In October 2021, the American Transportation Research Institute released its 2021 survey of Critical Issues in the Trucking Industry.  The ATRI survey was open from September 8, 2021 through October 15, 2021 and includes responses from over 2,500 stakeholders in the trucking industry in North America.  Respondents include motor carrier personnel (52.4% of respondents), commercial drivers (24.1%), and other industry stakeholders (23.5%, including suppliers, trainers, and law enforcement).

Driver-related concerns – including driver shortages, driver retention, and driver compensation – continued to dominate the list of top concerns.  The driver shortage claimed the top position for the fifth year in a row.  The driver shortage is being exacerbated by increasing demand for freight services, COVID-related training, and licensing backlogs, and drivers exiting the industry due to COVID risks.  Driver compensation has been a top-ten concern for three years running and is strongly linked to the driver shortage problem.

Lawsuit abuse reform took the fourth slot in the overall ranking.  ATRI estimates that the average verdict size increased 967% between 2010 and 2018, due largely to nuclear verdicts that have skewed the dangers of litigation to trucking industry participants (see our previous analysis of nuclear verdicts originally published in the second quarter of 2020).  Lawsuit abuse, insurance costs and availability are linked – the rising expenses of trucking industry litigation has caused some insurers to drastically raise premiums or to exit the trucking industry altogether.

It is interesting to see the differences in opinions held by drivers versus motor carrier stakeholders.  As one might expect, the commercial drivers tend to focus on the day-to-day issues of trucking, including parking, fuel prices, and legal compliance.  Motor carriers are more concerned about driver retention, litigation, insurance, and technician shortages, as shown in the table below.

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ATRI also provided a breakdown of the top three concerns of company drivers compared to owner-operators or independent contractors.  While both groups included compensation and parking in their top three concerns, company drivers rated driver training standards as a critical issue, while owner-operators and contractors were more concerned with fuel prices.

Click here to expand the table above

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