennessee recently won $37.6 million in competitive grants from the DOT for trucking parking projects in their states. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is keenly aware of the issue as well, Robyn Hutcheson, FMCSA administrator, told a gathering of ATA conference attendees Saturday.

Robyn Hutcheson, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration administrator, (center) speaks with attendees at the American Trucking Association’s Management Conference and Exhibition on Saturday, Oct.22, 2022 (Photo: Alan Adler/FreightWaves)

“We’re working very closely with the Federal Highway Administration,” which recently published an 80-page Truck Parking Development Handbook. 

“We have a very clear direction to prioritize this,” Hutcheson said. “For our part, Jack VanSteenburg, our executive director, has communicated with every division administrator to use this guide.”

In addition to diesel prices and truck parking, carriers and drivers both listed driver detention while waiting to pick up or drop off a load, and the economy, as issues on which they agreed.

Driver shortage is still top motor carrier concern

Carriers continued to rank the driver shortage, estimated by the American Trucking Associations at 80,000, as the top issue. Drivers ranked the lack of parking as their top issue.

The rest of the ATRI Top 10 were:

4. Driver compensation

5. Economy

6. Driver detention/delay

7. Driver retention

8. CSA [Compliance, Safety, Accountability]

9. Speed limiters 

10. Lawsuit abuse reform

Speed limiters make initial appearance

Speed limiters, an FMCSA regulatory priority in 2023, cracked the Top 10 for the first time.

The FMCSA is issuing a supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking as a follow-up on a speed-limiter rulemaking issued jointly by FMCSA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in September 2016. It will decide by June 30 whether additional regulations should be issued concerning commercial truck manufacturer requirements. 

Insurance costs and liability landed in the No. 11-13 emerging issues section, missing the Top 10 by four points.

“We give every issue an industry concern index and last year when driver shortage was No.1, every other issue sort of paled in the industry concern index. These are all very close across the Top 10,” Brewster said.

Each respondent was asked to list three issues from among a list of 28 and suggest ways to solve the problem.

For the first time, more company and independent drivers responded than motor carriers. The research group added drivers as a separate group in 2016. The 4,200 respondents across the industry was a record number of respondents.

What are FMCSA’s upcoming proposed rules?

Robyn Hutcheson discusses priorities for FMCSA

ATRI: A trucker who crashes once is at high risk for another

Click for more FreightWaves articles by Alan Adler.

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  1. Charlie Simmons

    Speed limiters are not about safety for the motoring public. It’s about taking control of the trucks by the liberal left and the utopia they Invision with all the freight on warren buffet’s rail road and drones delivering the final mile. Traffic is going to be easier to navigate in their socialist society with the dirty polluting truck’s corralled in one lane while they are free to fly down the hiway in the electric vehicle of their organic fed vegan paradise created with our tax dollars funding the fantasy of the green new mistake party!

  2. Carolyn

    Truck drivers should not be paying the bills for companies who are maki g the money – the companies shipping the products and the outrageous profits the ool.companies are making. The low freight rates and the high cost of fuel (which the rates for the loads are not covering) are killing owner operators. The brokers continue to make huge profits so you know tjey are being unfare to the owner operators. The Biden administration is not helping. Lets get back to basics, transparency and honesty.

  3. Nunya Bidness

    American Transport Research Group working closely with the ATA… Yea right, so whatever the ATA wants the ATRG tries to make it more “believable”. I have a dream that one day, the bureaucrats at the FMCSA, just once, will make a common sense rule that benefits the entire industry rather than the mega carriers represented by the ATA, and special interest groups. And speed limiters isn’t it, just like E-logs have not made the roads safer. “Come on Man”

  4. Omar Lopez

    Well once again the speed limiters. While they allow all vehicles to speed past 100mph on highways let’s just slow down all trucks to 65mph or better yet how about 55mph.. that way the fatalities will increase ten fold within a few month. But yes FMCSA says is all about safety. FMCSA cares nothing about safety. FMCSA is nothing more than a tool for the left wing radical communist Democrats to control another segment of hard working class men and women. Let’s shut down pipe lines, let’s buy oil from Communist Venezuela which is up 30% and beg the Saudi government to increase production. It’s all a scheme to control your wallet and bring you down..Ronald Reagan said once that if the Government starts to control every aspect of your life, that’s when the people have allowed it, and surrendered there lives to communism. Like sheep to the slaughter people are blind and have chosen weakness over strength to stand up for freedom.

  5. Stephen Webster

    we have a shortage of experience truck drivers. Lots of farmers and construction companies can not get insurance to hire and train women as new truck drivers
    We need a fund to provide insurance for those with under 10 trucks to provide insurance at $1000U S mt or $1 300 cd for the first 2 years for new local drivers that have children or medical care for a family member

Comments are closed.

Alan Adler

Alan Adler is an award-winning journalist who worked for The Associated Press and the Detroit Free Press. He also spent two decades in domestic and international media relations and executive communications with General Motors.