The trucking shortage affects trucking companies throughout the United States. On a daily basis, the trucking industry nearly reaches 100% utilization. The baby boomer generation is retiring, and with it goes many experienced truckers. The American Trucking Association estimates a shortage of 35,000-40,000 drivers.
New data analysis reveals that the problem may not represent a driver shortage but rather a capacity problem. PeopleNet, a trucking technology company, reviewed data collected from more than 200,000 onboard computers. The data revealed interesting insights and possible solutions to the trucking shortage.
Trucking Industry Nearing 100% Utilization
The trucking shortage has been a growing problem over the past few years. Its effects, stemming from the trucking industry, have crept into other methods of intermodal freight transportation as well. Smaller trucking companies experienced a higher turnover rate of 95%, up 5% from last year. Small companies declared bankruptcy at an alarming rate, losing an average of 27 vehicles in the first quarter of 2014. This led to an increase in rail freight, which grew 6.5% last year for a total of 28.7 million carloads. More carloads mean tighter capacity, and tighter capacity means higher rates. This translates to higher shipping prices across all intermodal industries.
Onboard Digital Logging Devices Uncover the Root of Capacity Problems
The recent PeopleNet survey revealed data that suggests the capacity crunch isn’t because of a shortage of truckers, but rather a capacity utilization problem. Monitoring data from more than 200,000 onboard truck computers, PeopleNet found that truckers aren’t driving at maximum efficiency. Truckers are permitted to drive up to 11 hours per day, but the data logs revealed that the average trucker only drives 6.09 hours. This may be due to a number of factors, PeopleNet suggests. For example:
- Drivers arrive at destinations early in order to fit within delivery windows, but they are kept waiting by the destination company. This suggests that delivery window times need to be shortened.
- Drivers are detained at the shipping dock, which cuts into delivery time. This can be resolved with shorter delivery windows and shipper preparedness.
- Roadway congestion is at an all time high, causing hundreds of wasted hours of driving time. This may be addressed as the trucking industry continues to rally for federal funding of the Highway Trust Fund.
- Truck maintenance and inspections cut into trucking times as well. This is a necessary procedure, but it may be expedited as technology continues to improve.
Onboard computers are starting to provide insight on the real capacity utilization problems in the trucking industry. As trucking companies implement more technology, and researchers continue to analyze digital logs, we may start to see significant changes to the way the industry operates.
The data explosion will help truckers, shippers, and logistics operators to work collaboratively and improve capacity utilization. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration anticipates a ruling sometime soon. It is expected to mandate the use of electronic logs in all trucks. While truckers expect a brief drop in productivity as they grasp the learning curve, the future of onboard technology offers a promising future for the trucking industry.