While truck drivers continue to provide goods and services over the road, concerns continue to rise over safety at rest stops. Just last week, President Trump was celebrating truck drivers amid the coronavirus pandemic. The President held an event noting states have been working to make accommodations for truck drivers nationwide. Although the public attention for truckers has been positive for the industry, many issues arise when drivers are traveling. A big problem is detention times, where facilities are understaffed, and detention times can be hours. Thus, leaving drivers without access to food and water or even restrooms.
The coronavirus, or COVID-19, has changed life as we know it to a ‘new normal’ in less than a month. The trucking industry has had to do a total overhaul on how they can operate during this time.
There are many people we should thank for being true heroes during the COVID-19 pandemic, but one profession that is often overlooked are the nation’s truck drivers. They risk their lives every single day to deliver medical supplies, dried goods, food and beverages and other vital supplies that are needed during this crisis. Like almost everyone else, every day activities are also very different for them.
Yesterday, in response to the spread of COVID-19, Pennsylvania state officials decided to close all Pennsylvania highway rest stops. After the message was made public, many truck drivers were stuck trying to find sites where they could make stops to rest and use facilities. Industry officials said, “these closures were making the job of the haulers more difficult as they keep goods flowing during the pandemic.” Based on feedback from the transportation industry, PennDOT reopened the 13 most utilized rest areas by truckers out the 30 rest stops that were closed. “At these locations, PennDOT will be taking down the barricades on some facilities in critical locations and making them available for truck parking. Portable restroom facilities will be available at all these locations: each location will have five portable toilets, one of which is ADA-accessible, that will be cleaned once a day,” said Alexis Campbell a spokesperson for PennDOT.
This past October, The American Transportation Research Institute released their annual survey of the top 10 critical issues the trucking industry is faced with.
In today’s world everyone seems to be connected to the internet. Even the nations over the road truck drivers can stay connected when they are on the road several states away from their home base. Smart phones, tablets, and on-board computers keep today’s drivers constantly connected to the office and dispatchers. Almost all major truck stops offer free Wi-Fi for their customers inside travel centers. Truck stops will charge an additional fee if the driver prefers Wi-Fi access in their truck while resting. Either in the travel center store or inside the truck, instant communication is a reality in today’s over the road transportation industry.
Since 2010 the number of female truck drivers has increased by 68 percent. While the vast majority of drivers are men, women are often-overlooked candidates who can also excel in these roles. Companies in the trucking industry have struggled to fill open positions, and the problem continues to grow because of high turnover, retirement and increased demand for goods. In 2018, the national trucker shortage was 60,800, by 2028 they are projecting 160,000 open positions within the trucking industry.
The increase in truck driver shortages could be a serious problem for the U.S. economy in the future. Driver shortages were up 20% in 2018 and this trend is continuing in 2019. Within the next decade, United States industries could see the highest driver shortage in U.S. history.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) has delayed any rule makings based on the industry’s decision to change Hours of Service (HOS) until sometime in August.