Adversities affect every industry, and trucking isn't an exception to that rule. Since commercial drivers and executives in decision-making roles share many of the same interests and both groups are stakeholders, drivers are forced to contend with the challenges that motor carriers face.
But what about drivers specifically? What pain points are proving to be the most vexing for them, in particular?
Here are the top three issues commercial drivers say they're encountering, according to truckers themselves in the American Transportation Research Institute's annual Top Industry Issues report.
1. Lack of parking spaces
Insufficient parking has been a thorn in the side of truckers for quite some time and was cited in the survey as drivers' top challenge. While state and local governments devote millions of dollars each year to improving roads and bridges, parking hasn't received the same level of attention.
More spaces may be on the way, though. As part of the Trucking Action Plan, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Department of Energy are awarding grants to states to go toward truck parking projects. Nearly $40 million has been awarded to Florida and Tennessee.
2. Pain at the pump
Driven by factors ranging from the war in Ukraine to reduced refining capacity in the United States and the shutdown of the XL pipeline, diesel prices are draining motor carriers financially; truckers are feeling the effects as well, particularly those who are owner-operators. The cost of a gallon of diesel changes by the day but at one point this year, truckers have spent $2,400 per week just to fill up their tanks, according to Yahoo! Finance. That was when a gallon of diesel averaged slightly more than $5 per gallon. As of Nov. 7, diesel costs $5.33 a gallon, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
The American Trucking Associations (ATA), American Petroleum Institute and other trade groups have implored lawmakers in Washington to increase domestic oil exploration to increase the supply.
Given the lifestyle challenges associated with driving a truck for a living — long hours, time away from family, traffic tie-ups, etc. — and how uniquely important trucking is to the nation's economy, many truckers feel they aren't being adequately compensated. This is part of the reason why motor carriers have had such a hard time with recruitment and retention over the years. Unable to sufficiently finance their preferred style of living, many drivers opt to leave the industry entirely and pursue a different career where pay is more in line with their needs. Among other factors, high turnover is why the industry will need to recruit 1.2 million new drivers over the next 10 years for the industry to thrive, the ATA says.
Truckers' frustrations are being heard, however. With the vast majority of carriers raising pay in 2021 — 90%, by the ATA's estimates — the typical truckload operator earns an annual salary of $69,000. That's 18% more than what a driver they made in 2019.
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