Growing pains are a reality in every industry, and expedited freight is no exception. As the market evolves and public policy changes, trucking companies of all stripes must adapt or risk going out of business. The American Transport Research Institute (ATRI) recently published a report on the challenges that carriers must deal with going forward.The following five challenges are among the most serious, and require careful attention from the start:
1. Driver Demographics
Drivers have always been the single most critical element for success in trucking. The fact that the current population of truck drivers is aging, then, is some of the most important trucking news of the modern world. As older drivers retire, trucking companies are struggling to recruit young employees to take their place, raising the risk that they simply won’t have enough people to complete their shipments.
To address this problem, the ATRI has created a tool that test new drivers' skills. Known as the “young driver assessment tool,” this will allow carriers to quickly vet younger drivers and get them working. But even this only helps trucking companies evaluate drivers who are already interested in working for them. To fully overcome this problem, companies have to become better at attracting new drivers in the first place.
2. Overworked Operators
Drivers have long worked well past the legal limit, and now that the Federal government has introduced the Electronic Logging Mandate, trucking companies will be penalized if they allow this to continue. Carriers thus have to crack down on drivers who work for more than 11 hours without resting, all while continuing to complete each delivery on time and affordably. Achieving so many goals at once is no easy task.
3. Truck Parking
Truck drivers often have few places to park, leading many of them to station their trucks in spots that are unsafe or illegal. Not only does this create legal liabilities for their employers, but it threatens the safety of the products they’re shipping. Carriers thus have to get drivers to document how they park and swiftly correct those who park illegally or unsafely.
4. Driver Retention
Trucking companies are suffering form high turnover rates, disrupting their operations and forcing them to spend time and money replacing their drivers. To combat this issue, they must do a better job of caring for their drivers. This means not just paying them well, but also providing them with support on the road. Improved vetting may also lower turnover rates; if carriers limit themselves to hiring loyal, committed employees, they increase the likelihood that those new hires will stay for the long haul.
5. Congested Routes
Demand for shipping services has grown faster than available infrastructure, forcing more trucks to compete for the same amount of road space. This slows service while compromising safety. This issue can’t be fully resolved until Federal, state, and local governments invest more money in infrastructure. But in the meantime, carriers can plan routes more carefully so as to avoid areas plagued by high congestion.
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