Causes for Concern

THE U.S. TRUCKING INDUSTRY has ranked rising fuel costs as the most critical issue it currently faces, according to a survey released by the Alexandria, Va.-based American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI). Next on the list of industry members' concerns is a driver shortage.

At the request of the Alexandria-based American Trucking Associations, ATRI — the trucking industry's non-profit research organization — in 2005 contacted more than 2,000 carriers through surveys and interviews to determine their main concerns, as well as potential solutions.

Seventy-eight percent of the respondents named rising fuel costs as one of their top three concerns. Meanwhile, 69 percent pinpointed a shortage of drivers as one of their three biggest issues.

“By any definition, diesel and gasoline fuel prices are skyrocketing, with no foreseeable decline,” the report states. “At best, carriers indicated hope that prices would at least stabilize, allowing them to better plan for fuel budgets and fuel surcharge opportunities.” Carriers responded that the best solutions for rising fuel costs would be research on alternative fuel/energy and a national energy policy that creates price stability and uniform supplies.

Regarding a driver shortage, the report cites a strong economy, aging driver work force, driver turnover and limited asset capacity as the primary causes. The report pinpoints increased driver compensation — possibly with a focus on sectors with the highest turnover — as the most popular solution. Respondents also voiced support for focusing on non-traditional labor sources and improving driver training.

The third most pressing issue — insurance costs — was named by 35 percent of respondents as one of their three biggest concerns. According to the report, “Most carriers now say that rates are high but stable, allowing carriers to predict and plan for insurance costs.”

Hours-of-service, tolls/highway funding, tort reform/legal issues, overlapping/burdensome regulations, congestion environmental issues and truck security complete the top ten list. Truck security was named by 12 percent of the survey's respondents as one of their three biggest concerns they currently face.

Despite changing environmental regulations that affect the industry, only 12 percent of respondents rated it as a top-three issue, and 2 percent consider it the most important issue facing the industry. “New attention is being focused on truck-related fuel usage, air and water emissions and other secondary byproducts that may harm the environment,” the reports states. “The trucking industry is seeking reasonable programs and approaches for reducing the industry's negative environmental impact without harming economic growth.”

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