Year after year, truck drivers face persistent challenges within the U.S. trucking industry. According to the ATRI (American Transportation Research Institute) critical issues survey, the truck driver shortage has remained the industry’s number one concern for the past five years. Driver retention has also become increasingly important, moving up to the second spot from fourth place in the previous year. Additionally, driver compensation remains a significant issue. To overcome these challenges and move the industry forward, fleets need to prioritize solving the problems faced by truck drivers.
Driver compensation has consistently been a pressing issue, as pay scales have not kept pace with economic growth. Compared to their counterparts in the 1970s, today’s drivers earn 40 percent less. However, even modest increases in driver pay can yield substantial rewards. A study conducted in November 2022 found that drivers who stayed on the job in 2018 earned an average of six percent more annually ($2,836 more per year) than those who left.
Fleets that prioritize increasing driver compensation in 2022 not only have the opportunity to reduce costs associated with driver turnover but also attract more drivers and improve retention rates. The average cost of replacing a professional driver amounts to approximately $3,600, considering testing fees, signing bonuses, and training expenses.
Truck parking shortages have become an increasingly challenging issue over the past decade. According to the 2019 Jason’s Law Report, there are roughly 313,000 parking spaces available for over three million U.S. truck drivers. The lack of adequate parking spaces has led drivers to spend an average of $5,550 annually or 12 percent of their income on parking. Moreover, drivers lose approximately one hour of driving time each day as they park early to secure a spot.
To address this concern, fleets should advocate for the expansion of real-time parking information systems and the creation of additional parking spots. Some states have already implemented real-time parking information apps and digital roadside message signs that display available parking slots. By increasing the availability of these resources, fleets can help alleviate driver parking issues and improve productivity.
Detention / Delay at Customer Facilities:
Delays and detention at customer facilities pose significant challenges for truck drivers. These delays disrupt planned routes and delivery times, reducing a driver’s ability to meet their goals efficiently. Currently, long-haul truck drivers in the U.S. are allowed to drive for 11 hours within a 24-hour period. However, due to delays, they spend only 6.5 hours driving, resulting in a 40 percent loss of trucking capacity.
Fuel prices have a direct impact on trucking operations and driver profitability. Although fuel prices were initially expected to decline in 2022, geopolitical events, such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, have disrupted the energy market. Consequently, fleets need to adopt a proactive approach to help drivers increase fuel efficiency and keep costs low.
Advanced telematics systems can play a crucial role in optimizing routes and reducing fuel costs. By utilizing vision-based driving data and vehicle sensors that track driver behavior, fleets can provide drivers with valuable insights into fuel-wasting variables. Armed with this information, drivers can modify their behavior and minimize fuel expenses.
Lawsuit Abuse Reform:
Lawsuit abuse has become a significant concern within the trucking industry, leading to skyrocketing insurance rates for drivers. While some states have enacted laws to combat abuse, there is a need for further legislation to address this issue effectively. Fleets should take an active role in educating drivers and local law enforcement to identify staged accidents, a common form of fraud. Additionally, advocating for tougher legislation that criminalizes staging accidents can help deter fraudulent activities and protect drivers’ interests.
Driver Training Standards:
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) implemented new entry-level driver training requirements in February 2022. These requirements make obtaining a Class A or Class B CDL, as well as hazardous materials endorsements, more detailed and time-consuming. Many drivers may feel confused about the rules and where to obtain proper certification.
Fleets should develop comprehensive training programs and set clear expectations to minimize driver confusion and ensure compliance with training standards. By providing accessible and informative training resources, fleets can help drivers navigate the certification process more effectively.
Confusion regarding the FMCSA’s Hours-of-Service (HOS) rules persists among truck drivers. A 2021 survey conducted by the J.J. Keller Center for Market Insights revealed that only 40 percent of respondents claimed to have a solid understanding of the rules and their impact. A key challenge lies in determining which rules apply to specific drivers and vehicles.
To mitigate this concern, fleets should conduct regular driver training sessions to ensure drivers are well-informed about the HOS rules. Additionally, implementing advanced fleet telematics systems can aid fleet compliance managers in monitoring and reviewing driver compliance with HOS rules, providing real-time driving status updates and other critical information.
As the Department of Transportation predicts a 50 percent increase in U.S. freight activity between 2020 and 2050, fleets must address the challenges faced by truck drivers head-on. By prioritizing driver concerns, such as compensation, truck parking, detention at customer facilities, fuel prices, lawsuit abuse, training standards, and hours-of-service rules, fleets can create a driver-centric culture and proactively solve these issues. Implementing advanced fleet management systems and leveraging innovative technologies can revolutionize fleet operations, attract and retain drivers, reduce costs, improve efficiency, and ensure timely deliveries. By adopting a driver-centric approach, fleets can overcome industry challenges and meet the growing demand for transportation services in the years to come.
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