More than 80% of carriers report that recent health care changes will adversely affect them, according to the recent fourth quarter national Business Expectations Survey by Transport Capital Partners.

"The cost pressure for driver health care and other employees' health care is just another balancing act challenging carriers this year during rate negotiations and amidst uncertainty in the general overall economy," says Richard Mikes, TCP partner and survey leader.

According to the survey, 43% of carriers are reacting to these changes by shifting more costs to employees, and 37% are asking employees to pay more for family coverage. Twenty-nine percent of surveyed carriers are feeling the effects of increased costs but haven't developed an alternative plan.

The survey shows that smaller carriers are being hit harder by the recent changes than larger carriers, with 39% of smaller carriers saying costs are up significantly compared to 24% of larger carriers.

"Cost shifting is predominate with smaller carriers while wellness plans are more popular with larger carriers," says TCP partner Lana Batts. "These changes will also impact the competitiveness between large and small carriers."

With 65% of carriers saying wages should be more than $60,000 to attract or retain drivers, Mikes says, "it is likely that drivers will also put more emphasis on shopping for fringe benefit packages as a part of the compensation mix in the future, especially as the effects of health care change reverberate through the economy."