Commentary: Regulatory Drag and the Driver Shortage

August 2015, - WebXclusive

by Evan Lockridge, Business Contributing Editor - Also by this author

SHARING TOOLS        | Print Subscribe
Electronic logs, speed limiters, a drug and alcohol testing database and other regulations will mean more drivers are needed, even if the economy slows. Graph: FTR
Electronic logs, speed limiters, a drug and alcohol testing database and other regulations will mean more drivers are needed, even if the economy slows. Graph: FTR

Could you find 50% more drivers for your fleet? You may have to in the not-too-distant future.

“Hold on, Evan. Last week you reported the economy is expected to slow by mid-2018. Why would I need that many more drivers?”

Yes, I said economist Noel Perry with freight forecasting firm FTR called the current economic recovery “a little stale,” explaining that as recoveries drag out they get weaker, especially for trucking.

A countervailing headwind, however, will come from a mountain of new regulations. Unless we are hit by a calamity like the Great Recession, the effect on the number of drivers needed by an economic slowdown will likely be outweighed by new rules from Uncle Sam that should blow in about the same time.

“The FMCSA is in the process of writing regulations that will hit the marketplace sometime between 2016 and 2018 and will affect it profoundly,” said Perry. We’re talking about around two dozen new or changed regulations, coving everything from electronic logging devices and training provisions to speed limiters and a database of driver drug and alcohol test results.

Hundreds of thousands of drivers or potential ones will be disqualified from trucking by 2018 due to new regulations, Perry says. On top of that, as you can see from the chart, regulations will chisel away at the productivity, meaning more drivers will be needed to haul the same amount of freight.

For example, as you’ll notice in the graph, when hours of service changes in mid-2013 limited use of the 34-hour restart, productivity dropped, requiring more drivers. Conversely, when the rule was relaxed at the end of 2015, productivity improved.

Productivity will gear down again when a requirement for speed limiters kicks in, expected in 2017 or 2018.

When these and many more regulations start hitting next year and beyond, additional hires needed, Perry says, will be more than 150,000 per quarter – and don’t expect Congress to swoop in and save us.

With a potential economic slowdown and a severe driver shortage buffeting fleets from all sides, fleets need to work on strategies to avoid being caught in the crosswinds.


  1. 1. Rick Gaskill [ August 11, 2015 @ 04:56AM ]

    Myths about regulations causing driver shortages have been around for ages. E-logs can increase productivity unless a carrier has had its drivers violating HOS. Mandating speed limiters should have little effect since the majority of carriers are already using them.
    Somebody's just blowing a lot of smoke here. Just how will "hundreds of thousands" of potential drivers be eliminated by 2018 regulations?
    Additional hires are needed because of constant high turnover due to driver abuse.

  2. 2. JW [ August 11, 2015 @ 05:26AM ]

    Driver abuse? You mean working for free most times, living in a box on wheels, bad diet, stress out the ying yang, 24/7....
    There is NO driver shortage. There is, however, a shortage of drivers who will work for free. Maybe that's what they mean.

  3. 3. Claude Broen [ August 11, 2015 @ 06:04AM ]

    JW that's putting a sledgehammer on the nail. That's the headline in all CAPS. Shortage of drivers who will work for free.

  4. 4. Rich Kruml [ September 04, 2015 @ 11:48AM ]

    Right on JW, you might add the harrassment by the enemy with a badge who is there but for one reason, to collect money for his greedy political bosses.
    I retired in 2002 and at that time I was running 3 log books and was damn good at it...The only way I could make a living and deliver fresh produce in good shape cross country,
    Want to starve today??? Drive a truck for some large carrier.


Comment On This Story

Comment: (Maximum 2000 characters)  
Leave this field empty:
* Please note that every comment is moderated.


We offer e-newsletters that deliver targeted news and information for the entire fleet industry.


ELDs and Telematics

sponsored by
sponsor logo

Scott Sutarik from Geotab will answer your questions and challenges

View All

Sleeper Cab Power

Steve Carlson from Xantrex will answer your questions and challenges

View All