Research/studies Hours of service Trucking Transportation

Survey finds driver shortage, HOS rules again top list of trucking industry concerns

Photo: Bim/iStockphoto

San Diego — For the second straight year, a driver shortage and hours-of-service rules are the top two issues affecting the trucking industry, according to the results of an annual survey conducted by the American Transportation Research Institute.

ATRI, the research arm of the American Trucking Associations, unveiled the results of its 15th annual survey Oct. 6 during the 2019 ATA Management Conference and Exhibition. More than 2,100 commercial drivers and motor carriers across North America responded to the survey – a 37% increase from 2018, according to an institute press release.

The driver shortage ranked No. 1 in the survey for the third consecutive year. Nearly 30% of the industry’s drivers are 55 or older, the institute states, citing data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Concerns about HOS rules, which held the top spot from 2013 to 2015, rank No. 2 for the second year in row. On Sept. 19, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration extended the comment period for a proposed rule the agency claims would add flexibility to HOS regulations for commercial truck drivers. The extension was requested by several groups, including the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and ATA.

Highlights of the proposal 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.
  • Extending the current 14-hour on-duty limitation by up to two hours when a truck driver encounters adverse driving conditions.
  • Revising the current mandatory 30-minute break for truck drivers after eight hours of continuous driving.

Other safety-related issues identified by the respondents are detention/delay at customer facilities (No. 4); a lack of available truck parking in safe locations (No. 5); and FMCSA’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability program (No. 8) – a data-driven safety compliance and enforcement program.

Detention/delay is a first-time issue in the survey results, with 27.4% of the respondents noting delays of at least six hours. In June, FMCSA published a Request for Information asking for stakeholder input on how detention affects roadway safety. ATRI notes that long delays have an impact on numerous driver safety issues, including running out of available on-duty hours and finding safe parking.


The survey also identified emerging issues in the industry, with driver distraction and driver training standards ranking 11th and 12th, respectively. According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 3,100 deaths were caused by distracted driving in 2017.

FMCSA, according to ATRI, has not fully implemented its Entry Level Driving Training Rule, which would enhance safety by including minimum standards for driver training schools, along with qualifications for new instructors.

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