Do professional truck drivers and motor carriers see the world through the same lens?  The 2018 “Critical Issues in the Trucking Industry” survey results from the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) once again provides a breakdown between driver and fleet responses.

ATRI , the non-profit research arm of the American Trucking Associations, has conducted annual surveys on major industry issues for 14 years. Of the 1,539 respondents to the 2018 survey, motor carriers represented 47.5% while commercial drivers (both company and independent) made up 41.3% of the responses. The balance came from other industry stakeholders, so, ATRI got a healthy response from both fleets and drivers.

Survey respondents were asked to choose their top three issues from a group of 26 topics selected by a panel of industry experts. Respondents were then asked to indicate their three preferred ways of addressing the chosen issues. ATRI took the combined responses and published the “Top Ten” overall issues – plus, this year, a breakdown between drivers and fleets:

Rank Commercial Drivers Motor Carriers
1 Hours-of-Service (HOS) Driver Shortage
2 Truck Parking Driver Retention
3 Electronic Logging Device (ELD) Mandate Hours-of-Service (HOS)
4 Driver Distraction Transportation Infrastructure/Congestion/Funding
5 Driver Retention Electronic Logging Device (ELD) Mandate
6 Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA)
7 Driver Health and Wellness Driver Distraction
8 Transportation Infrastructure, Congestion, Funding  Tort Reform
9 Driver Shortage Truck Parking
10 Automated Truck Technology Federal Preemption of State Regulation of Interstate Trucking

With today’s intense freight demand, it’s not surprising that driver shortage ranks number one among motor carriers. Current professional drivers, ATRI notes, are enjoying better pay and benefits as fleets try to attract and retain drivers. But drivers also understand that driver shortage is an industry issue, #9 in their ranking. In the drivers’ situation, the shortage of drivers creates work for the currently employed, elevating the need for more flexibility in the hours-of-service rules, the number one driver issue.

The electronic logging device (ELD) mandate was the number one overall issue in ATRI’s 2016 survey and ranked number two in 2017. With the ELD mandate now in place, the issue has dropped as industry attention has shifted to other issues. Remarkably, though, out of the 26 issues placed before them in the 2018 ATRI survey, drivers and fleets shared eight of their respective top 10, though with variation in their rankings.

This level of driver/carrier agreement bodes well for the trucking industry. In any work situation, labor and management must first settle on the issues to be addressed – here, the ATRI survey shows large congruity of opinion. Next, is the question of how to approach those common issues. ATRI also asked respondents to offer their preferred steps to address each issue. Looking just at one common issue, hours-of-service, the survey suggests overall agreement on the need for more flexible HOS rules, particularly in the use of sleeper berths.

Labor/management perspective aside, relief for critical issues in the trucking industry will often involve Congress or the regulatory agencies. A united industry, driver and motor carrier together, is better positioned to achieve success.