Top 5 Major Challenges Facing the Trucking Industry Today

truck driver shortage chart

Since 1954, the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) has been on a mission “to conduct transportation research with an emphasis on the trucking industry’s essential role in a safe, efficient, and viable transportation system.” 

The ATRI, headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, recently released their annual report outlining the most critical challenges facing the trucking industry in 2017.  The report is based on survey responses from trucking industry stakeholders across the country, including both motor carriers and professional drivers. 

We’ve compiled a summary of the top five major challenges. 

 1. Driver Shortage  

This has been an industry concern for years, but it hasn’t been at the top of the list since 2006. As the health of the U.S. economy improves, the demand for drivers has simultaneously increased. The problem, according to ATRI research, is that nearly 57 percent of the trucking workforce is at least 45 years old. If this trend continues, the American Trucking Associations estimates that the shortage will reach over 174,000 drivers by the year 2026. 

This chart, from ATRI, shows the low percentage of young truck drivers compared to other industries.

ELD Mandate  

Even after implementation, critics of the ELD mandate continue to have concerns. These include less independence, lower wages, and more impatient driving. Also, implementation of the mandate has been less than seamless, to say the least. Nearly twenty states have already delayed writing tickets for non-compliance. Another ten states are leaving ticket writing “up to the discretion of the individual officer.” But still, a majority of ELD distaste seems to stem back to the lack of flexibility in Hours-of-Service rules.  

3. Hours of Service  

The ELD mandate more firmly enforces current Hours-of-Service rules. That’s why flexible hours of service rules are now more important to drivers than ever before. Many industry stakeholders identified the sleeper berth provision as one that needs more flexibility. It currently requires drivers to take at least eight consecutive hours in their sleeper berth. Many believe this time should be split up throughout the day. Then drivers could rest when tired and readjust driving schedules to avoid major traffic congestion.  

4. Truck Parking   

Safe and available parking is an everyday necessity for truck drivers. While this ranks fourth among all respondents, it’s the second most concerning challenge among drivers alone. Results of a 2016 ATRI study showed that 84 percent of drivers reported parking in unauthorized or undesignated parking at least once a week. The difficult choice many drivers face is whether to drive beyond what HOS rules allow, or to stop and park in an unauthorized or unsafe location. 

5. Driver Retention  

According to American Trucking Association’s 2017 second-quarter report, the turnover rate for large truckload fleets reached 90 percent. Similarly, the turnover rate for smaller carriers hit 85 percent. Obviously, adding more drivers to the workforce only proves beneficial if those drivers stay. Driver turnover raises recruitment and training costs, which only makes it harder to attract the right drivers. Some motor carriers have been trying to combat these low retention numbers by using sign-on/stay-on bonuses.  

More Critical Trucking Industry Challenges 

The additional challenges outlined in the 2017 ATRI report include:  

  1. CSA
  2. Cumulative Economic Impact of Regulations
  3. Driver Distraction
  4. Transportation Infrastructure/Congestion/Funding
  5. Driver Health and Wellness.


Do you agree with the need to address these issues? Are there other major challenges you face that should have made the list? Please, let us know in the comments below.  

4 thoughts on “Top 5 Major Challenges Facing the Trucking Industry Today”

  1. ELD is a privacy issue. It is proving already since December its not working. HOS is a problem also. If you like ELD then good for you. Maybe the ATA will welcome you with open arms and a cookie. I won”t do ELD because I have my rights and congress along with fmcsa violated those rights. I”m an old schooler that doesn”t bend with the will of tyrants until the day they try to rid me completely I will not comply or give in. Not alot of us left Report

    1. Kait,

      Thanks for your comments. The ELD Mandate is the #1 top issue if you look at commercial drivers alone, so you are certainly not alone. You raise a good point. In many industries these days, it seems technology is advancing faster than law and ethics. The privacy issue is definitely a major part of this debate as well. Thanks for reading!

  2. Interesting list of concerns. The driver age is a major concern in all skilled trades. Electrician, plumber, finish carpenter, welders, everyone is “aging out” and fewer young tradesmen and women are replacing them.
    I just completed a 4,000 mile trip in my RV, the truck traffic on many Interstate highways is intense, ofter exceeding car traffic. I’m not a professional truck driver, but I see and support the obvious need for much more truck parking / rest area space for truckers. Also for expanding more Interstate highways from four lanes to eight lanes. I also see reasons to reconsider the Hours of Service Rules, as a non-professional driver I don’t follow them. Five hours is about the most I ever sleep at one time, one or two one hour naps per day are common. I frequently find myself driving longer than I want to due to a lack of rest areas and truck / RV parking.

    1. Tom,

      Thanks for your comments. You raise a good point about the need for young men and women across a variety of skilled trades. One way I know the ATRI, and other organizations, are working to combat this is by introducing more skilled trade curriculum at the high school level.
      Anyways, that must have been some trip in your RV! You may not be a professional truck driver, but you certainly got a taste of what it is like from that trip. Stay tuned for a blog post on the best truck stops across America later this month. There are some pretty amazing truck stops out there, but like you said, we need more of them. Thanks for reading!

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