Fuel prices bump driver shortage as top concern of trucking industry

The national average for diesel prices is currently at $5.341 per gallon, according to data collected by the Energy Information Administration that was released on Oct. 24. This marks the third consecutive week that the average has increased following five weeks of steady decline.

With that in mind, it isn’t too surprising that fuel prices rank as the top concern for the trucking industry, overtaking driver shortages. What may be more surprising is that fuel prices have bumped driver shortages after a consistent five years in the number one spot, as reported by Trucking Info.

The American Research Institute (ATRI) releases an annual Top Industry Issues survey to collect data on what obstacles and stressors the industry is facing. A panel at the American Trucking Association’s (ATA) Management Conference & Exhibition sat down to discuss the top 10 results from the survey.

“ATRI’s list is a true reflection of what it was like to be a trucker this year,” said ATA Chairman Harold A. Sumerford Jr. “High fuel prices and finding drivers were two of our industry’s biggest challenges … Thankfully, ATRI doesn’t just tell us what the issues are, it provides a number of possible solutions that decision makers can use to address them.”

Fuel prices haven’t been featured on ATRI’s list of industry issues since 2013, and even then, it was ranked in the eighth spot. Despite it not being a high-ranking issue for nearly a decade, industry professionals were ready to suggest solutions.

Dennis Dellinger, president and CEO of Cargo Transporters Inc., offered that large carriers can reduce fuel costs by buying in bulk and operating an efficient fuel surcharge program. Dellinger went on to acknowledged that such a solution doesn’t yet exist for smaller fleets or owner-operators.

Aptly, other solutions were offered by respondents to the survey. The most frequently suggested solution was to advocate for a federal response that would stabilize fuel supply and decrease price unpredictability. This was followed by a suggestion to research why fuel availability is low and price unpredictability is high.

As solutions for high fuel prices are sorted out, the industry must adjust to a new advancement in trucking. For the first time, speed limiters made the top 10 list of Top Industry Issues. It has been predicted that 2023 will see an increase in FMCSA regulations dealing with speed limiters. This response from the ATRI’s survey sends the message that the trucking industry is already aware and ready to respond to impending challenges.

“This year’s survey had the highest number of responses to date, showing how committed our industry is to identifying the most critical concerns and more importantly, figuring out how we collectively deal with each issue,” said Rebecca Brewster, ATRI president and COO.