Driver Shortage Moves Beyond Truckload; Worst Two Years Away

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Posted on September 18th 2014 7:47 PM

Trucking industry analyst John Larkin of Stifel’s says the driver shortage has expanded into LTL, private fleets and other industry sectors – and the worst of the capacity crunch is yet to come.

That’s one of the takeaways from the annual “Shaking the Sand Out” overview of the transportation industry from Stifel Transportation & Logistics Equity Research, as reported by Heavy Duty Trucking magazine.

Capacity tightness from driver turnover, among other factors, has traditionally impacted long-haul, irregular-route truckload fleets, but it’s now being felt by every type of fleet in the industry.

“The big issue is drivers, drivers and drivers. It’s not clear there’s any easy answer to this problem,” said Larkin, Stifel managing director, adding that the cost of complying with a myriad of FMCSA and other agency rules will continue to make it difficult to maintain production levels and exacerbate the shortage.

And while there are widespread industry reports of tight capacity today, Larkin says the “real driver-driven capacity crunch” may come in the 2016-2017 time frame when the electronic log mandate is expected to go into effect, along with an expected regulation requiring speed limiters in the U.S.

He said smaller carriers without technological support may struggle to keep up with fleets equipped with high-tech systems designed to boost productivity. “They’re not only able to select the best load today, but also to look into the future and optimize production for a truck for its 7 or 10 day run,” which is improving yield and reducing empty miles.

Larkin pointed to longer combination vehicles (LCVs) and heavier trucks as one solution to help alleviate the driver shortage problem.

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