Arkansas Trucking Association

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The Arkansas Top 10

ATRI’s reports top ten trucking concerns in Arkansas

Rebecca M. Brewster, Guest Writer

Trucking is big business in Arkansas. The industry employs over 82,000 individuals in the state, meaning one out of every 12 employees statewide has a trucking-related job. And, trucks transport more than 80 percent of manufactured freight moved in the state.

It’s clear the trucking industry matters to Arkansas. So, with an industry that important, what are the issues of most concern to motor carriers in the state? The annual Top Industry Issues Survey provides some insight.

Since 2005, the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) has been surveying motor carriers and commercial drivers nationwide to identify those issues which have the greatest impact on the industry. And, for each issue identified in the survey, industry stakeholders are also asked to rank potential strategies for addressing each. The annual survey results are released every October, and the 2015 results show some disparities in ranking the issues between the national results and those generating from Arkansas-based motor carriers.

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 First, there are similarities between the rankings. Arkansas motor carriers agree with their peers across the country that the top five issues confronting the industry are regulatory- (HOS, CSA), workforce- (Driver Shortage and Driver Retention) and infrastructure- (Truck Parking) related. But the rankings of those top five issues highlight some differences.

Workforce Woes

Arkansas motor carriers place a higher ranking, or level of concern, on the workforce issues of Driver Shortage and Driver Retention. Given that Arkansas is home to five of the nation’s largest for-hire motor carriers and two of the largest private fleets, this should not come as a surprise. Filling seats with qualified, safe drivers is a top priority for motor carriers large and small, and, once those driver positions are filled, keeping those drivers is critical. The American Trucking Associations estimates that the industry currently has a shortage of 48,000 drivers, with projections that the number will increase to 175,000 by 2024.  

The top strategy for dealing with the driver shortage as ranked by respondents (Arkansas and nationally) is to work with state and federal authorities to consider a graduated CDL program to safely attract new and younger drivers. The $305 billion FAST Act, signed into law last December, allows the U.S. Department of Transportation to create a pilot program for 18-20 year olds to drive interstate if they have a military background that included truck driving experience.

As a way to address driver retention, Arkansas survey respondents ranked as their top strategy to study the effectiveness of carrier retention programs that financially incentivize drivers for performance in the areas of safety, fuel economy and trip productivity.

Regulation Frustration

Coming behind driver issues, Arkansas respondents ranked the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program as their third top concern. A myriad of challenges with CSA likely resulted in its top five ranking both nationally and among Arkansas respondents.

A number of studies, including research by ATRI, have documented that CSA’s safety measures, the seven Behavioral Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs) under which carriers and drivers are scored, are not a good predictor of carrier crash risk. Additionally, there are disparities in how states collect and report safety performance data, and shippers are potentially misusing the data in the selection of carriers to haul freight.

This is another issue that was subsequently addressed in the five-year FAST Act. In it, Congress directed FMCSA to remove from public view motor carrier BASIC scores until the underlying issues with the Safety Measurement System (SMS) are corrected and additional research done to identify if the BASICs are accurate predictors of crash risk.

The top strategy identified in this year’s survey for addressing CSA is to push for a crash accountability determination process that removes non-preventable crashes from carrier scores. In November of last year, ATRI published a new study which investigated the impact that excluding non-preventable crashes would have on motor carrier CSA Crash Indicator BASIC measures. Among the fifteen carriers in ATRI’s analysis, the Crash Indicator BASIC decreased nearly 15 percent once a subset of five non-preventable crash types were removed.

The number one issue identified in the national survey and ranking fourth among Arkansas respondents was concern over the Hours-of-Service (HOS) rules. The HOS rules have topped the industry’s list of concerns for three consecutive years (2013-2015) and have been in the top five nationally since the survey was first conducted in 2005, driven primarily by the continued changes to and uncertainty surrounding the future of the rules; 2015 was no different.

While the industry experienced some relief in December of 2014 with the suspension of the Hours-of-Service (HOS) restart provisions which were originally put in to effect in July of 2013, the potential for reimplementation of the rules following the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) congressionally required study of the impacts of the provisions continues to generate concern.

Parking Panic

The number five issue, truck parking, continues to receive increased attention as the growing scarcity of available parking creates a dangerous situation for truck drivers who are often forced to drive beyond allowable HOS rules or park in undesignated and, in many cases, unsafe locations. As such, the top strategy ranked by survey respondents is to support and encourage investment in new truck parking facilities, while also encouraging states to reopen shuttered facilities.

And other worries

Among Arkansas respondents, concern over the state of the nation’s economy ranked sixth overall; on the national survey it came in as the eighth ranking issue. Other than the commercial driver HOS rules, the economy is the only issue to rank first on the list for three consecutive years (2009-2011), which it did during the Great Recession. In the 2014 survey, the economy dropped to ninth place but started to climb up as an issue in 2015. This may be driven, in part, by more recent concerns over softer freight demand and what that may mean for 2016, as well as concerns over the economies in Europe and Asia, and export impacts from a strong U.S. dollar.

Among Arkansas respondents, the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) mandate ranked seventh overall, one position lower than it did in the national results. In March 2104, FMCSA issued a Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (SNPR) to address a number of concerns identified by industry stakeholders in the initial ELD proposed rule. At the time the survey was conducted, the industry was still awaiting issuance of the final rule, likely keeping this issue in the top 10. The final rule has now been published by FMCSA and for the most part, the strategies identified by survey respondents for dealing with the issue have been addressed in the final rule. Those strategies included ensuring that the ELD mandate did not require that the devices be capable of creating hard-copy HOS records; grandfathering in existing devices installed by early adopters; and ensuring that the two-year implementation window not be extended.

With the final rule issued, the ELD mandate may see a change in ranking in the 2016 Top Industry Issues Survey (to be launched in August 2016) driven more by any remaining issues or concerns that carriers and drivers have as ELDs are deployed.

Driver health and wellness continues to climb in ranking, this year reaching seventh in the overall survey, its highest position to date. Many in the industry recognize the critical connection between improved driver health and wellness and the industry’s ability to retain qualified drivers. As such, more and more fleets are deploying health and wellness programs for their drivers.

The state of the nation’s transportation infrastructure ranked ninth in this year’s overall survey. The negative impacts of congestion, failing roads and bridges and the need for a long-term transportation funding solution all combined to keep this issue in the top ten in 2015. The top strategy for dealing with infrastructure as identified by survey respondents is to advocate for long-term highway funding through an increase in the fuel tax or other user fees, and prevent additional diversion of revenue to non-highway projects.

Finally, Arkansas respondents identified a different top 10 issue in tenth place – Drug and Alcohol Testing – with the top strategy identified as advocating for carriers to have the option of using hair samples in lieu of urine for some categories of required drug tests. This represents yet another issue that has subsequently been addressed in the FAST Act of 2015 which requires the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to set standards for hair testing.

The annual Top Industry Issues Survey provides an important indicator of where trucking’s attention is focused and which issues may rise to prominence in the near future. It’s an important tool for providing direction to industry groups at the state and national levels in terms of the issues and strategies that motor carriers and drivers believe will have the most impact on the industry for years to come. Armed with this information, state trucking associations and the American Trucking Associations are better equipped to address the issues more broadly and proactively.

ATRI is the trucking industry’s 501(c)(3) not-for-profit research organization. It is engaged in critical research relating to freight transportation’s essential role in maintaining a safe, secure and efficient transportation system. A copy of the 2015 Critical Issues in the Trucking Industry report is available from ATRI at www.atri-online.org.

Contact Us

Arkansas Trucking Association
PO Box 3476 (72203)
1401 West Capitol Ave.
Little Rock, AR 72201

(501) 372-3462 | Phone
(501) 376-1810 | Fax

Our Mission

  • PROTECT the collective interests of trucking companies in the political and regulatory arenas.
  • PROMOTE the dynamics of trucking so that people have a better understanding of the link between America's primary freight delivery system and the standard of living they enjoy.
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