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The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) released its 2022 Top Industry Issues report.

The top ten trucking industry concerns are:

  1. Fuel prices
  2. Driver shortage
  3. Truck parking
  4. Driver compensation
  5. Economy
  6. Driver detention/delay
  7. Driver retention
  8. CSA (Compliance, Safety, and Accountability)
  9. Speed limiters
  10. Lawsuit abuse reform

Fuel was not even in the top ten concerns in 2021. The driver shortage was number one from 2018 through 2021.

The economy could be slower in the coming year, based on industry experts and economists. Cost management, driver retention, and avoiding crashes and violations will be paramount to survival.

Countermeasures for top concerns

The economy at number 5 and its potential weakening in 2023 requires carriers to manage all costs, assets, and drivers as efficiently and effectively as possible.

Let’s dig into the remaining top concerns’ possible countermeasures.

1. Fuel Prices

Fuel has not been number one on the list since 2013, so getting back to basics is prudent. Based on ATRI’s 2022 Operational Costs of Trucking study, fuel increased by over 35 percent.

Actions that can minimize the impact of high fuel prices include:

  • Reduce out-of-route miles – Utilize vehicle tracking to ensure drivers take the most efficient route to customer locations and minimize non-business miles.
  • Reduce empty miles – Selecting freight or work closest to the last load or job reduces waste miles and driver time for which carriers are unpaid.
  • Reduce idling and inefficient driving behavior – Limit idling to a set number of minutes when parked, measure driver idle, and use telematic data or dash cam clips to reduce hard braking, rapid acceleration, and other unsafe and inefficient behaviors.
  • Fuel network purchasing only – Examine driver fueling locations for the most cost-effective purchases and prohibit off-network purchases except in an emergency.
  • Address inadequate fuel surcharge programs – Review customer contract provisions that compensate for fuel cost increases over a baseline cost per gallon.
  • Evaluate electric vehicles (EVs) – Fleets are rapidly adopting EVs due to government mandates and incentives as fossil fuel prices increase. Evaluate the feasibility and cost of converting at least a portion of your fleet that operates close to charging facilities daily.

2. Driver shortage, 4. Driver compensation, 6. Detention/delay, and 7. Driver retention

Finding and retaining drivers is a multi-faceted challenge. Driver demographics and a robust economy in the past couple of years contribute to fewer drivers looking for a trucking job.

Most actions to improve driver retention are not new. Drivers want fair and consistent pay, minimal delays, and respect.

The following are actions to attract and retain drivers:

  • Salary or minimum driver pay per week – The variability of drivers’ paychecks causes dissatisfaction as much or more than the annual wage. Review the current pay package for adjustment as a first step. Consider a salary or weekly minimum pay scheme.
  • Driver communication and feedback mechanisms – Regularly communicate on multiple channels such as podcasts, video clips, electronic newsletters, and video or audio town-hall meetings, in addition to in-person meetings and training. Use feedback mechanisms (anonymous or driver-identified) with accountability for action.
  • Respect – Meet commitments to drivers, especially time off requests. Resolve issues as they arise. Recognize their efforts as well as coach them to improve their performance.
  • Detention and delay – Electronic logging devices measure delays at customers and elsewhere. Use the data to increase customer detention revenue, minimize wait times, and pay drivers fairly. Reduce time searching for trailers and on breakdowns as well.

7. Truck parking

Parking shortages are time-of-day dependent in many markets, but there are acute shortages in regions like the Northeastern United States and Chicago.

A few actions that a carrier can take outside of advocating with legislators for more truck parking are:

  • Parking cost reimbursement – Either enter into agreements with truck stops or reimburse drivers for parking and encourage the use of parking reservation systems.
  • Trip planning training – Help drivers successfully plan trips with the end of the day in mind. Train dispatchers to best plan a driver’s workday.
  • Truck parking applications – Make parking availability applications available.

8. CSA, 9. Speed limiters and 10. Lawsuit abuse reform

Carrier involvement is essential to affect change with lawsuit abuse across the United States. However, minimizing the potential risk of unsafe driving behavior is imperative to protect trucking operations from nuclear verdicts. Protective actions include:

  • Regulatory compliance and adherence to policies and procedures - Safety management controls, also known as safety policies and procedures, may or may not be required by regulation. Meeting or exceeding regulations and following company policies help keep a carrier defensible in post-crash litigation and FMCSA audits.
  • Video-based driver coaching – Dashcam video clips triggered by unsafe driving provide proactive coaching and training opportunities. Avoid crashes, violations, and other dangerous incidents by honing driver skills. Driver retention and CSA scores will improve. Drivers are attracted to carriers with low CSA scores.
  • Speed limiter – While controversial as potential legislation, governing commercial motor vehicles at a defined safe speed limit (considering non-commercial vehicle speed differentials) has helped many carriers save fuel and limit the number and severity of crashes.

Key to remember:

Plan for a challenging year by adopting countermeasures to cost increases, safety concerns, and driver capacity issues.