Shippers Attempt to Become More “Driver Friendly” to Win Capacity

Imagine docking your trailer at a shipper’s facility, asking to use the restroom while you are waiting, and being denied.  Better yet, imagine being told to go relieve yourself behind your own trailer “like everybody else does,” by one of the employees.  So was the case a few years back when one driver made headlines for the treatment he received at a food packaging facility.  The facility later told the driver that they would be changing their policy within the next month to allow drivers to use their facilities’ restrooms.

Unfortunately, these cases do exist and happen every day.  Drivers continue to battle certain shippers and consignees who try to force them to break ELD regulations or just straight out treat them as less than their equal.  But that may be changing and here’s why.

Driver Shortage:

You may have noticed more and more trucks sitting in lots and at facilities as you drive by, a sign that driver demand is steadily increasing and that there are simply not enough drivers to fill the seats.  There is currently a driver shortage of roughly 50,000 drivers which is expected to grow rapidly to nearly 174,000 by 2024, according to the American Trucking Association (ATA).  At that rate, the ATA notes that the industry will need to bring on close to 1 million new drivers within the next 6 years to keep pace. 

According to Andrew Owens, CEO/manager at A&M Transport, and Rick Benton, owner of Center-Line Group in Dallas, the driver shortage is due to a combination of factors which include (but are not limited to) drivers retiring, the younger generation not wanting to pursue a career/the image of trucking not being what it once was, and stricter industry regulations.

Trucking Conditions Index:

While March’s Trucking Conditions Index (TCI) dropped from 15.41 to 10.30, it was three times higher than March 2017, which came in at 2.97. (1)  According to FTR, the TCI is expected to remain stable through 2018, reaching its high next year. (1)  As FTR’s Jonathan Starks notes, “The Market Demand Index published by and FTR shows that the spot market is once again tightening, rising each of the last four weeks to 58.1 in week 18.  It is likely to hit new record highs as we approach the summer shipping season at the end of May.” (1)  With that being said, it comes as no surprise that 2018’s first quarter trucking spot rates increased 27% year-over-year. (2)

Truckers Take Control:

The increased driver demand and capacity constraints are increasingly leading to a switch in power within the industry.  Whereas shippers rejected carriers due to price, on time performance, kept them waiting at docks for hours with little concern of their time, etc., the industry is finding that drivers are now inheriting the power once felt by their counterparts.  Shippers are beginning to pay premiums to get their products moved as docks begin to back up and the struggle to meet their customers’ time requirements close in.  With ELD mandates putting a hard stop on the number of hours that a driver can be on duty, dispatchers are pulling drivers from docks after an unreasonable amount of wait time or avoiding specific shippers or consignees all together that are known to detain drivers.  Other factors carriers are considering when looking at who to award capacity to include how often a customer ships and how driver-friendly the facilities are.

So how can shippers help?  According to the ATA’s Bob Costello, “If shippers processed cargo more quickly, they could free up freight capacity as much as 20 percent.” (2)  Drop trailers are also a solution to the detention problem, enabling a driver to drop an empty trailer and swap with one that’s preloaded, creating a more efficient process for all.

Shippers who are also more understanding of the obstacles truckers face each day which can impact a load being picked up or delivered on time, are finding themselves in a better position than those with very little tolerance.  “Carriers to some extent have a naughty and nice list,” states Transplace’s Ben Cubitt.  “If you’ve been a good partner through thick and thin, you’re definitely suffering less in this tough market than other shippers.”(2)

If you are facing capacity constraints or have specific shipping requirements that must be met, Road Scholar Transport can help.  We do not take a one-size-fits-all approach but rather listen to and morphs to accommodate each of our customers’ specific needs, whether it be weekend work, expedited shipping, high security, temperature-specific or geofencing a shipment.  Learn more about what Road Scholar has to offer at and chat with a live representative today.