Controversial topic at #1 slot in yearly list of top 10 concerns in trucking

This week, the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) released their annual list of top 10 concerns in the trucking industry.

The ATRI list was released on October 27, 2020, following a tumultuous year in the trucking industry brought about by the COVID-19 crisis, periods of civil unrest, and severe weather events.

“For a number of reasons, 2020 has been a tremendously challenging one for our industry and our country, but as ATRI’s survey lays out, there are a number of issues we must address in addition to the ones put in front of us by this pandemic,” said ATA Chairman Randy Guillot, president and CEO of Southeastern Motor Freight and Triple G Express Inc. “From finding and keeping qualified drivers to the increased costs of insurance and burdens imposed on our industry by unwarranted lawsuits, ATRI has identified the issues our industry cares most about and outlines plans for how we can solve them.”

While the ATRI says that participation in the annual survey reached a 16 year high number of participants at 3,122, the organization says that only about a third of the respondents were truck drivers. Other survey respondents include motor carriers and industry stakeholders.

ATRI Top 10 Trucking Industry Concerns In 2020

10. Hours of Service — ATRI says concern over Hours of Service regulations appeared to drop significantly following the publication of an FMCSA final rule that went into effect effect September 29, 2020.

9. Detention / Delay at Customer Facilities — The ATRI says that this issue dropped five spots to #9 on the list “likely due to COVID-related economic impacts.”

8. Economy — The ATRI points to the economic crisis triggered by the pandemic as reason for this industry concern making the top 10 list.

7. Tort Reform — This issue made a reappearance on the list for the first time since 2012 due to “the growing attention and concern over truck crash litigation, nuclear verdicts and criminal activity involving staged crashes.”

6. Driver Retention — The ATRI points to increasing freight demands combined with the challenge of bringing new drivers into the workforce during the pandemic as a reason that fleets are focusing on keeping their drivers.

5. Insurance Cost/Availability — The ATRI says that “insurance costs per mile increased 18.3 percent over the last five years” and that smaller fleets are paying per mile insurance premium costs at the three times the rate of larger fleets.

4. Compliance, Safety, Accountability — This issue appears regularly in the top 10 list as “carriers continue to report challenges with data quality, peer group assignments and challenges with the Crash Preventability Program.”

3. Truck Parking — This issue regularly appears on the top 10 list but hit its highest ever ranking at #3 in part because some states closed rest areas during the pandemic.

2. Driver Compensation — Though the ATRI says that driver pay and benefits have increased in recent years, they say survey respondents link the issue of the driver shortage with driver pay: “Despite these increases, many drivers believe the shortage and compensation are inextricably linked, and that the only solution to recruiting and retaining drivers is to increase pay or modify compensation models. And, while this is just the second year that Driver Compensation has appeared as a Top 10 issue in this survey, the very first Top Industry Issues Survey in 2005 identified increasing driver pay as the number one strategy for addressing the driver shortage.

1. Driver Shortage — For the fourth year in a row, the issue of driver shortage topped the ATRI list. The ATRI says that the pandemic briefly flattened the demand for drivers but that “the shortage will soon return to the levels experienced in 2018 and 2019.”

The ATRI also points to other factors as reasons for a shortage of drivers: “Exacerbating the driver supply challenges is the number of drivers who have left the industry due to the FMCSA Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse2 as well as older drivers who retired or exited the industry over COVID-related health concerns.”

Other industry groups like the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) have called the ‘driver shortage’ a myth for many years. OOIDA points to high turnover rates and driver compensation problems rather than a shortage as reasons that fleets have trouble filling seats.