5 Top Issues In Commercial Driving

This is a guest post by Conner Smith of the Big Rig Banter Podcast and AllTruckJobs.com.

Despite being one of the most ubiquitous industries in the United States, there are a diverse range of pressing issues facing just about everyone in the commercial driving business. Honestly, it’s hard to just sit back and let things take their course because, as many people in the industry will tell you, this isn’t exactly a profession where you can kick back and coast for most of your career. Beyond hiring quality drivers, it takes hard work from each link in the supply chain to keep the flow of goods, services, drivers, and logistics running smoothly.

So what top issues in commercial driving are still alive and well? Here we’ll take a look at what many people, both recruiters and drivers, are facing on a daily basis and some potential ways to move the industry forward for years to come.

1. ELDs and the Supreme Court

As a move that still has many owner-operators voicing their resistance, the Supreme Court’s decision to leave in place the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) rule makes it clear that these devices are here to stay. Essentially, this rule calls for the Secretary of Transportation to adopt the proper regulations requiring ELD use in commercial vehicles driving interstate. After a rejected appeal by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), companies must be compliant by December 18th, 2017. This means installing the appropriate ELDs in all commercial vehicles made after the year 2000.

Despite some obvious benefits to having ELDs in all commercial vehicles, critics have made voiced concerns over constant surveillance, strict hours of service tracking, and the initial concerns of installing hundreds of devices in a relatively short amount of time. In any case, the industry is poised to comply to this new law of the land whether they want to or not.

2. Hours of Service

Trailing behind the recent ELD ruling is perhaps one of the true underlying issues for commercial drivers in the industry — the hours of service regulations themselves. Now with mandatory compliance meaning an ELD in every commercial vehicle, drivers are no longer able to “fudge” their paper logs for very good reasons. It used to be that if drivers were just 30 minutes away from home after getting caught in traffic that they could just “adjust” their hours of service. With ELDs such things are nearly impossible.

Although, many argue that the issue is not with ELDs themselves but with these stringent regulations on hours of service and their corresponding rest times. It’s understood now that fighting the ELD rule is really just a veiled attempt to get adjustments made to laws regarding hours of service, which is sure to continue on as in issue at least for now.

3. CSA Scores

Launched by the FMCSA in December of 2010, the Compliance, Safety, and Accountability (CSA) initiative was introduced as a way to improve the overall safety of commercial motor vehicles on the road. The intention was that the CSA program would put a more intense focus on companies that pose higher safety risks on the road than others. Still, many industry interests contend that the factors integrated into CSA scores are not always reliable predictors of safety.

Critics say that inconsistencies in the process of collecting CSA data in addition to issues about the accountability of crashes make it difficult to fully assess the commercial driving abilities of individuals. Even though the intention is to restrict lesser qualified drivers from being hired by companies that demand the highest degree of safety (which is most of them) CSA can haunt drivers for years to come for a variety of reasons they may or may not have had control over.

4. The Driver Shortage

Characterized by many as a matter of the quality of drivers rather than the quantity of people applying for jobs, the driver shortage continues to worsen with little sign of slowing based on reports from the ATA.

For almost two decades now, this shortage of drivers has made itself known to carriers struggling to find quality drivers to fill their trucks. At the time of the first report in 2005, the shortage was roughly 20,000 drivers but had since grown to a staggering 48,000 by the end of 2015. Should these trends hold, the shortage is projected to reach almost 175,000 by 2024.

As it stands, the driver shortage may actually feel much worse to motor carriers considering all of the previously mentioned issues — increasingly constrictive CSA scores, ELD mandates, and hours of services regulations. Pair this with high turnover rates and it’s as difficult as ever to get the quality drivers needed for the increasing volume of jobs out there — 890,000 over the next decade to be exact.

Now, many companies are looking to targeted demographics such as millennial drivers, female drivers, and drivers with military experience to pick up the torch!

5. The Autonomous Vehicle Revolution

Although it’s not quite the dawn of autonomous vehicles, these highly tech-laden trucks are just about to breach the horizon of the industry. Whether it’s Uber, Tesla, Google, or Nikola Motors, it’s quite obvious that we’re in for a heavily automated transportation industry as these vehicles clear their final hurdles to market. Just like many people were skeptical there’d ever be personal computers in every home, many companies are quietly bracing themselves for what seems like an impending disruption of incredible scale.

With a current 1.7 million trucking jobs in the U.S., it’s still unclear just how many people could be out of work once these self-driving vehicles hit the roads. Predictions by MIT’s Technology Review place this technology at 5-10 years before it’s fully available, however, it’s certain that it will forever alter the nature of the commercial driving industry.

Throw alternative energy sources like natural gas and hydrogen fuel cells into the mix and we’re bound to see a gigantic shift in the types of vehicles — and drivers — making their way across the United States and many countries throughout the world.

About the Author
I'm a 22-year truck driver with an interest in tech stuff. I do the Trucker Dump podcast and blog, which is all about life as a trucker. I have also written two trucking books, "Trucking Life" and "How to Find a Great Truck Driving Job."
One comment on “%1$s”
  1. TRKMatters says:

    Absent from this list and probably near number one is driver pay. Amazingly if more companies focused on this issue 1,2 and 4 would be much less of a problem.

    1. ELD’s people make all kinds of arguments about they won’t be able to get done what they need to well let us be honest here. You have 14 hrs a day to make money which is almost double the average for a normal office drone. But drivers give away on average 20 – 30 hrs a week where they are working either sitting in traffic at a shipper or some other uncompensated time even while at work. ELD’s are going to greatly reduce the ability to cover up this uncompensated time. Fixing the pay structure or going to an hourly or daily pay system or at least a minimum a weekly guarantee that puts pressure on your employer to make your hours count.

    2.Hour of Service: The Same issue as above drivers are working far too long for no pay so now they want more hours or more usable hours in a function that gets them paid. But to be honest yet again why are you working 14 hrs a day out a 24 hr day and not making any money despite the fact that you are away from home, family and have very unpredictable days not to mention the fines, enforcement and at time unhealthy lifestyle of trucking.

    3. The driver shortage is a construct that has been created by the industry to keep money flowing in from state and federal governments. To keep money flowing into training programs and keeping a steady supply of green drivers that will take jobs at lower rates of pay and in effect keep shipping rates down while allowing the carriers to continue to make healthy profits. Without a steady flow of new cheap drivers, the system would be forced into a situation where they would have to pay drivers more. Due to a large number of drivers and in many other industries reaching the age of retirement carriers are finding it increasingly tough to find low-cost drivers. With improving economies in a lot of areas governments are unwilling to fund programs that have proven in the long term to be an ineffective measure to reduce unemployment. With better pay carriers could attract people from other industries and like in the past overcome the negatives that come with a job of trucking.

    Companies are running around a doing a lot of things but at the end of the day, most of the big issues in trucking lead back to money even issues 3 and 5 have to do with driver pay and money for work performed.

    CSA score if a driver was not rushing was paid to maybe take that extra look spend some more time not feel the pressure to cheat the log book. Autonomous vehicles the holy grail for trucking companies now we have a machine like an assembly line that doesn’t need sleep, get sick or say no. Those pesky humans always get in the way of an efficient 24 hr on-demand transportation system.

    Agree/Disagree feel free to comment back like like Todd I can be found on twitter @trkmatters or follow the link to the facebook page. Thanks for your time and keep the shiny side up.

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