The trucking industry has experienced continuous uncertainty since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Motor carriers, commercial drivers, and fleet carriers continue to feel the new normal’s impact on the industry. What is the biggest problem in the trucking industry? In 2022, the top issues that ranked for motor carriers and commercial drivers alike were driver compensation and shortage plus truck parking. Ranking second for commercial drivers was delay at customer facilities and driver retention for motor carriers. Fuel prices—a recent and sudden factor—ranked third as an issue for commercial drivers, while lawsuit abuse reform is the top third issue for motor carriers.
What exactly do these issues mean for the trucking industry and how can fleet carriers manage their impact?
Driver shortage, compensation, and retention
Driver shortage has been a problem for the industry before 2020. In 2020, it ranked as the industry’s top concern for the fourth year in a row. The American Trucking Associations estimates that the US is short of 80,000 drivers and could reach a shortage of 160,000 in 2030.
Another cause behind the shortage is the aging driver population. The American Trucking Associations surveys also report that nearly 57% of all commercial truck drivers are older than 45, while 23% are above 55 years old. All these aging individuals will soon head into retirement and leave their jobs.
Drivers also leave due to low compensation, which lowers your fleet’s retention. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the 2020 median pay for tractor-trailer and heavy truck drivers was only $47,130. The pay is also not nearly enough to make up for the long hours, time away from home, and the health hazards of the industry.
Motor carriers need to address the driver shortage with more incentives, higher pay, and opportunities for women, people of color, and younger aged drivers. Otherwise, you’ll be unable to continue the services and keep up with the demands only commercial drivers fulfill in their work.
Delay at Customer Facilities
When drivers wait longer for their truck to load, they end up earning less than expected. Most drivers are paid per move and end up making fewer trips when there are port bottlenecks. These customer facility delays are another reason behind the driver shortage and retention. Fleet managers must strategize how to lessen these waits and offer higher pay despite these bottlenecks. A problem in terms of work productivity goes back to compensating and protecting the workers who ensure all a fleet carrier’s operations run smoothly in the first place.
Fuel prices have increased to $7 a gallon and the rising costs will continue to burden the trucking industry. The prices not only limit how much motor carriers can save but also cuts into their profits. Independent truck drivers expect to make less than their average of $7,000 a week as most of their operating costs go into gas. Larger fleet carriers are forced to increase their freight charges to customers, which can affect how much business they make in the coming months. Fleet managers will have to account for competitive pricing without operating at a loss.
Apart from operational costs and customer charges, the rising gas prices have also limited the available roadside services. Less mechanics are on the road because they cannot afford the gas to get there. This limitation will also affect the maintenance of trucks and can cause delays in deliveries.
Lawsuit Abuse Reform
The trucking industry in Texas praised the Senate for passing HB 19 or the lawsuit abuse reform bill. The HB 19 reform protects small and medium trucking businesses from lawsuit abuse that increases insurance rates. The rising insurance cost from lawsuit abuse not only limits a motor carrier’s budget but also adds to the supply chain’s current issues.
HB 19 prevents lawsuit abuse by ensuring only evidence direct to the causation and injuries in an accident are presented to juries. It also keeps the case focused on the accident in question, which prevents extraneous allegations from coming up. As John Esparza, Texas Trucking Association (TXTA) president and CEO describes, “the trial process will continue to ensure accident victims are compensated when wrongfully injured, while also protecting business across the state from biased and unfair courtroom tactics.”
The trucking industry continues to face many issues and problems as the pandemic continues. But these issues bring to light what can be improved for commercial drivers and motor carriers to move forward. Focusing on preventing driver shortage and increasing your staff’s pay assures you smoother operations. While fuel prices and customer facilities are out of your control, you can build a strategy that benefits the business and your customers despite these problems. Thankfully not all issues are negative as lawsuit abuse reform is preventable now in Texas and hopefully this bill can be passed in other states.