The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) has been releasing its annual trucking industry survey, polling the top concerns of motor carriers, commercial drivers, and stakeholders, since 2005. This year, the response was overwhelming with over 3100 responses collected between Sept. and mid-Oct.
How it works:
The survey presented participants with a list of 29 critical issues in which they were asked to select/rank their top three, allowing for write-in responses if the issue was not listed. Respondents were then asked to list their three preferred strategies for each. Assigning 3 points for those issues ranked most important, 2 points for 2nd, and 1 point for 3rd, ATRI was able to calculate the overall ranking as indicated by both carriers and drivers.
Top Ten Critical Issues: (The below info. is provided by SDC Executive)
1) Driver Shortage
For the fourth year in a row, driver shortage ranked #1 in critical issues facing the trucking industry. Reasoning behind ever increasing shortage numbers includes the FMCSA Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse and COVID concerns/health reasons.
2) Driver Compensation
Moving up from its number 3 position last year is driver compensation. While driver pay increased nearly $6000 based on the national truckload average van driver, the shortage continues to influence compensation.
3) Truck Parking
With several truck stops and rest areas having shut down at some point this year due to COVID, it comes as no surprise that truck parking climbed two spots this year as drivers struggle to find safe areas to park their trucks.
4) Compliance, Safety, and Accountability
First gaining a spot in the survey back in 2010, the CSA program jumped from its #8 position in 2019 to #4 this year with the bulk of concern revolving around the Crash Preventability Program and how “the proposed ‘Item Response Theory’ (IRT) methodology will impact carrier scores.”
5) Insurance Cost and Availability
Insurance costs are expected to rise in 2021 as ATRI’s Operational Costs of Trucking show an 18.3% increase throughout the last five years, with smaller carriers facing a cost per mile of over three times larger fleets and putting many out of business.
6) Driver Retention
Fleets are finding their focus on driver retention to be more important than ever with the increased freight demand due to COVID coupled with the driver shortage. While the ATA reported that “the turnover rate at truckload carriers with more than $30 million in annual revenue fell 12 percentage points to 82%…. the need to retain drivers, will continue to ramp up as freight demand returns to pre-COVID levels.” (1)
7) Tort Reform
After disappearing from the top ten for the past 8 years, tort reform regained a spot as concerns over crash litigation and criminal activity continue to rise with verdict awards increasing 51.7% from 2010 to 2018.
It goes without saying that the economy has become a growing concern this year as shutdowns throughout the nation led to millions of unemployed as well as out-of-businesses. While a rebound in the economy was shown in the third quarter, concerns over when things will return to pre-pandemic levels remain.
9) Detention and Delay at Customer Facilities
While dropping five spots from last year, detention remains a dreaded word for drivers and carriers everywhere, affecting a driver’s hours-of-service and thus, compensation. In fact, since the pandemic, 34% of respondents (in a survey conducted by ATRI and OOIDA) found detention to have worsened, perhaps due to layoffs and shorthandedness at facilities.
Falling way back on the charts but still making the top 10 are the hours-of-service rules. The final ruling went into effect last Sept. and contained four specific provisions.
Falling short of the top ten were driver distraction, transportation infrastructure/congestion/funding, and COVID.
To view proposed strategies, download ATRI’s full report at