Although the trucking industry experienced its best year in 2012 since The Great Recession, there are still plenty of issues on the table. The implementation of federal regulations along with the ongoing debate of electronic logging devices (ELD) has shaken up the trucking industry from top to bottom. Truckers’ rights are becoming a constant battle and are on the minds of executives and commercial drivers alike.
Every year the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) releases a report detailing critical issues in the trucking industry. The results are a culmination of surveys taken by professionals in the industry and have been providing a unique insight into trucking since 2005. The participants use a point system and rank what they believe are the most important issues facing truckers that year.
The ATRI unveiled their 2013 report in late October and the results are somewhat familiar. All of the issues on the 2013 list were present in 2012, but some of the positions have changed. Here is a breakdown of the top five concerns facing truckers today:
Hours of Service (HOS) Rule
After ranking second in 2012 and 2011, Hours of Service ranked as the top issue among truck drivers in 2013. HOS has not been the top issue since 2007 when the federal Appeals Court vacated the 34-hour restart and 11th hour driving provisions.
On July 1, 2013, the changes made in the December 2011 Final Rule went into effect and most drivers believe they will have a negative impact on productivity. In addition to limited use of the 34-hour restart, a minimum 30-minute break before an 8-hour shift is also in place.
Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA)
CSA was #1 last year but still ranks in the top three of 42 percent of the respondents to the survey. Industry groups have had several issues with the CSA since the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) first introduced it in 2010.
The two main concerns of the CSA appear to be the “lack of crash accountability in CSA scoring and the inability of CSA scores to accurately predict carrier safety performance.” A 2012 study by the ATRI showed only three of five publicly available Behavior Analysis Safety Improvement Category (BASIC) scores were positively associated with crash rates. The Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee plans a critical review of the entire program.
With the economy steadily gaining strength, driver shortage has been increasing along with it. This issue is somewhat debatable, however. While driver shortage seems to be a major concern for motor carrier executives, it is of little to no concern for commercial drivers themselves.
There are three proposed strategies to offset driver shortage that include comparing the pay and benefits of the trucking industry to other industries, introducing a graduated CDL program to attract new and younger drivers, and attracting more veterans with the ongoing efforts to simplify the transition of a military CDL to a civilian CDL.
After a three-year run (2009-2011) as the top concern facing the trucking industry, worries about the economy have continued to weaken over the years. Some attribute this to the rise in concerns over new issues, but the overall paranoia about the economy has subsided a considerable amount.
According to a November 2013 report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the trucking industry added 400 new payroll jobs in October 2013. As of November 2013, the for-hire trucking industry has 22,000 more payroll jobs than it did one year ago. Overall, trucking employment is up 12.2 percent since it bottomed out in March 2010.
Electronic Logging Devices (ELD)
Ranking fifth, the highest ever in the survey’s nine year history, the use of ELD’s is a growing concern and a hot button issue in the industry. The concerns raised over driver harassment have curbed previous ELD rules and proposals but electronic monitoring appears to be inevitable and will remain an issue into the foreseeable future.
A new proposal for ELD regulations is in the works but faces many challenges. Rob Abbott, Vice President of Safety Policy at American Trucking Associations, spoke on the topic: “The driver harassment issue is just one of the major aspects FMCSA must consider in its new proposal. It also must settle some issues that ELD manufacturers identified with certifications of the devices and their communication and security.”
Robert J. Hall is president of Track Your Truck, a leader in GPS vehicle tracking systems and software for small and midsized companies.