From the CEO: US industry survey shows that it’s a small world

Read time: 3 mins

By Warren Clark

Originally Published in Owner Driver June Edition

By Warren Clark

It’s easy to think that the problems fronting our industry are unique to us in Australia. A quick look offshore underlines that we are truly part of a global economy where delivering on the freight task requires tackling the same hurdles.

Last week I re-read a research paper prepared by The American Transportation Research Institute outlining the top concerns for the US industry in 2022.

Americans don’t do things by halves: ATRI canvasses 25,000 stakeholders and 50 state trucking associations to ask about the top issues each year.  The research distils to about 4,200 responses – and ATRI says that’s a record number. 

Not surprisingly in the wake of the Ukraine War, fuel prices are the top issue for operators in the USA.

After reigning as the top industry issue for five successive years, driver shortages dropped one position this year to the second-highest topic. 

The lack of available Truck Parking rose one spot to become the third-ranked issue, followed by Driver Compensation. 

And the state of the US Economy rounded out the top five concerns.

NatRoad undertakes research from time to time. Most recently, we commissioned an independent economist to examine industry trends and concerns, throwing light on the things operators can do to remain viable.

NatRoad knows from its rather more modest research that fuel prices are biting. They’re the topic on every driver’s lips at every rest stop or roadside diner.

Slightly more than half of US operators think America can do more about pricing by expanding local refinery capacity, drilling for more oil or manipulating the national Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

Here, we don’t do refineries much these days. You’d risk being lynched by inner-city Greens voters if you said we should be doing a Jed Clampett and uncovering a new oil source in our backyard.

And as for strategic reserves, we’re more about bringing our fuel stockpile here and having it located on our shores.

About that driver shortage…according to the American Trucking Associations, the industry’s current shortage of over 80,000 truck drivers could grow to over 160,000 by 2030.

As I said, Americans don’t do things by halves.

The ATRI report goes on to say: “There are a number of underlying factors contributing to the Driver Shortage, including a retiring driver workforce, the challenging lifestyle, and regulatory pressures leading some drivers to leave the industry.”

Sound familiar? 

It goes on: “Industry stakeholders believe there are multiple ways to reduce the shortage including lowering the legal driving age to 18, improving the driving lifestyle – by expanding truck parking and reducing detention at customer facilities – and recruiting more women to the profession.

“Data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that 30.3 percent of the industry’s driver workforce is over 55 years of age. 

“Faced with this aging workforce and the accompanying pace of driver retirements, 39.1 percent of respondents believe the industry’s best strategy for reducing the driver shortage is to focus recruitment efforts on younger adults.”

They could be onto something.

For me, the most interesting stuff was the US advocacy for more truck rest stops.

According to the Federal Highway Administration, there are 313,000 truck parking spaces available nationally, which equates to just one truck parking space for every 11 drivers.

“The problem is particularly challenging in and around metropolitan areas where population densities create increased consumer demand for truck freight,” the report says. 

“However in a growing number of these areas, political pressure on local government – from residents who want the goods delivered by truck but do not want to provide parking for truckers – makes it more challenging to ease the regulatory burdens limiting construction of additional parking.”