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ATRI: ELD mandate is top truck driver issue

Oct. 26, 2017
Survey finds that while the driver shortage is the number one concern among motor carriers, it doesn’t even make the top 10 list of critical industry issues among truck drivers.

An annual survey conducted by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) that generates a “top 10” list of critical issues facing motor carriers and truck drivers, determined that concerns over electronic logging device (ELD) mandate is the number one issue for drivers in 2017.

“ELDs are still the number one issue on the driver side but when you look at the survey, it really points to the third-ranked issue on their list – hours of service (HOS) regulations,” explained Rebecca Brewster, ATRI’s president, during a presentation at the American Trucking Associations (ATA) annual conference in Orlando, FL, this week.

“The lack of flexibility is the HOS rules seems to be their real main concern,” she added. “We tie a lot of their ELD concerns back to the HOS issue.”

Brewster went on to highlight the 2017 “top 10” critical issue list for drivers; a list based on 1,500 survey responses from motor carriers and commercial drivers:

  • ELD mandate
  • Truck parking
  • HOS rules
  • Cumulative economic impact of trucking regulations
  • Driver distraction
  • The Compliance Safety Accountability (CSA) program
  • Driver health and wellness
  • Driver retention
  • Transportation infrastructure, traffic congestion, and highway funding
  • Autonomous vehicles

Brewster noted that, for motor carriers, concern over the ELD mandate dropped one position from its top ranking last year to rank second on the 2017 “top 10” list.

Despite issuance of a final ruling on HOS rules earlier this year by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to permanently remove the more restrictive 34-hour restart provisions, ATRI’s annual poll noted that HOS rules remained a “top concern” among motor carriers and drivers alike, ranked third by drivers and fifth by motor carriers.

“Mutual concern over how the ELD mandate will affect driver productivity and influence HOS have kept the issue high on their respective lists of top industry issues,” the group noted in its 25-page report.

While the driver shortage shot up to become the top issue among motor carriers in this year’s survey, ATRI’s research found it did not make the “top 10” list at all among drivers.

“The divergence of opinion on this issue is to be expected; as a major stress point for motor carriers, the shortage may actually benefit commercial drivers,” the group noted in its report.

“The constrained supply of qualified truck drivers has generated a financial benefit to the existing pool of commercial drivers with driver benefits and wages continuing to increase,” ATRI stressed.

Recent analysis of industry operational data by ATRI indicates that motor carriers are broadly boosting pay and benefits.

Though the average marginal cost per mile (CPM) for trucking companies dipped to $1.59 last year, driver wages and benefits increased by 5% and 18%, respectively, between 2015 and 2016. The only reason CPM declined overall is largely due to low fuel prices, which fell 17% between 2015 and 2016.

As a result, for the second year in a row since ATRI started collecting the industry's operational expense data, the group said driver costs now represent a higher percentage of overall trucking company costs than does fuel.

“Additionally, motor carriers have also had to start offering sizable sign-on bonuses to attract new drivers,” the group added.  

Bob Costello, ATA’s chief economist, provided some examples of such bonuses during a presentation at the trade group’s conference:

  • Safety: $1,499
  • On-time delivery: $1,946
  • “Sign-on” bonus: $949
  • Retention: $1,143

All of that indicates a “sea-change” is underway in terms of motor carrier safety and profitability, according to Andrew Boyle, executive vice president of Boyle Transportation, who spoke during ATRI’s “top 10” list presentation.

“Over the couple of decades, much of the ‘economic risk’ of the trucking industry was borne by professional drivers,” he explained. “Now I think that is shifting back to trucking companies, and the burden is now upon us to provide better quality of life and more predictability in earnings to draw in new entrants.”

About the Author

Sean Kilcarr | Editor in Chief

Sean previously reported and commented on trends affecting the many different strata of the trucking industry. Also be sure to visit Sean's blog Trucks at Work where he offers analysis on a variety of different topics inside the trucking industry.

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