Top 10 Trucking Industry Concerns – The Results Will Definitely Surprise You

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If someone asked you a question “what’s the most critical issue that the trucking industry is facing throughout the year 2020”, what’s would be the first thing that comes to mind? Even though the answer seems so obvious, like the “elephant in the room” obvious, the trucking industry’s most critical issues, according to a survey conducted by American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) might surprise you to the core.


The survey included results from both truck drivers and motor carriers, and - COVID-19 didn’t make it in the top 10 on neither of those lists. Shocking, isn’t it? For the past 16 years, the trucking industry has relied on the American Transportation Research Institute’s annual survey to quantify the trucking industry’s most critical issues as well as to identify preferred strategies for addressing each issue.

So, let’s take a look at those lists first!


Truckers ranked the top issues as:


  1. Truck parking
  2. Driver compensation
  3. Detention/Delay at customer facilities
  4. Hours of service
  5. Driver training standards
  6. Automated truck standards
  7. Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA)
  8. Driver health and wellness
  9. Speed limiters
  10. ELD mandate


Motor carriers responding to ATRI’s survey ranked the top issues as:


  1. Driver shortage
  2. Driver retention
  3. Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA)
  4. Insurance cost/availability
  5. Tort reform
  6. Economy
  7. Transportation infrastructure/ congestion/ funding
  8. Driver distraction
  9. Detention/Delay at customer facilities
  10. Hours of service


According to ATRI’s survey “The year 2020 can unequivocally be described as the most chaotic and unpredictable time period in many decades. In several months, the U.S. economy – the largest in the world – spiraled from new records in consumer sales growth, low unemployment, industry-favorable trade agreements, and a dramatically improved regulatory landscape… to a COVID-related economic slide paralleling the Great Depression, and all that comes with it.”


However, when the responses of the 3,122 respondents were combined, the overall top 10 included:


  1. Driver shortage
  2. Driver compensation
  3. Parking
  4. Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA)
  5. Insurance cost/availability
  6. Driver retention
  7. Tort reform
  8. Economy
  9. Detention/Delay at customer facilities
  10. Hours of service


Despite a pandemic that disrupted the supply chain in early 2020, the resurgence of freight demand placed the Driver Shortage at the top of the list once again, for the fourth year in a row. Closely related to the Driver Shortage, Driver Compensation was ranked as the number two industry issue, up one spot from its 2019 ranking.

Truck Parking climbed two spots this year to become the third highest-ranking issue of concern and achieving its highest ranking since first appearing on the Top 10 list in 2012. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA’s) Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program moved up four spots this year to claim the fourth highest rank.

(Source: ATRI “Driver Concerns, Insurance Top ATRI’s Annual List of Top Trucking Industry Issues)


Since the Driver Shortage is the trucking industry’s top concern on the overall list for the fourth year in a row, the survey proposes strategies to overcome driver supply challenges (that are present due to the number of drivers who have left the industry after the FMCSA Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse, as well as older drivers who retired or exited the industry over COVID-related health concerns).


Proposed Strategies (in rank order):


  1. Advocate for Congress and federal agencies to develop an apprenticeship program to attract, train and retain safe 18-20-year-old interstate drivers to the industry.
  2. Quantify the impact of state Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) delays on new driver credentialing for both Commercial Learner’s Permits (CLP) and Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) testing.
  3. Identify unique requirements and issues associated with expanded driver recruitment of women and minorities.


Driver compensation is ranked as a Top 10 issue for the second year in a row. ATRI’s Operational Costs of Trucking analysis also documents increasing driver pay and benefits. Despite these increases, many drivers believe the shortage and compensation are inextricably linked, and that the only solution to recruiting and retaining drivers is to increase pay or modify compensation models.


Proposed Strategies (in rank order):


  1. Analyze truck driver compensation in relation to other competing employment sectors (e.g. construction).
  2. Research and assess the effectiveness of carrier retention programs that financially incentivize drivers for performance in the areas of safety, fuel economy, and trip productivity.
  3. Quantify the relationship between driver compensation models and driver satisfaction and productivity


Truck Parking ranked third overall, its highest rank yet. The pandemic had an impact on the parking shortage in 2020 as many states shuttered their public rest areas, removing capacity from an already constrained system.


Proposed Strategies (in rank order):


  1. Identify strategic locations on the National Freight Network for new or expanded truck parking due to increased traffic congestion, changing staging needs and industry/regulatory changes.
  2. Create a new dedicated federal funding program designed to increase truck parking capacity at freight-critical locations.
  3. Research the role and value of real-time truck parking information systems and truck parking reservation systems.


Read the rest of the analysis of the critical issues in the official ATRI’s Top 10 Trucking Industry Issues survey.


ATRI also tracks the emerging topics that generate significant industry interest but fall just outside of the Top 10 concerns.

Driver Distraction fell just outside the Top 10, and it’s placed number 11 on the list. Number 12 goes to Transportation Infrastructure / Congestion / Funding. This drop can be explained by reduced congestion on the nation’s highways, especially during the lockdown period.


“Unlucky” number 13, surprisingly goes to COVID-19. The reason why this global issue is ranked so low cannot be determined precisely, however, the most logical reason is that the trucking industry conserved its supply chain throughout most of the challenging moments of the coronavirus (read more on our blog), and drivers (motor carriers too) are aware that if it brakes, most probably the issue we are all facing would be much greater than the trucking industry alone. Having that in mind, the reason why it made it on the list at all is that – it’s still a global concern, now more than ever, and we all must be prepared and cautious.