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Survey indicates poor roads may be aggravating driver shortage

July 1, 2015
A new survey conducted by third party logistics company National Retail Systems (NRS) indicates that the worsening conditions of U.S. roadways may be contributing to the ongoing driver shortage, largely as delays due to road construction and repairs are affecting truck driver earnings.

A new survey conducted by third party logistics company National Retail Systems (NRS) indicates that the worsening conditions of U.S. roadways may be contributing to the ongoing driver shortage, largely as delays due to road construction and repairs are affecting truck driver earnings.

“One of the more surprising things we found is that 31% of the drivers we surveyed are held up every day due to road construction,” Chris Saville, NRS’s marketing director, told Fleet Owner. “On top of that, over 50% said they are held up every week due to those [road work] conditions. We were not expecting numbers like that.”

He added that NRS thinks experiencing delays of that magnitude may be aggravating the driver shortage, since delays reduce mileage and lead to higher fuel consumption.

“There’s a lot of frustration resulting from road conditions and not just for company drivers,” Saville said. “It’s particularly felt among owner-operators. That’s why we think it’s another factor fueling the driver shortage.”

Indeed, a study conducted two years ago found that the time lost to traffic congestion along extra fuel wasted due to excess idling cost the trucking industry $27 billion back in 2011.

Indeed, since owner-operators are individuals who own and operate their own vehicle, their profit margins are affected by delays and higher fuel expenditures, Saville said; making it too expensive to stay in business.

He noted too that the American Trucking Associations (ATA) estimates the U.S. is currently short 30,000 truck drivers — a number expected to surge to 239,000 by 2022.

On top of that, a report issued by the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) last July entitled “An Economic Analysis of Transportation Infrastructure Investment” said that inadequate infrastructure investment costs American businesses some $27 billion a year in extra freight transportation costs and increased shipping delays.

Several findings in the CEA’s report indicate that 65% of America’s major roads are rated in less than good condition, one in four bridges require significant repair or cannot handle today’s traffic, and 45% of Americans lack access to transit.

Saville noted that NRS’s survey unearthed similar metrics, with 93% of those drivers polled rating local and city roads poor, unsatisfactory, or just OK, with only 7% of truck drivers describing road conditions as good or excellent.

“Local and city roads are in desperate need of pothole repair, resurfacing, leveling, and rutting and cracking repairs to ensure safe, reliable mobility,” NRS noted in its survey. “These roads are said to be costing truckers a lot of extra money in additional vehicle operating costs such as fuel consumption, tire wear, and deterioration.”

Interestingly, the condition of bridges and tunnels didn’t rate as poorly as the roads and highway system, according to the NRS survey.

Using one as the worst and five as the best, more than half of the truck drivers polled gave a majority vote to a three and four with only 35% of drivers rating bridges and tunnels with a poor to unsatisfactory vote.

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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