RISI’s September International Woodfiber Report, while reiterating ongoing concerns about the logging capacity deficit, notes that “a trucker shortage now tops US timber capacity concerns,” citing—among other sources—published FRA surveys and reports.
Nationwide, for all trucking sectors, one trucking association estimates a current shortage of 35,000 “qualified” drivers, “with that number expected to surge five-fold in ten years,” in view of high turnover rates.
For forest product haulers specifically, the raft of burdensome regulations—CSA, above all—as well as other federal regulations and state and local restrictions pinch the driver pool, as do rising insurance rates, while volatile diesel prices and new engine standards add additional operational expenses.
RISI cites several recommendations that have emerged from FRA’s engagement with the issue: work to reform CSA; improve communications between mills, loggers, and truckers; make reducing truck turnaround time a priority; and enact gross vehicle weight reform.
An August 25 Transport Topics article also affirms a nationwide truck driver shortage, reporting the view that it is “the worst [the trucking] industry has ever seen, and it’s not going away.”
The key, reiterated recommendation is to keep trucking company managers and directors “in regular contact with their drivers” and to ensure that other departments “are ultimately support groups for drivers . . . no closed doors.”
One carrier’s manager reports a policy of providing safety and performance bonuses to improve morale and driver retention. Another manager says driver retention “starts with recruiting. If you don’t get the right driver, he or she is not going to stay,” adding that one of the best places to find new drivers is through one’s current drivers,” and recommends implementing recruitment bonuses.