What are the most important issues in trucking today?
By Joel Dandrea13 June 2023
Earlier this year at a management meeting for the American Trucking Association (ATA), the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) delivered a list of its top-five research projects for 2023.
Parking was at the top of the list. According to the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), there is only one parking spot available for every 11 trucks on the road, and a nationwide shortage of more than 40,000 parking spaces.
In response, ATRI’s leadership explained that its board has approved a study specifically looking at the cost and impact of expanding truck parking facilities at public rest areas. In a related interview with Transport Topics, ATRI president and chief operating officer, Rebecca Brewster, said, “If states would examine their footprint at public rest stops, it could just be as simple as putting down more pavement at a location where there is already a facility. It’s land that states already own … hopefully this type of study will turn the light on for state DOTs.”
Barriers for women in trucking was the next issue that ATRI said its researchers will attempt to tackle this year. As many already understand, while the trucking industry copes with a widespread driver shortage, bolstering the recruitment of women has become a priority.
Common barriers that women have faced, and continue to face while entering the industry include: basic gender bias (having to prove they’re physically/mentally able to do the job), work-life balance (women are often expected to juggle work and home/child care) and universal safety concerns (harassment, assault, safe facilities and more).
In response, last summer, ATA unveiled “Women in Motion,” with a goal of showcasing the positive impact women have in trucking. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration soon followed with the Women of Trucking Advisory Board, which seeks to address issues women in trucking face with a goal of eliminating those problems to open the industry to a broader potential workforce.
Taking a closer look
The third issue ATRI plans to examine concerns the changes taking place and the impacts they may have on freight deliveries as municipalities remove and reroute interstate highways that were often built in minority communities more than half a century ago. Brewster continued in Transport Topics, “We’re seeing proposals in a number of locations to close interstates. We still have to have freight delivered, and regardless of where you live, freight still needs to be delivered to your grocery store, the local hospital … and if you start closing those interstates, the freight is going to go onto the side streets and your local routes.”
According to ATRI, this research will help city planners and others understand how freight is delivered and what the impact could be by shutting down or demolishing those roads.
Moving on, ATRI plans on doing a deeper dive into the consequences of the ongoing shortage of diesel technicians and what can be done to improve conditions for men and women considering careers in this field.
With demand in the field landing at more than 175,000 technicians needed between now and 2026, ATRI believes it’s time the industry pivots to reflect this change.
Lastly, ATRI is going to examine the ongoing issue of “driver detention” – where drivers often must sit for hours, sometimes not being paid, while they wait for their trucks to be loaded or unloaded.
Detention time has become even worse amid global supply chain challenges, directly impacting both driver productivity and morale. Drivers can lose on duty hours as well as revenues. They then might feel they need to rush to make the rest of their appointments, which means compromising the safety of not only themselves, but others on the road. There’s also the risk of angry customers, as late deliveries and missed pickups potentially lead to loss of business.
ATRI hopes to uncover solutions and establish practices that ultimately lead to recovering much of the annual $1 billion a year in losses connected to this recurring problem.