Although FTR’s outlook for 2021 is bullish, Vise told American Trucker there are still looming risks of concern.
“Shut ’em down!”
Talk of a nationwide driver shutdown has been echoing nationwide for years – most notably and recently on social media sites. But these angry words have done little to coalesce truck drivers into a potent force that can bring about the changes they desire.
With the new year comes the second full year of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrations’ Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse, the national database of commercial driver substance violations created to remove loopholes that allowed violators to continue operating trucks. According to data from the first 10 months of its existence, thousands of fleets and owner-operators still need to register with the database or face non-compliance repercussions.
A recent announcement by Wendy’s CEO Todd Penegor hit truck drivers right in their gut. He said in an earnings call that the company has a “new appetite to look at drive-thru-only restaurants.” In other words, no dining-in for truck drivers or anyone else for that matter.
They’re not the only fast-food restaurant to consider that transition. Quick service restaurants—or QSR in industry lingo—with plans to reduce or eliminate in-dining service and focus instead on drive-thru trade. McDonald’s, Burger King, Taco Bell, KFC and others are also moving towards smaller or non-existent dining rooms in the future.
Where does that leave semi drivers who crave a quick burger and fries?
Preliminary information for October from ACT Research indicates that the US trailer industry booked 54,200 net orders for the month, up 6% from September and more than 68% better than the same month last year.
Finding truck drivers, especially as the current group ages and more people are reluctant to spend time from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, is the trucking industry’s biggest challenge.
That’s the finding of the latest annual American Transportation Research Institute survey of the biggest issues facing the industry.
Motor carrier chief executives also echo the same problem as they report third-quarter financial results to industry analysts and investors.
Trucking rates are going up because the industry can’t find enough drivers to meet freight demand.
Over the last 10 years, commercial trucking insurance rates have skyrocketed. Despite those rate increases, however, insurance companies are experiencing losses, which means the transportation insurance industry is seeing continued deterioration and availability in capacity.
“We have a flash recession caused by a natural disaster. Normally natural disasters are regional. This natural disaster was not only countrywide but worldwide,” Don Ake, the FTR Intelligence vice president for commercial vehicles, said during a recent FTR Engage virtual session on commercial vehicle supply.