ATRI president predicts “significant capacity shortage”

Rebecca Brewster, president of the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI), is predicting a continuing driver shortage and overall capacity shortage in the trucking industry, according to a report in the Jacksonville Business Journal.

Reporter Jensen Werley wrote that Brewster made several key points in a conference call with Stifel Nicolaus analysts regarding the status of the industry.

Brewster’s points included the following:

  • In 2013, 56 percent of truck drivers were older than 45 years old. That compares to the entire U.S. workforce, where only 49 percent is 45 years or older in 2013.
  • The age distribution of truck drivers has shifted since 1994. Then, 40 percent of truck drivers were 34 years or younger. In 2013, that number dropped to just 21 percent. Meanwhile, the truck driving workforce has aged to 56 percent of the population being 45 years or older, compared to 31 percent being that age in 1994.
  •  Possible solutions for the aging truck population includes focusing on driver retention, encouraging vocational training and developing a graduated commercial driver’s license that extends between high school graduation and beginning a truck driving career. As of now, the minimum age to get a commercial driver’s license is 21 years old.
  • A shortage of truck parking is a concern for drivers, as they have to spend 15 to 30 minutes of what would be productive time searching for a parking space.
  • Another issue that cuts into productive time is highway congestion, which can cost the industry $9.2 billion per year.
  • Highway congestion also increases the size of the required driving force by more than 50,000 drivers.
  • While the 34-hour restart rule provides sleep that can help refocus and restore drivers, it puts more drivers on the road during daylight hours, when traffic worsens and there is increased risk of crashing.

Brewster suggested these issues indicate a significant capacity shortage is just around the corner, according to the analysts’ note. Because of increasing congestion, an aging workforce and government regulations that complicate the system, this could lead to higher rates for shippers.