Given all that the industry has experienced over the past 18 months, it is imperative that industry stakeholders understand the interplay of the various issues confronting the trucking industry. For the past 17 years, the trucking industry has relied on the American Transportation Research Institute’s (ATRI) top industry issues analysis to prioritize the trucking industry’s most critical issues as well as to identify preferred strategies for addressing each issue. Organizations such as the American Trucking Associations (ATA) and its Federation partners in the State Trucking Associations (STA) have leveraged ATRI’s Top Industry Issues report to develop proactive, industry-centric strategies and programs. 


For the fifth consecutive year, the driver shortage is the trucking industry’s top concern on the overall list, with more than four times as many first-place votes as the next issue on the 2021 Top Industry Issues list. According to the ATA, the industry’s current shortage of over 60,000 drivers could grow to over 160,000 by 2028.

Proposed Strategies (in rank order):
a) Advocate for expedited launch of the DRIVE Safe Act pilot program to expand interstate CDL eligibility for 18 – 20 year olds.

b) Develop new outreach initiatives targeted toward high school students and young adults.

c) Advocate for expansion of the U.S. EB-3 Permanent Work Authorization permit to recruit qualified candidates from other countries.

With the driver shortage ranked as the top industry issue for the fifth year in a row, keeping those drivers currently in the industry – driver retention – rose four positions to become the second most critical issue overall this year.

Proposed Strategies (in rank order):
a) Research and prioritize retention strategies, based on driver feedback and driver tenure data.

b) Evaluate the impact of truck driver benefits, including health insurance and retirement benefits, on driver retention.

c) Quantify the relationship between safety technology deployment (e.g. cameras, speed limiters, active braking systems), and driver satisfaction and retention.

For the third year in a row, driver compensation is a top 10 issue. Many drivers believe that the driver shortage and driver compensation are one in the same issue, and that the solution to the shortage is simply to increase driver pay. However, as fleets continue to raise driver pay to recruit and retain drivers in response to the shortage, motor carriers are also concerned about driver compensation and the sustainability of continually raising driver pay.

Proposed Strategies (in rank order):
a) Analyze truck driver compensation in relation to other competing employment sectors (e.g. construction). Understanding how driver pay stands up against competing industries is the preferred strategy of 42.3 percent of respondents.

b) Research and assess the effectiveness of carrier retention programs that financially incentivize drivers for performance in the areas of safety, fuel economy, and trip productivity.

c) Quantify the relationship between driver compensation models, and driver satisfaction and productivity. Compensation matters to drivers and as such, the industry continues to explore new and expanded pay models to increase driver satisfaction including salaried, hourly, per-load and percentage-of-load.

Lawsuit Abuse Reform (previously referred to as Tort Reform in prior years’ surveys) rose three spots this year to become the fourth highest issue of concern. Significant attention has been brought to the issues surrounding truck crash litigation over the past two years including the rise in nuclear verdicts.

Proposed Strategies (in rank order):
a) Advocate for elimination of “phantom” damages.

b) Encourage Congress to expand federal court jurisdiction to allow motor carrier defendants to take their highway accident cases into federal court as appropriate.

c) Educate motor carriers and law enforcement on how to identify staged accidents, and advocate for legislation that makes it a criminal offense to stage an accident with a commercial motor vehicle.

This is the 10th year that the lack of available truck parking has made the top 10 list of industry concerns, and among commercial drivers it has consistently ranked in their top three.

Proposed Strategies (in rank order):
a) Create a new dedicated federal funding program designed to increase truck parking capacity at freight critical locations.

b) Encourage local and regional governments to reduce the regulatory burdens limiting the construction and expansion of truck parking facilities near major metropolitan areas.

c) Advocate for states to expand the availability of accurate, real-time truck parking availability information on roadside changeable/dynamic message signs.

In 2012 CSA was the number one industry concern and as recently as 2019, it was near the bottom of the list at number eight. This year, CSA ranks number six overall. CSA ranks fourth among motor carrier respondents and 10th among driver respondents.

Proposed Strategies (in rank order):
a) Work with FMCSA to update its carrier prioritization methodology, improve its accuracy, and enhance transparency in CSA.

b) Advocate for FMCSA to regularly review and evaluate the list of crash types available for reclassification as nonpreventable.

c) Encourage FMCSA to improve internal processes for reviewing Request for Data Reviews (RDRs) to improve turnaround time for RDRs related to the Crash Preventability Determination Program.

The increase in delays creates cascading impacts for drivers as their available hours-of-service are wasted. They are often denied access to restroom facilities while waiting, and are in many cases not allowed to remain at a customer facility if they run out of available driving hours.

Proposed Strategies (in rank order):
a) Identify best practices, technologies, and strategies that reduce or eliminate driver detention at shipper/receiver facilities.

b) Quantify impacts on detention times that may be associated with the ELD mandate.

c) Examine the potential for creation of a “Shipper of Choice” database to reduce detention times for carriers and drivers.

The trucking industry hauls 72.5 percent of the nation’s freight tonnage and 80.4 percent of freight revenues, on the nation’s roadway infrastructure. However, years of inattention by federal leaders has resulted in poorly maintained roads and traffic congestion that creates wear and tear on vehicles, wastes fuel and increases emissions, creates additional stress for drivers, and negatively impacts industry productivity.

Proposed Strategies (in rank order):
a) Prevent imposition of truck-only taxes.

b) Continue to advocate for long-term highway funding through an increase in the fuel tax or other direct user fees, and prevent additional diversion of revenue to nonhighway projects.

c) Create a new funding program to focus federal resources on truck bottlenecks along major freight corridors.

Insurance cost and availability ranked as a top 10 issue overall in the inaugural survey (2005) and then did not make the overall top 10 until last year as the number five issue. This year, Insurance Cost and Availability is down four spots to number nine overall.

Proposed Strategies (in rank order):
a) Quantify the impact of rising insurance costs on industry operations, safety investments, and driver training.

b) Examine the feasibility of an industry-wide insurance surcharge passed on to shippers.

c) Conduct cost-benefit analyses on raising minimum insurance levels.

This is the first year that the Diesel Technician Shortage has been ranked as a top-10 issue. However, five years ago it was first identified as an Emerging Issue for the industry.

Proposed Strategies (in rank order): 
a) Encourage collaboration between motor carriers and local community colleges/tech schools to promote technician training and placement.

b) Conduct research to quantify the scope and cause of current technician shortages and develop best practices for technician recruitment and retention.

c) Work with the U.S. Department of Labor Veteran’s Employment and Training Service to encourage interest among veterans in technician training. 

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