While the trucking industry is focused on pushing for rights to be expanded for teenage drivers, recruiting campaigns, and making preparations for fuel price hikes, they are all symptoms of larger issues. In a recent address, Chris Spear of the ATA put forth what he sees as the top four trucking issues facing the current industry.
Trucking Issues with Infrastructure
Infrastructure is a big focus in Washington, DC and has been one of the top trucking issues for decades. Highways, bridges, even city streets need to be repaired and upgraded to allow for a better traffic flow and make roads safer for drivers. To this end, Chris Spear advocated for a higher gas tax to offset the cost of overhauling infrastructure, provided the money from said tax actually went to repairing roads. The main issue with the gas tax is that the trucking industry is already preparing for a baseline price hike due to overseas shipping engine conversions.
Productivity in Trucking
The current economic climate has pushed contract agreements and demand in favor of the trucking industry. However, trucking issues still remain in respect to the lack of drivers and the demand for capacity loads. Spear pointed out that the industry as a whole needs to become more efficient. Reducing restrictions on trailer length, and modifying the mandates on hours of service would go a long way to improving productivity. Truckers cannot sit at loading stations for hours at a time while the ELD ticks away on the hours of service, reducing the number of miles they can cover after a shipment is loaded.
Technology is a big trucking issue. ELDs alone have made modifications to the trucking industry in the name of safety, but will ultimately cripple efficiency. Chris Spear pointed to the automotive industry, which is implementing driver-assist technology to make transportation easier. Driver assist doesn’t eliminate jobs, nor is it the start of a slippery slope to “robots taking our jobs.” The technology exists to allow truckers to cover more ground without paying attention to a million different variables on the road and on screens in the cab.
NAFTA talks have the potential to place a major strain on trucking, and the economy at large. This isn’t just about hauling. Truck and trailer manufacturers are raising prices to compensate for the tariffs placed on imported steel and aluminum, which directly impacts the trucking industry. Looking at the larger picture, if NAFTA talks result in restrictions or higher prices on imports, something as simple as avocados can end up eating into revenue margins and cause a cost-prohibitive increase that is felt fro the origin point all the way down to the customer at the grocery store.
The hope is that between tax reforms, positive negotiations, and thinking outside of the box, that the trucking industry can continue to stay on top for years to come.