A survey of more than 4,000 trucking industry executives by the American Transportation Research Institute revealed the top 10 critical issues facing the North American trucking industry:

1. The economy: For the third year in a row, the state of the nation's economy was the top concern. However, the number ranking it as their number one issue has dropped each year since reaching 51.6% in 2009, to about 31% this year.

2. Hours of Service: Federal rules governing driver hours of service climbed two positions after taking the fourth spot in 2010. Nearly half of respondents (46.5%) ranked this as the first, second or third most important issue.

3. Driver shortage: This issue is up from number five in 2010, but has a larger concentration of "high priority" and "low priority" rankings compared to other issues. Some carriers are having serious problems finding drivers, but others seem to be meeting the demand through financial and work culture strategies.

4. CSA: After debuting in the No. 2 spot in 2010, the government's new enforcement regime retreated two spots from second to fourth this year. Nearly 30% of respondents ranked this issue first or second.

5. Fuel issues: Fuel issues ranked first in 2005 and again in 2008, but dropped to sixth in 2010. This year the issue, along with the price of fuel, has risen again.

6. Congestion: While standard peak-hour congestion is costly in terms of freight delays and fuel consumption, unexpected delays are considerably worse. While congestion did not make the top 10 list in 2009 and 2010 due to the recession, it has reemerged as a standalone issue in 2011.

7. Transportation funding: This reemerged as a standalone issue this year with continued delays in passing a highway bill.

8. Tort reform: This and related legal issues returned to the top 10 list in 2011 for the first time since 2008. The trucking industry seeks tort liability reform to ensure that punitive damage awards are reasonable and directly related to negligence.

9. Onboard truck technologies: First surfacing in 2007 as a top 10 issue, this has fluctuated among the last three positions. This includes electronic logs, speed limiters, onboard safety systems, and using technology to enhance or replace roadside safety enforcement practices.

10. Truck size and weight: This first emerged as a top issue in the 2009 survey. Increased flexibility in truck size and weight could reduce congestion and fuel consumption and help with the driver shortage.

Click here for Trends to Watch in 2012.

From the December 2011 issue of HDT.