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Will Bad Road Conditions Cause Further Trucker Shortages?

July 14, 2015
The majority of truckers said that they get held up by poor road conditions every day or a few times a week which increases maintenance costs resulting in declining margins for owner-operators.

The steady decline in owner-operators could be further exacerbated by bad road conditions. 

In a recent poll conducted by the National Retail Systems, Inc., 60% of truckers surveyed said that roads are in worse condition than ever before. The majority said that they get held up by poor road conditions every day or a few times a week; only 1% of those who responded said that they never get held up. Nearly half of the truck drivers who responded have been on the road more than 10 years.

Local and city roads that need pothole repair, resurfacing and leveling are costing truckers a lot of extra money in additional vehicle operating costs such as fuel consumption, tire wear, and deterioration. When asked to rate the condition of local and city roads 93% of respondents gave a rating of poor, unsatisfactory, or ok, with only 7% of truck drivers describing road conditions as good or excellent.

Bridges and tunnels are an issue as well, as one out of every nine bridges in the country is considered to be structurally deficient with crumbling concrete and corroded steel. However truck driver respondents did not rate the condition of bridges and tunnels as poorly as the roads and highway system, according to the NRS road conditions survey. Using 1 as the worst and five as the best, more than half of the truck drivers gave a majority vote to a three and four with only 35% of drivers rating bridges and tunnels with a poor to unsatisfactory vote.

All of these infrastructure issues are costing the country $27 billion a year in extra freight transportation costs, increasing shipping delays and raising prices on everyday products, according to a July 2014 report from The Council of Economic Advisers.

The group provided an overview of the country’s transportation infrastructure and here are a few highlights:

•Today there are more than 4 million miles of road, 600,000 bridges, and 3,000 transit providers in the U.S. And yet, over the past 20 years, total federal, state, and local investment in transportation has fallen as a share of GDP – while population, congestion, and maintenance backlogs have increased.

•The U.S. lags behind many of its overseas competitors in transportation infrastructure investment. In the most recent World Economic Forum rankings, the U.S. had in less than a decade fallen from 7th to 18th overall in the quality of our roads.

•65% of America’s major roads are rated in less than good condition, one in four bridges require significant repair or cannot handle today’s traffic, and forty five percent of Americans lack access to transit.

Given the current road conditions and the amount of time it would take to fix the problems, it is likely that the declining margins from extra maintenance costs will continue to result in less owner operators. And this is not good news to the industry which is currently short 30,000 truckers  with a projected shortage of 239,000 by 2022 according to the American Trucking Associations.

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