When you look at leading headlines in any trucking industry publication, you see the same critical issues referenced repeatedly: Hours of service (HOS); the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program; driver shortage; government mandates; truck emissions; and increasing traffic congestion.
The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) released its Top Industry Issues report, which details the critical issues that were identified by thousands of truck drivers and carrier executives. Surprisingly, the driver and carrier lists don’t differ much from each other—a sign that the issues must be real and painful.
Aside from the driver shortage, there are several trends that ATRI has been monitoring:
Hours of service. HOS is a moving target. The rules that took effect in 2013 were suspended by Congress until more thorough research and documentation is developed by the FMCSA. But that new FMCSA research could show up any day—possibly sending us back to a confusing and potentially more dangerous 2013 rule. That comment is not editorial: New ATRI research that analyzed hundreds of thousands of truck GPS units shows that the new rule moved a large percentage of truck trips to daytime hours and different days of the week.
Shortening truck trips. Based on data for average truck trip lengths, as well as truck odometer data, it appears that drivers and carriers are running a larger number of shorter truck trips. This is likely driven as a response to the driver shortage and the need to get drivers home more often.
Increasing traffic congestion. Last year, ATRI determined that traffic congestion on the interstate system alone cost our industry $9.2 billion. While congestion issues are not new to the United States, the pressure to manage it is growing. Many urban areas, in an effort to increase development and build “sustainable communities,” are pushing existing private truck stops and public rest areas farther out, or closing them altogether.
Government Regulations. Whether it’s electronic logging devices, roll stability systems, speed limiters, “Connected Vehicle” mandates, CSA, new anti-idling regulations, or expanded enforcement, the cost and impact of new government regulations is certain to change our operating environment. In fact, these pressures—along with others—have increased trucking company business failures every year since the end of the Great Recession.
These trends raise numerous truck parking questions, including how we will address:
- a growing conflict in government regulations, where some state laws limit parking time below federal HOS requirements;
- new zoning ordinances that push truck parking away from traditional rest and staging locations;
- anti-idling regulations that ignore extreme weather conditions; and
- changing HOS regulations and growing traffic congestion—both of which could move critical truck parking needs by a hundred miles or more on a single corridor.
Both the industry and government have a better understanding now of the essential role that truck parking plays in all facets of our operations. ATRI staff have begun working with the National Association of Truck Stop Operators (NATSO) and private truck stop operators on a new parking information system that will be free to all truck drivers. This helps to prepare us to make sure that truck parking is ready and waiting wherever and whenever it is needed by our most valuable commodity: The truck driver.