The economy, hours of service, finding drivers top concerns for US carriers

by Canadian Shipper

GRAPEVINE, Texas — They’re likely sick of having to worry about it, but for the third year in a row trucking executives in the US can’t seem to get the state of the economy out of their minds.

As was the case in 2009 and 2010, the state of the nation’s economy was the top concern for trucking executives responding to the American Trucking Association’s Critical Issues in the Trucking Industry survey. This year about 31% of respondents ranked the issue first.

While still holding the top spot, the share of respondents ranking this as their number one issue has dropped each year since reaching 51% in 2009.

“While this ostensibly speaks to a gradual improvement in the economy, there continues to be a high degree of uncertainty in how certain issues will unfold, including the European debt crisis and a stagnant job market,” the ATA states in its report on the survey’s findings. Meanwhile, freight volume trends have been mixed so far this year with LTL and tank experiencing increasing volumes and TL and dry van volumes declining slightly mid year.

Concern over the federal rules governing commercial driver hours of service (HoS) is now ranked as the second highest, climbing two positions from its fourth spot in 2010. The HoS rules are again in play as the industry awaits a final rule from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration following proposed changes issued in December of last year. The proposed changes – potentially decreasing driving and on-duty times and extending the restart provision – are deemed significant and problematic by the industry, which explains the increased level of concern in this year’s survey, the ATA says. Nearly half of the respondents ranked this as the first, second or third most important issue.

The driver shortage issue increased from the number five ranking in 2010 to number three in 2011.

“In contract to worries about the health of the economy, this is an indicator that the economic recovery is progressing. However, the source of the driver shortage may not stem entirely from the growing economy,” the ATA argues. “New hiring challenges resulting from both baby boomer retirements and CSA implementation may also be contributing to a lack of qualified drivers.”

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