ATRI identifies trucking research priorities for 2023

The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) will target several leading issues in its 2023 research activity.

Priorities will focus on five gaps in trucking, in a bid to help resolve broader issues like driver detention, a truck driver shortage, and insufficient truck parking.

(Illustration: istock)

Identifying barriers to entry for female truck drivers

The driver shortage remains at the top of ATRI’s annual list of industry issues. Since 2017 it was ranked as the biggest concern until rising fuel prices pushed it to the second spot in the list in 2022.

“There’s such a need for drivers,” says Rebecca Brewster, president and COO of ATRI. “And attracting more women into the industry remains a pressing need.”

Related research will focus on finding out how the trucking industry can make itself more appealing to women and create a welcoming environment.

The main challenge, says Brewster, is to get into the hearts and minds of people that are not choosing careers in trucking. To do this, the research team will look into the main barriers women are facing.

While female drivers represent less than 10% of the truck driver workforce, bringing more women to the industry can help alleviate the driver shortage. But there is a significant safety rationale to it as well.

According to Crash Predictor published by ATRI in 2022 and 2018, female drivers outperform their male counterparts in statistically significant behaviors that affect the probability of a crash. These include reckless driving violations, failing to use a signal or proper signal conviction, a prior crash, failing to yield right-of-way violation, and convictions for an improper or erratic lane change.

The lack of truck parking is one of the safety concerns that might be keeping women away from the job, Brewster adds. And that will be addressed in another research priority.

Expanding truck parking at public rest areas

Female drivers are not the only ones worried about limited truck parking. It has been consistently ranked as a top concern by drivers and carriers across the U.S. and Canada. In 2022, it was the third on ATRI’s annual survey.

The study will explore ways and possibilities to address parking needs, and will target the public sector, U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), and local governments.

The goal is to identify and map truck drivers’ needs when it comes to rest stop attributes, develop best practice case studies, and utilize truck driver data to identify strategies for expanding capacity at public rest areas.

“Now, with the infrastructure bill that was signed into law in the U.S., that’s providing a lot of new influx of resources into transportation infrastructure. Truck parking [research] is [a] very timely one, in terms of equipping departments of transportation in the U.S. to respond to what is a what is really a crisis for us… States don’t have to go out and build new facilities, but perhaps just expand what they currently have,” Brewster says.

The cost of driver detention

ATRI will also research the cost of driver detention, the sixth concern on its 2022 list of top industry issues.

Supported by shipper groups, the research will collect data to establish the costs and impacts of detentions, and come up with strategies to minimize them.

Brewster says ATRI is looking for the most accurate way to separate true detention from the time drivers spend in the yard loading, unloading, or parked for a break.

“We’re discussing the potential to develop an app for drivers to use,” she adds.

ATRI has already studied driver detention in the pre-Covid time when it the topic first appeared on the list of top industry issues in 2019.  

Now, as the industry recovers from the pandemic, the levels of detention is returned to 2019 levels.

This is due to staffing issues lingering from the pandemic, says Brewster.

“We don’t have enough folks who are working in warehouses to load and unload vehicles.”

Complete Streets impact on freight mobility

While the U.S. DOT’s Complete Streets program is designed to make transportation more user-friendly for pedestrians, transit riders and cyclists, it affects freight transportation and can cause further issues at the yard – from late arrivals to detentions at facilities.

Another ATRI study will quantify these impacts and recommend approaches for transportation planners to facilitate freight moves.   

Examining the diesel technician shortage

Recruiting challenges in trucking are not limited to driver and female shortage alone.

According to ATRI, the lack of technicians is considered as critical as the lack of truckers. It is an emerging issue, says Brewster.

To research the issue ATRI will work with the government and industry to identify the underlying factors, industry recruitment practices and competing career opportunities, and assess high-school-level vocational training availability.

“Much like we did in a study we released last summer, where we looked at what made truck driving careers appealing to younger people, what they liked about training, and why they would stay in the industry. We’re going to follow a similar methodology here and talk to younger people who are in those technician positions about what first attracted [them] to that career,” she said.

“What did [they] like about the training? What didn’t [they] like? And what would keep [then] here so that we can publish that research in hopes of building out a larger pool of people coming into technician positions.”

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