Jan 23, 2020

Carriers and shippers have a clear symbiotic relationship; what happens to one can have a large impact on the other. That’s why it’s important for shippers to keep a close eye on the current issues that affect truckers the most. As a third-party logistics provider, we are greatly invested in the trucking industry and the issues it faces, and we are particularly attuned to what’s happening in the industry every year. We do this so we can be receptive to the issues that make changes in carrier rates, routes, delivery times and anything else that impacts the way in which freight is moved across the country. 

The top issues affecting truckers this year
Every year, the American Trucking Association (ATA) releases a report prepared by The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI). This report, which details the top ten critical issues as defined by carriers, gives us a good glimpse of what we can expect to face in the coming year. It tells us what truckers will be focused on and concerned about, and it helps us provide a better level of service to our customers. 

Interested in which issues truckers have rated as the most critical? Please read on! We’re unpacking the top issues as rated by truckers in the US. 

The top 10 issues in the 2019 ATRI report ranked as follows: 

  1. Driver shortage 
  2. Hours of service (HOS) 
  3. Driver compensation 
  4. Detention/Delay at customer facilities 
  5. Truck parking 
  6. Driver retention 
  7. Electronic logging device (ELD) mandate 
  8. Compliance, safety, accountability (CSA) 
  9. Transportation infrastructure/congestion/funding 
  10. Economy 

As a comparison, the top 10 issues in 2018 ATRI report were: 

  1. Driver shortage 
  2. Hours of service (HOS) 
  3. Driver retention 
  4. Electronic logging device (ELD) mandate 
  5. Truck parking 
  6. Compliance, safety, accountability (CSA) 
  7. Driver distraction 
  8. Transportation infrastructure/congestion/funding 
  9. Driver health/wellness 
  10. Economy 

What has changed?
You’ll notice several key differences from the 2018 list to the 2019 list: 

  1. Driver compensation and detention/delay at customer facilities are new key issues to the list. 
  2. Driver health/wellness and driver distraction are no longer in the top 10 (that doesn’t mean they aren’t still issues in the industry!). 
  3. Driver retention, CSA and the ELD mandate are issues that are less of a concern than before. 
  4. The only returning issue that is more highly ranked than last year is transportation infrastructure/congestion/funding. 

How do these impact shippers, and what can be done?
These issues, whether directly or indirectly, do have an impact on shippers. A wrench thrown in the gears of a carrier operation will surely be felt by the companies whose freight they are moving. Let’s review the top ten issues, how they may cause roadblocks for your business and what you (and King Solutions) can do to navigate them. 

1#, #2, and #6: Driver ShortagesHOS and Driver Retention
It’s long been noted that the capacity crunch has bearing down on the logistics industry for many years. Truckers are aging, and many of them are getting out of the business. Further compounding the problem are closures for major companies like CeladonWhen combined with HOS regulations that are regulating the amount of time carriers can be on the road, these issues have limited the number of carriers on the road. This is tightening capacity and heavily increasing the van-to-truckload ratio and the rates shippers are paying to move their freight. 

The solution from the government to this issue is DRIVE-Safe Act, which was reintroduced in Congress in February. The act allows 18-21-year-olds to begin careers as truckers. There is still uncertainty as to how it will be deployed, and it’s not without controversy, but it could help combat the aging trucking industry. 

It’s now more important than ever for shippers to hold onto the relationships they have with carriers and utilize 3PLs who leverage large carrier bases to move freight. The keys to keeping rates low and guaranteeing that a carrier will always be there to take a shipment are carrier relationships, consolidation through LTL shipping and PTL shipping, and leveraging intermodal shipping strategies. 

#3: Driver compensation
Driver compensation is undoubtedly the surprise addition to this list, especially since the ATRI report itself notes that “fleets continued to increase driver compensation to attract and retain qualified drivers.”  

Regardless of how truckers view the level of their compensation, rising trucking salaries can only mean one thing: increased expenditures for shipping. However, the latest numbers on the Cass Expenditures Index are trending behind last year’s. As we noted above, it’s more important than ever for shippers to leverage a large network of carriers in order to keep rates competitive. 

#4: Detention/Delay at customer facilities
A (not surprising) new addition to this year’s list, loading bay crowding and delays are a big issue for truckers. With fewer truckers on the road, and more loads to take, truckers are trying to get in and out of warehouses as quickly as possible to keep up with demand. Drivers have reported a 27.4 percent increase, with delays of 6 hours or more even being reported, according to the ATRI report.  

Features case study: see how King drastically reduced dock congestion for this commercial equipment provider. 

#5 & #9: Truck parking and transportation infrastructure/congestion/funding
The speed and efficiency and safety of shipments are all heavily reliant upon the nation’s infrastructure, which is why these two issues are frequently recurring on the list every year. The ATRI report notes these as major issues that have not been mitigated by the federal government. There was no major legislation passed in 2019 regarding the nation’s roadways and the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the nation’s infrastructure a D+ in its latest report card, according to the ATRI report. This has allowed bottlenecks to occur, traffic to slow and money to be lost within the industry. 

While shippers can do little in the ways of improving the nation’s infrastructure, they can place a focus on route planning and intermodal shipping in order to decrease shipping times and move their freight more quickly. LTL and PTL shipping also place fewer trucks on the road and even reduce costs for shipments. 

#7 & #8: ELD and CSA
Both the ELD mandates and CSA dropped lower on the list from 2018, which is no surprise since they are far out from their initial implementation (ELD was the number one issue in 2016). This has given carriers time to adjust to the regulations, and it would be no surprise to see them (particularly the ELD) drop off the list entirely in the next year or two. 

Having said that, they remain major issues in the industry, and shippers would do well to understand the requirements of ELD and how CSA rates motor carrier performance. This can help with carrier selection and rate negotiation when shippers are searching for a reliable way to move their freight. 

#10: Economy
Resting comfortably at number 10 for the past few years is the economy, which the ATRI report noted had record-setting demand for freight transportation over the past year. The economy is a concern for every company in every industry, and it’s too long of a topic to even begin to cover here. To see how the industry and the economy faired across 2019, refer to our industry reports (link to Q4 industry report). 

Be prepared for 2020
Concerned about any of these issues when it comes to your logistics strategy in 2020? Let’s talk solutions. Discover how King has helped businesses overcome their shipping issues by contacting our team today!