Hours of service Bus/limo/taxi Trucking Transportation

Survey finds driver shortage, HOS rules top list of trucking industry concerns; ATRI to create ELD data clearinghouse

semi on highway
Photo: 5m3photos/iStockphoto

Austin, TX — A perceived growing shortage of commercial motor vehicle drivers and potential changes to hours-of-service rules are the top issues affecting the trucking industry, according to an annual survey conducted by the American Transportation Research Institute.

ATRI, the research arm of the American Trucking Associations, released the survey results Oct. 29 during the 2018 ATA Management Conference and Exhibition. More than 1,500 respondents offered their input, with motor carriers and CMV drivers comprising nearly 90 percent of the participant pool.


The driver shortage is No. 1 in the survey for the second straight year. Concerns about HOS rules, which held the top spot from 2013 to 2015, rank second.

In the Aug. 23 Federal Register, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking on HOS regulations for CMV drivers. Possible revisions the agency is considering include:

  • Expanding the current 100 air-mile “short-haul” exemption to 14 hours on duty from 12 hours on duty, to be consistent with rules for long-haul truck drivers.
  • Revising the current mandatory 30-minute break for truck drivers after eight hours of continuous driving.

Uneasiness over the driver shortage was renewed by an October 2017 report from ATA chief economist Bob Costello that warned the trucking industry could experience a potential shortage of 50,000 drivers by the end of that year, climbing from 36,500 in 2016. If nothing were to change, Costello projected the shortage could exceed 174,000 drivers by 2026, with possible reasons including aging drivers, lifestyle issues and regulatory challenges.

However, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association disputes the validity of the alleged shortage. On Oct. 25, the organization posted a video on its YouTube page featuring commentary from Todd Spencer, its president and CEO.

OOIDA argues that existing data does not support the idea of a shortage, and suggests the spotlight instead should be pointed toward some large fleets’ struggles to retain drivers. In October, ATA reported that the turnover rate for carriers with more than $30 million in annual revenue stood at 98 percent. Still, FMCSA estimates that 449,000 new drivers earn entry-level commercial driver’s licenses each year.

“You can be profitable in trucking even with 100 percent driver turnover, as we see all the time,” Spencer says in the video. “It’s a crazy way to do business. No other business would be like that. It sacrifices a whole lot of things, not the least of which is highway safety.”

In other ATRI news, the organization on Oct. 24 introduced an initiative to gather anonymous electronic logging device data from various fleets in an effort to build a central clearinghouse intended to assist with industry analysis.

Those interested can share contact information through the ATRI website. ATRI plans to schedule a webinar about the clearinghouse project in November, a press release from the organization states.

“The new data generated by ELDs can provide a wealth of insight and research support to our industry,” Andrew Boyle, ATRI board member and co-president of Boyle Transportation, said in the release. “But we clearly need a trusted third-party facilitator to manage and monitor how the information is used. ATRI is uniquely suited to serve that role. In the right context, ELDs can provide the real-world data needed to guide future regulations and initiatives.”

FMCSA’s ELD final rule took effect Dec. 18, 2017, and an enforcement grace period ended March 31. FMCSA has extended until Dec. 7 an exemption granting an ELD exemption for livestock and insect haulers.

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