“The vast majority of those in trucking do not understand the impact the rise on e-commerce is having on the freight industry." - ATRI's Dan Murray, speaking at NPTC. Photo: David Cullen

“The vast majority of those in trucking do not understand the impact the rise on e-commerce is having on the freight industry." - ATRI's Dan Murray, speaking at NPTC. Photo: David Cullen

CINCINNATI — Among the research projects currently on the front burner at the American Transportation Research Institute is an effort to determine if “we can identify younger drivers with the same characteristics as safe, older drivers,” advised Dan Murray, vice president of ATRI, in his keynote speech at the National Private Truck Council’s annual meeting here on April 29 at the historic Hilton Netherland Plaza Hotel.

Murray said the question of whether younger drivers can be accepted as long-haul interstate truckers is really one of “how mature are they in their thinking?”

He said that’s why ATRI has launched a research effort to investigate the potential for developing an “assessment tool” for younger drivers. “ATRI’s research will focus on the relationship between multiple characteristics [of maturity] and safety outcomes.” By comparison, Murray said that earlier studies had “only looked at a single characteristic’s effect on safety outcomes.”

Back in August, ATRI issued a technical memorandum that lays out the findings of its first phase of research. The next go-round will involve conducting a beta test of the assessment toll on a small sample of veteran and entry-level drivers. According to ATRI, those results will determine if a larger scale study is warranted.

Parking as a Time Sink

Murray said ATRI is also looking into the effects of the parking shortage that is bedeviling truck drivers nationwide. The negative impacts extend beyond inconveniencing drivers and increasing their safety risk to driving up costs for carriers.

He said a review of 148 “parking diaries,” completed by drivers for ATRI between June and September 2016 and covering 2,035 days of “truck parking activity” across 4,763 unique stops, revealed when, where, and how long it took to secure a spot. The journals also tallied how many spots were taken by non-CMVs and allowed totaling up productivity lost to searching for a space.

The parking diaries showed that the frequency of “unauthorized/undesignated” parking was as high as 3 to 4 times a week for over 36% of the drivers studied.

He said what really stands out is “the amount of revenue time used to find parking— that averaged out to 56 minutes a day. And those operating with ELDs were nearly two times as likely to spend 30 plus minutes looking for parking.”

Weighing the Impact of E-Commerce

Murray also discussed why ATRI is collecting data to assess how e-commerce is affecting trucking operations. “The vast majority of those in trucking do not understand the impact the rise on e-commerce is having on the freight industry,” he remarked. “Consumers no longer want it tomorrow. They may want it this afternoon.”

He said the galloping trend is obvious when you consider that retail sales are flat while e-commerce sales are steadily rising. “Dry van average length of haul is down and look to see a massive increase in straight trucks” as the e-commerce tide keeps rolling in, he noted.

With all that in front of mind, ATRI is developing a research report that will help carriers understand the structural shifts under way in the relationships between consumers, businesses, and logistics providers.

Related: The E-Commerce Road has its Ups and Downs

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