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The American Transportation


Research Institute each year surveys carriers and publicizes a list of the year’s critical issues in trucking. In 2015, the hours of service issue topped the list, followed by concerns with CSA, the driver shortage and driver retention. Truck parking was number five, while the electronic logging device mandate was number six. Rounding out the top 10 were driver health and wellness; the economy; transportation infrastructure, congestion and funding; and driver dis- traction.


2017 AND BEYOND: WHO’S DRIVING THE TRUCKS? It’s no surprise that the driver


shortage and driver retention ranked so high on the list. As Thomas explained, the shortage rose from 38,000 in 2014 to 48,000 in 2015 and is expected to balloon to 175,000 by 2024. The primary reasons for that, he said, are retirements and industry growth. Lesser reasons include drivers being pushed out of the industry and drivers leav- ing before retirement. Meanwhile, the industry expects a shortage of 67,000 technicians and 75,000 diesel techni- cians by 2022. Until trucks drive themselves, the


industry will have to find drivers, but there are opportunities. Thomas said in an interview that 94 percent of driv- ers are men, a holdover from the days when driving a truck required physi- cal strength. Now, most trucks being manufactured are automatics, which means women are a huge untapped labor pool. Another potential pool is younger drivers. The ATA tried to include a pilot program in the FAST Act allowing some drivers below the age of 21 to engage in limited interstate commerce. Currently, they can drive across Arkansas but not from Texarkana, Ark., to Texarkana, Tex. Unfortunately, the provision was watered down to include only current or past members of the military under age 21—a small number of potential drivers. The military also remains an excel-


lent potential market. The ATA is work- ing on the legislative front to fast-track


ARKANSAS TRUCKING REPORT | Issue 3 2016


THERE’S NOBODY IN THIS COUNTRY WHO CARES MORE ABOUT THE SAFE OPERATION OF YOUR


BUSINESS AND MAKING SURE THAT YOUR DRIVERS GET IN THAT TRUCK IN THE MORNING AND THEY COME BACK HOME TO THEIR FAMILIES EVERY NIGHT THAN YOU, AND SO I REJECT THE IDEA


THAT THESE SAFETY ADVOCATES SOMEHOW HAVE A LARGER INTEREST IN SAFETY THAN WE DO. AND SO I DON’T CALL THEM SAFETY ADVOCATES. I CALL THEM ANTI-TRUCK GROUPS.


—PAT THOMAS, AMERICAN TRUCKING ASSOCIATIONS’ CHAIRMAN AND SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT FOR STATE GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS FOR UPS


the awarding of commercial driver’s licenses to veterans. It also supports the “Hiring Our Heroes” campaign to encourage motor carriers to employ military veterans. In fact, getting more veterans behind the wheel is one of Thomas’ top priorities. “They’ve got a great work ethic,”


he said. “They can pass a background check. Many cases, they have experience in the field that we’re (dealing) in. And so they’re perfect examples of folks that we’d like to bring into our industry.” Finally, the motor carrier industry


has had great success in safety in recent years. Thomas displayed a graph showing that the number of fatal crashes involving large trucks fell from 5,042 in 1980 to 2,983 in 2009. That number rose to 3,424 in 2014, but it’s still a 32 percent drop from 1980. Likewise, over that time period the rate of fatal crashes involving large trucks per 100 million miles has dropped from 4.65 to 1.23. Since 1980 the numbers occasionally have risen, but the long- term trend is downward. According to Thomas, being safe and being profitable are not mutually exclusive—in fact, the most profitable carriers are often the safest ones.


Thomas said that it’s as important


to track successes as it is failures. “We’ve got a lot of work to do and


we’re not where we want to be, but we’re in a much better place than we were in 1980,” he said. “And there’s no reason to think that what we’re doing between that period of time and now, coupled with all the additional things that we’re doing to make ourselves safer, that the trend won’t continue.” he said. The industry continues to fight for


safety, despite accusations to the con- trary by trucking opponents. Among Thomas’ biggest applause lines at the ATA conference was his call for the nation to address distracted driving among all vehicles—not just trucks. “There’s nobody in this country


who cares more about the safe opera- tion of your business and making sure that your drivers get in that truck in the morning and they come back home to their families every night than you, and so I reject the idea that these safety advocates somehow have a larger inter- est in safety than we do,” he said in an interview. “And so I don’t call them safety advocates. I call them anti-truck groups.” ATR


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