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ON THE HORIZON 2011 TOP INDUSTRY ISSUES SURVEY


1. Economy 2. Hours-of-Service 3. Driver Shortage 4. CSA 5. Fuel Issues 6. Congestion 7. Transportation Funding 8. Tort Reform 9. Onboard Truck Technologies 10. Truck Size and Weight


SINCE ATRI STARTED THE ANNUAL INDUSTRY SURVEY IN 2005, NO ONE ISSUE HAS


RETAINED THE TOP SPOT FOR MORE THAN A YEAR UNTIL THE ECONOMY ROSE TO


NUMBER ONE IN 2009 AND IT HASN’T LEFT THE TOP SPOT SINCE.


make the industry’s list of top ten concerns. However, the source of the driver shortage may not stem entirely from the growing economy. New hiring challenges resulting from both baby boomer retirements and CSA implementation may also be contributing to a lack of qualified drivers. When asked to rank potential strategies


for addressing the driver shortage, survey respondents’ top choice was a focus on retaining the existing driver force by developing programs that advance work/ life balance, healthy lifestyles and family relationships. In what could also be classified as a driver retention strategy, survey respondents recommended addressing the competiveness of driver pay and benefits relative to other professions as a way to deal with the driver shortage. Finally, the third ranked strategy was quantifying CSA impacts on the driver pool, to separate out drivers who


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might be leaving the industry, or being forced to leave, as a result of the increased scrutiny in CSA. The increased scrutiny of both carriers


and drivers under CSA kept that issue in the top five this year, although CSA did drop from number two in 2010 to number four in 2011. Despite an overall lessening of industry confusion and concerns, the impacts of CSA remain a significant issue for many in the trucking industry. Nearly 30 percent of respondents ranked this issue first or second. However, despite these concerns, research indicates that carriers believe CSA will be a positive force in raising overall safety; more than 50 percent of surveyed carriers in ATRI’s CSA research believe that CSA will be an effective tool for improved safety performance. Rounding out the top five in this year’s survey is fuel issues. The ranking of fuel in


the annual survey can almost directly be tied to the price at the pump. Fuel issues ranked first in 2005 and again in 2008, but dropped to sixth in 2010. This year the issue, along with the price of fuel, has risen again. Diesel prices peaked at more than $4.70 gallon in July 2008, but then declined 40 percent by summer 2010. However by spring 2011, prices had risen back above the $4.00 per gallon mark before retreating again to $3.75 in late September 2011. In yet another sign of economic recovery,


congestion returned to the top ten list of industry concerns after dropping off in 2010. Congestion affects trucking operations on a daily basis and while standard peak-hour congestion is costly in terms of freight delays and fuel consumption, unexpected delays are considerably worse. With driver wages and fuel/oil costs representing over 50 percent of all motor carrier costs, congestion can wreak havoc on a carrier’s bottom line. However, the lack of a stable and reliable funding source for highway construction and maintenance means that congestion will remain a top issue for the industry for years to come. The lack of a stable and reliable


funding source ranked seventh on the list after congestion. Transportation Funding reemerged as a standalone issue this year as the need for reauthorizing the two- year delayed highway bill became more pressing. Rather than developing a new 6-year transportation bill, lawmakers recently approved a short-term extension of the enabling legislation, however it does not identify any new funding sources needed for critical highway infrastructure. Where the real value of the annual


industry survey lies is in the direction it provides industry groups at the state and national levels in terms of the issues and strategies that motor carriers believe will have the most impact on the industry for years to come. Armed with this information, state trucking associations and the American Trucking Associations are better equipped to address the issues more broadly and proactively. RW


Rebecca M. Brewster is president and COO of the American Transportation Research Institute, a 501(c)(3) not- for-profit trucking industry research organization. It is engaged in critical research relating to freight transportation’s essential role in maintaining a safe, secure and efficient transportation system.


ROADWISE | ISSUE 6, 2011 | www.mttrucking.org


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