The U.S. is suffering a severe shortage of truck drivers. In fact, the industry is now facing a deficit of over 53,000 qualified truck drivers. Over the next decade, the shortage is projected to skyrocket to 898,000. Actions are being taken around every corner to combat this deficit. From recruiting more women to attempting to cater to the needs of millennials, freight companies and large businesses are looking for ways to get more qualified drivers behind the wheel.
However, if the shortage comes to an end, there will be other problems to face. From overcrowded truck stops to strict regulations on hours, there are some challenges the trucking industry needs to face now, so it can continue to grow. Here are a few of the issues the trucking industry must solve to expand smoothly in 2019.
Too Many Trucks on the Road
Gridlock traffic can make even short hauls take far longer than anticipated. Traffic means longer hours for truckers and more gas and labor expenses for freight owners. If that gap closes, that means there will be at least 53,000 more trucks on America’s highways. More trucks could potentially cause more traffic for everyday commuters as well as truckers. And with less truckers interested or willing to drive through the night, more are facing traffic and adding to the congestion. This will be a challenge the trucking industry will have to face if the gap is to close. Better routes, different hours, and altered expectations will have to be put into place to seamlessly add more trucks to the road.
Truck Parking Shortage
Finding a safe place to park your truck and take a rest is already an issue for truckers. Often, rest areas and truck stops are full to capacity, especially in the evening, leaving drivers to park on exit ramps. Some states allow this, but many places have laws against parking on ramps.
Legal or not, according to the president of Jet Express Trucking in Dayton and the former chairman of the American Trucking Associations, Kevin Burch, this is an accident waiting to happen. Especially when trucks park on off ramps from the highway, cars can come speeding around the corner and not see the truck in time. Burch believes that the government should be doing more to provide safe parking for long-haul truckers.
It is mandatory for truckers to take breaks after a certain number of hours, but when taking a rest is putting them at a higher risk than continuing to drive, something needs to change. This problem will only get worse as more truckers are introduced into the industry. More trucks on the road will mean even fewer safe areas to park.
As of now, freight owners are encouraging drivers to plan their driving hours, so they can find available places to park and rest when it is time. Where it is legal to park on the side of exit ramps, truckers are being encouraged to only park on ramps that enter the highway, as to avoid highway traffic.
Time Logging Issues
Finally, the trucking industry has introduced new logging technology that is causing some frustration. Originally, truckers would log their own hours by hand. Since the logging was all on pen and paper, truckers were often caught being dishonest about how many hours they had worked. In fact, log violations were the most frequent form of violation among truckers in 2017.
Due to the high volume of log violations, it became a federal rule in December 2017 that all large trucks be equipped with electronic logging devices. While many believe the electronic systems are a good idea, they do not allow for much flexibility for drivers. They only allow a driver to be on duty for a specific set of hours, require breaks after eight hours, and expect 10 hours of rest time for truckers with a berth.
Truckers would like to see more flexibility to give them the option to pull off the road in heavy traffic and make up the hours when there is less congestion. They would also like to cut the required rest time to eight hours and apply the other two to breaks throughout the shift.
Most rule makers in the trucking industry agree that the electronic logging systems need to stay. However, some are willing to consider modifying the strict rules. Having this issue sorted out in 2019 would allow for less pushback and more room for the industry to grow. It may inspire more people to become truckers, and it will also allow current truckers to work more efficiently and feel more in control of their days.
The transportation industry has plenty of room to grow and solving potential problems now will help make room for more truckers on the road.