A shortage of drivers tops the pending implementation of the federal electronic logging device mandate as the biggest trucking business concern, according to an industry trade group.

In its annual survey, the American Transportation Research Institute found that motor carriers and the industry in general are most concerned about a lack of qualified drivers to carry the nation’s freight.

The institute, or ATRI, released the survey results Monday on the second day of the American Trucking Association’s Management Conference & Exhibition in Orlando, Fla. ATRI is the research arm of the trucking trade group.

In a separate report released at the conference Sunday, the ATA said the driver shortfall could reach 50,000 positions by the end of this year and if trends hold, will grow to more than 174,000 by 2026.

“In addition to the sheer lack of drivers, fleets are also suffering from a lack of qualified drivers, which amplifies the effects of the shortage on carriers,” said Bob Costello, the ATA’s chief economist.

The driver shortage was the top-ranked issued for the industry for the first time since 2006.

ATRI recommended that the industry work with state and federal authorities to develop a graduated commercial driver’s license program to attract younger drivers to the industry and partner with the Department of Labor to create a national driver recruitment program.

“Identifying the right mix of partners and strategies to effectively address the driver shortage is one of our top goals for the industry” said Chris Spear, the ATA’s chief executive.

Some industry leaders say motor carriers must also increase driver pay significantly to make the career more enticing to workers who otherwise will go into construction and other trades.

“There is a real severe driver situation at this point and it’s only going to get worse, which probably means that driver wages are going to ratchet up pretty heavy for the next two to three years,” Max Fuller, executive chairman at US Xpress, told Trucks.com in a recent interview.

The e-commerce boom and a growing U.S. economy are increasing the demand for truck drivers to haul freight. The ATA projects freight volumes to grow 2.8 percent in 2017, followed by 3.4 percent annual growth through 2023.

The Dec. 18 implementation of a federal regulation that requires truckers to use electronic logging devices, or ELDs – digital equipment that monitors whether they are adhering to limits on driving hours, dropped to second in the ranking this year.

With just a few months to go before the deadline, as many as 1 million of the nation’s 3.5 million truckers have yet to prepare for the new rule, according to Chris Harlow, director of operations at Zed Connect Inc., a Los Angeles ELD provider.

Many truckers object to the regulation, saying that digital monitoring of their driving is an invasion of privacy. Although legal efforts to block the rule were rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year, the drivers continue sporadic protests and have launched an #ELDorMe Twitter campaign to gather support.

The number of hours drivers can operate a truck, also known as the hours-of-service regulation, is the industry’s third rank concern as motor carriers and drivers look for increased flexibility in the rules.

The lack of available truck parking held its fourth place overall but moved up to the number two issue for commercial drivers. Completing the list of the top five issues this year is the ability of motor carrier to retain their drivers.

The trade group received 1,557 responses to its survey from industry stakeholders in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. A majority of respondents were motor carriers, 50.4 percent. Commercial drivers made up 35.7 percent and other industry insiders accounted for 13.9 percent.

“ATA and its federation partners rely on ATRI's annual analysis to ensure we successfully navigate the important issues now and into the future,” Spear said.

Editor’s note: Trucks.com staff writer Clarissa Hawes contributed to this report.

Read next: Truck Driver Crunch Could Send Wages Skyward

About The Author

Jerry Hirsch

Jerry Hirsch is a veteran business journalist who is Editor and Vice President of Content of Trucks.com. Prior to joining Trucks.com, Hirsch was nationally known as the automotive writer for the Los Angeles Times. His work has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, San Diego Union-Tribune, Detroit Free Press, Detroit News, the Toronto Star, Consumers Digest and many other publications. He can be found on Twitter: @JerryHirsch.

12 Responses

  1. Tom T

    If you think the shortage is bad now just wait till the ELDs take effect. Trucking companies are their own worst enemies. The 110% turnover rate, not with standing of those who tried it and left, leaves one wondering who in their right mind would even consider a field where a camera watches your every movement, the regulations are stifling, the lack of respect from all levels of social contact ie: law enforcement, shippers, receivers lack of courtesy on the highway not to mention construction zones, back ups, inclement weather and the low to no pay while sitting, fueling, breakdown time, receiver delays of at times up to 4 to 6 hours and now restricted mileage for those who are paid per mile by the new log requirements of counting all time from start to finish whether driving taking a break or a napping or any other delay which will certainly reduce the daily mileage ability hence the pay of an already stressed to make a living group. The over-regulation has gotten so out of hand that doctors and sleep apnea companies are making a financial windfall working together to meet new medical requirements that not only cost the driver, may even disqualify him or her. In other words the bottom line for divers is that the incentive for those who were once inclined to be away from home for long periods of time to earn a living are no longer there which was basically a lifestyle and not a career while those who work local might stay a little longer depending on seniority pay and benefits while those without will definitely look elsewhere. It is bad now but I am afraid the worst is yet to come along with the cost of goods etc.

    Reply
    • dave barber

      Tom,YOU, are on target ,a simple thing as a nap, taking time away from you, is not productive and clearly , not in the name of safety ,it is all about control !…

      Reply
      • Sanman

        I don’t understand if you’re on the Qual-Com system for years you’re being track & information about your driving information is being recorded

  2. Truthside

    Tom T. Hit the nail on the head. Only going to get worse because you got all those problems you listed and now we’ve got bad truck drivers making it bad for the good drivers. Whether it’s poor hygiene, flip flops, poor training, immigrant drivers that don’t understand the rules of the road. I got my CDL two years ago and never ended up getting into it because I found out the truth you HAVE to start at these low pay, crappy companies with poor training. I tried local jobs and they wouldn’t touch me. They really need to overhaul everything in trucking. Doesn’t help the roads are getting busier and busier every year.

    Reply
    • TomT

      The ironic thing that I can`t seem to wrap my head around is how the ATA and large carriers who are lobbying for ELDs and other regulations and who install driver facing cameras can actually hope to add to their bottom line that all these changes will bring. Sure they will eliminate competition of small carriers but how will creating an even greater driver shortage help, not to mention they are opening themselves up to more litigation as the plaintiffs in any accident case are going to require exposure to any and all electronic, camera and speed monitoring equipment, cell phone, ELDs that happen to be on board the truck involved and make building a case against the company easier than it ever was before and lets face it, with the wages and working conditions that exist today, the quality of experienced drivers they are going to be able to attract is going to be limited although I suppose if it all adds a few cents to the stock price though even in the best case scenarios, that is only going to be a temporary bump to hold them over till all the bad news start rolling in with large investments in new equipment sitting parked up against the fence. What ever happened to common sense?

      Reply
  3. Tom

    I’m still on paper logs, but I worked for 4 months with elogs. There were multiple times when I had to pull over an hour from my house and take a 10 hour break. ELDs will send a certain percentage of experienced drivers out of the industry. We’ve got all kinds of restrictions on our behavior as is.

    Reply
    • TomT

      As will driver facing cameras and speed limiters which is the next big endeavor will do also. It does not take a PHD in transportation to look at what your bringing home at the end of the week after all the aggravation assuming you can get home at the end of the week, and compare it to any other decent paying job or career where you get breaks, and a lunch break, leave it all behind you at the end of the day, decent money less stress and home to Mamma and the kids every night without having to stop 20 or 30 miles away with no place to secure your truck much less park it and oh, if you decide to run anyway, don`t even think about it. An accident will ruin your career and if your lucky enough to get away with it whoever your leased to is going to come down on you hard.

      Reply
    • Dave Barber

      I just thought about this ,i read that over 1 million owners, have not started use of the eld ,with the mandate starting on Dec 19, they are doing us a favor, shutting down are trucks and keeping them home before the holidays, the people in washington, may have to work during the season ,and take us seriously on getting rid of the eld mandate and put icing on the cake include paper logs, and let the big companies who gets all the help and money keep them. I can afford to park mine for a week its better than loosing one day a week of productive work how about you !

      Reply
  4. Joe Icaza

    GOODBYE to the trucking industry, and welcome to what’s coming next
    I’ve been driving for almost 20 years and me and my family already making plans to sell my truck… just sold my reefer, Closed my authority, and leased onto a company while I get ready to leave what once was a great career.
    To spend time with my kids and make sure they do not follow my path (truck driving) is my priority.
    Greed is what has become from this business that the one that actually is suffering is the driver (backbone) of the industry. Little pay, DOT harassing, expensive fuel, getting a place to park is getting harder by the minute, expensive food and unhealthy, mistreated from some shippers and consigne, traffic, IRS getting more(no tax write offs). Away from family, weather, truck maintenance , and adding more rules and regulations. I make some money Half goes to fuel, then truck maintenance, liability insurance, cargo insuranse, bob tail insuranse, workers comp. Insurance then state, federal , corporate taxes, fuel taxes, and everything is so expensive now, if the economy is picking up, where is that money? I’m literary working hard just to give everyone my hard earned money. Ive actually found a better way of life out of the trucks now. It’s sad and depressing.

    Reply
  5. Truthside

    It really is sad and depressing. I don’t see how that industry will get better unless they take a page from European trucking where they give you a life outside the truck at least. I don’t know. Not to knock immigrant drivers btw in my last post but I’m always reading some story of an accident because they were facebooking or didn’t understand our roads. I really wanted to give this career a chance myself but it looks too dangerous and unhealthy. I am going to try locally.

    Reply
  6. Joseph

    With 99% of the job ads on Craigslist requiring 1 to 2 years experience I’m finding it extremely difficult to find work with my measly 3 months tractor/trailer experience, let alone believe there is a shortage of drivers! I have interviewed 9 times with 4 different Fedex Freight stations in the last 2 years yet cannot even get into their “driver apprentice” program,…which doesn’t even require a CDL! JB Hunt just bailed on a job they offered me recently to drive from the Bay Area to Reno and back 5 days a week, because at the last minute they decided that my 3 months (which is all they required) was too long ago, being it was 10 months ago, and they only accept 6 months history! With no experience I can drive from one end of the country to the other for Swift (the only company that wants to hire me, but I don’t want to live in a truck for 3 to 6 weeks at a time) but I need a years experience to drive the same 20 miles back and forth for a local company!? Driver shortage my ass!

    Reply
    • DB

      go too a roll off company keep working and then find something cause it will hurt you not working good luck

      Reply

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