The Forecast for the Trucking Industry on the Road Ahead

by Michael Rock
(Spalding, MI USA)

Advance Monthly Manufacturers' Shipments, Inventoriess, and Orders

Advance Monthly Manufacturers' Shipments, Inventoriess, and Orders

Trucking Industry

With Covid-19 hitting and news of a trucking recession along with a truck driver shortage, how does the industry look? Before Covid hit, the trucking industry was in a gradual increase. Despite the Covid lockdown and stay-at-home orders the trucking industry as an essential business must roll on and provide the much-needed supplies for hospitals, businesses, and consumers.

Transport Issues
Driver Shortage

The trucking industry lost more than 88,000 jobs in April 2020, a 5.8% drop from March. This was part of a record-setting 20.5 million job loss across the U.S., putting the nation’s overall unemployment rate at 14.7%. (Source:

The ways to combat this shortage are as follows:

The use of apprentice programs like what US Special Delivery implements to get fresh blood into the industry by offering on-the-job training. The federal agencies and Advocate for Congress are looking to get young blood into the industry (18 to 21 years old) because nearly a third of the truck drivers are over the age of 55. (Source: Current Population Survey (CPS) 2018. U.S. Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics.)

Encouraging more women to join the trucking industry. Only 6.6% of the truck drivers are female according to the US Department of Labor. You may have seen some of our ads encouraging women drivers to join.

Another plus to encouraging women to join the trucking industry is that according to the ATRI’s Crash Detector Analysis, (Source: Boris, Caroline, and Dan Murray. “Predicting Truck Crash Involvement: 2018 Update.” American Transportation Research Institute. Arlington, VA. July 2018.) it was found that male drivers are 20% more likely to have accidents than female drivers.

Driver Retention

In a recent survey of 24,000 truck drivers, more than 30% of the drivers quit in the first 2 months and 50% left in the first 6 months.

To have higher driver retention better policies and incentives need to be put in place. Some of the ideas implemented would have drivers home for the weekend, excellent benefits, health insurance, and dental plans. Have an open-door policy to communicate concerns easily with a good working relationship, and have transparency of the company in place. Clearly put the image on what the job will be like when you implement transparency in the company.

Include good incentives and higher pay to keep up with the industry standard. US Special Delivery listened to their employees to voice what they want and implemented them to make a better working environment. It is strongly encouraged for other companies to follow the same example.

Hours-of-Service (HOS)

According to the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) “Hours of service” refers to the maximum amount of time drivers are permitted to be on duty including driving time, and specifies the number and length of rest periods, to help ensure that drivers stay awake and alert. In general, all carriers and drivers operating commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) must comply with HOS regulations found in 49 CFR 395.

As of June 1st, 2020 changes and exceptions were made to the Hours-of-Service that impacts how everyone views transport issues. They are as follows:

Short-Haul Exception: Expands the short-haul exception to 150 air miles and allows a 14-hour work shift to take place as part of the exception.
Adverse Driving Conditions Exception: Expands the driving window during adverse driving conditions by up to an additional 2 hours.
30-Minute Break Requirement: Requires break of at least 30 consecutive minutes after 8 cumulative hours of driving time (instead of on-duty time) and allows an on-duty/not driving period to qualify as the required break.
Sleeper Berth Provision: Modifies the sleeper berth exception to allow a driver to meet the 10-hour minimum off-duty requirement by spending at least 7 hours of that period in the berth combined with a minimum off-duty period of at least 2 hours spent inside or outside the berth. Providing that the two periods total at least 10 hours. When used together as specified, neither qualify period counts against the 14-hour driving window.
For over 9 years HOS rules have been one of the top three transport issues listed among the trucking industry. To help the trucking industry and the federal guidelines there are pushes to add flexibility in the sleeper berth provision that would allow drivers to rest when tired and to adjust the driving schedules around the worst congestion chokepoints.

Another thing to work on is the implemented 30-Minute Rest Break Requirements. With a decrease in available places for
drivers to pull over to rest they are forced to park where they are not allowed and an increase of flexibility in this time schedule will help combat this issue. Also, providing more rest areas strategically placed would help immensely.

Trucking Recession

Source: United States Census Bureau
This is a chart of shipment orders from 1992 through 2020. The trucking recession started in late 2018 but it looks like in the past two months (not charted) that the recession has started ending.

The chief economist of the American Trucking Association said that the recession was likely over at the 2020 McLeod Software User Conference on September 30, 2020.

Costello was quoted saying…

“My point is the recession, in all likelihood — even though this group has not come out and officially declared it — the recession is likely over. The question then becomes, are we headed on a track where we don’t fall back into a double-dip? As of now, I think that’s the case. But what happens in the coming months will determine this. The more than a decade’s long economic expansion, the longest in U.S. history, ended not because of an economic crisis but because of a health crisis. And to fully get back to where we were, as an economy, we have to have some sort of health solution.”

Bob Costello at the 2020 McLeod Software User Conference on September 30, 2020
“The health solution, he noted, is not only about a vaccine for COVID-19 — the virus that has led to more than 200,000 American deaths in 2020 — but also how the world finds a comprehensive solution to care for the sick. Once we get a worldwide health solution to this problem, we can start to get back in all facets to where we were in the economy.”

Bob Costello at the 2020 McLeod Software User Conference on September 30, 2020
Truck Driver Shortage
According to the ATRI (American Transportation Research Institute), the driver shortage is at the top of the list for the last five years. The ATA (American Trucking Associations) stated there was a shortage of over 60,000 drivers in 2019 and is expected to have a shortage of over 100,000 drivers in the next five years.

Back in May of last year over 88,000 truck driving jobs were lost due to Covid. (Source: The Journal of Commerce, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Data) But things have been getting steadily better since the release of vaccinations, stimulus packages, and consumer demand. This will help us get over this trucking recession and get more drivers on the road.

But on the downside, the federal stimulus packages and increased unemployment benefits have left a lot of truck drivers to stay home because they make more staying at home than being on the road. The exception to the rule are the companies that pay well, have excellent benefits, and have their employees in mind first like here at US Special Delivery.

In order to combat truck driver shortages in the future, long-term solutions need to be in place to increase the retention of employees.

Truck Driver Demand
With the closing of truck driving schools due to Covid, an estimated 20% are still closed, this makes the demand for truck drivers even worse. That is why many companies like US Special Delivery have incorporated learning while on-the-job training to encourage more people to take up the profession since truck driving schools have been closing.

With a portion of truckers staying at home for unemployment because they can make more money that way and the closing of many truck driving schools has caused a large truck driver demand.

Future of Trucking, Trucking Industry Outlook, and Trucking Trends
There will be an increase in self-driving and electric semis. Connected services will be increasing as well, like driver monitoring for safety, predictive maintenance for fewer break downs, better workflows for optimized time, vehicle-to-infrastructure-based driving assistance, and over-the-air updates to help things run more smoothly.

1 in 3 businesses plans to invest in predictive maintenance over the next 12-24 months to cut costs and improve workflow according to Fleetowner Magazine.

Whether you like it or not the future of trucking is coming. The California city of Petaluma has become the first city in the nation to prohibit the building of new gas stations which is ushering in an era of electric vehicles.

This article was written by Michael Rock ( for US Special Delivery (

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