AUSTIN — The sluggish U.S. economy surpassed record fuel costs as the trucking industry’s top concern in 2023, according to the American Transportation Research Institute.
Inflation, rising interest rates and high diesel prices contributed to the highest per-mile costs on record and exacerbated falling freight demand, making the economy a top-10 issue for drivers and carriers alike, said ATRI’s annual Critical Issues in the Trucking Industry survey.
Trucking’s most recent previous No. 1 concerns, fuel costs and the driver shortage, remained among the industry’s top 5 priorities in the survey. The results were released Saturday at the American Trucking Associations’ 2023 Management Conference & Exhibition.
ATRI’s list “thoroughly and accurately reflects the challenges we’ve faced this year,” Ruan Transportation Management Systems President and COO Dan Van Alstine said in a statement.
“Costs were up and demand was down, all while we worked to navigate a number of workforce and regulatory issues,” said Van Alstine, who serves as American Trucking Associations chairman. “Thankfully, ATRI’s analysis doesn’t just tell us what the issues are, it spells out a number of data-driven strategies that the industry can pursue to address them.”
Top issues in trucking, 2023
|Issue||2023 rank||2022 rank|
|Lawsuit abuse reform||6||10|
|Detention/delay at customer facilities||9||6|
|Zero-emission vehicles||10||(Not in top 10)|
Advocacy for the reform or repeal of regulations “that increase industry costs without providing benefits” was the top strategy respondents suggested to ATRI for navigating challenging economic conditions.
Other proposed strategies included quantifying the consequences of trucking’s increased operational costs for the supply chain and the broader economy, as well as advocating for increased reshoring and near-shoring of manufacturing to reduce reliance on international supply chains.
While drivers and carriers shared several concerns, the survey results underscored the differences in priorities between the two groups.
Top issues for motor carriers and commercial drivers, 2023
|Rank||Carriers||Drivers, including owner-operators|
|2||Driver shortage||Truck parking|
|3||Lawsuit abuse reform||Fuel prices|
|4||Driver retention||Speed limiters|
|5||Fuel prices||Detention/delay at customer facilities|
|6||Insurance cost/availability||Driver training standards|
|8||Truck parking||Broker issues|
|9||Diesel technician shortage||ELD mandate|
|10||Driver distraction||Autonomous trucks|
Carriers focused on the economy, driver shortage and lawsuit abuse reform, while drivers’ attention was most drawn to their compensation, parking and fuel prices.
Notably, each group shared concerns about emerging technologies such as autonomous and electric trucks.
Zero-emission vehicles made the industrywide top-10 list for the first time this year.
“Its emergence as a top industry concern is not a surprise given the new focus of state and federal agencies on very aggressive timelines for transitioning the nation’s vehicle fleet away from internal combustion engines,” ATRI said in its report.
A prohibition on autonomous trucks, which many drivers view as a threat to take their jobs, were part of International Brotherhood of Teamsters contract negotiations with ABF Freight this year. The union also pushed to ban driverless trucks in California.
More than 4,000 trucking industry stakeholders responded to this year’s survey. Of the respondents, about 48% were carrier executives and personnel, 29% were drivers, and about 23% were other stakeholders, including suppliers, driver trainers and law enforcement.