What are the industry’s biggest issues these days? Most everyone will say the driver shortage leads the way. Everyone except drivers, of course. I’d say top spot belongs to hours of service rules followed closely by the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate, both of which are key reasons for the shortage… of drivers willing to work long hours within that arbitrarily constructed straitjacket.
So it’s no surprise that the top three issues for drivers are those two plus the lack of parking facilities. That’s according to the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI), trucking’s not-for-profit research institute, an arm of the American Trucking Associations. It recently unveiled its annual Top Industry Issues report, which includes a list of the top 10 critical issues facing the North American trucking industry.
The survey garnered 1,539 responses, with carriers representing 47.5% of the pool, drivers 41.3%, and other industry stakeholders making up the balance. Yes, it’s essentially an American survey, and the Canadian trucking scene is a different tin of tuna, but there are still lessons to be learned.
For the second year in a row, the driver shortage is the top-ranked issue, when driver and carrier responses are aggregated. It’s been a top-three issue in 12 out of the 14 years that ATRI has conducted this survey. Note, however, that it ranks as the top issue for motor carriers, but unsurprisingly the ninth-biggest concern from the perspective of truck drivers.
The overall number-two issue in this year’s survey is the hours of service regime, driven in large part by the industry’s call for increased flexibility in the rules. At number three is driver retention, up two spots from last year. The ELD mandate actually dropped in ranking from the number two issue in 2017 to number four this year.
No real surprises there.
Interestingly, automated truck technology was 13th overall, in 10th spot for drivers. Clearly they feel their jobs are threatened.
But here’s the one that concerns me — the lack of available truck parking. Overall it’s number five, but it’s the number two issue for drivers and only ninth according to carriers. That’s a big disconnect and implies that fleet managers either don’t understand what drivers are up against or simply don’t care. I’d guess it’s the former.
The truth is, it’s a huge burden to drivers and a massive productivity killer for both sides of the divide. Drivers waste an untold number of hours — meaning available on-duty time — trying to find a safe and suitable place to rest. It’s a huge frustration for them and a major source of stress.
Rebecca Brewster, president and COO of ATRI, says she doesn’t see the parking problem being resolved any time soon, so it’s likely to be on the issues list for years.
The ATRI report also identifies three preferred strategies for addressing each issue. Here’s what it says about parking, in rank order:
Identify strategic locations for new or expanded truck parking, like opening shuttered parking facilities, investing in new ones, and repurposing vacant urban and suburban land parcels. A majority of survey respondents (50.2%) say that’s their preferred strategy.
Educate state and local officials on the safety consequences of closing public parking facilities and/or failing to expand truck parking availability. ATRI says that 48.7% of drivers are forced to park in undesignated locations like highway shoulders or ramps three to seven times per week.
Research the role and value of real-time truck parking information availability and truck parking reservation systems. ATRI designed the Truck Parking Information Management System concept and it’s on track to be launched by the summer of 2019 in eight midwest states.