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Trucking Industry Update focuses on Driver Shortages, Electric Trucks

The trucking industry is grappling with two challenges affecting many industries – supply chain issues and how to mitigate climate change. 

These were the topics of the Trucking Industry Update at the NJTPA Freight Initiatives Committee’s June 21 meeting.

The truck driver shortage is expected to double from an estimated 80,000 last year to 160,000 by 2030, Nicholas Geale, Vice President of Workforce and Labor Policy at the American Trucking Associations, said during his presentation.

Freight volumes have slowed from 2021 but remain elevated, according to Geale. While freight is transitioning back from the spot (one-time delivery) market to contracts, contract loads have struggled to fully return to pre-pandemic levels due to a lack of drivers and equipment, he said.

ATA-Truck-Driver-Shortage.pngThe pandemic years have been good for trucking generally, according to Geale, with lots of goods being transported, tight capacity and higher rates. Costs have been a challenge, however, when it comes to driver wages, retention and recruitment, liability insurance, equipment prices and availability, and spikes in fuel prices. Many fleets, especially smaller ones, could be in trouble in the next recession, Geale said, noting the potential for consolidation.

Constraints of supply and the lack of equipment and microchips are reaching the trucking industry just as any other. But he noted that the driver shortage is boosting wages.

“If you’re a truck driver, you’re probably the only person in America beating inflation the last three years,” Geale said, with 8.5 percent average annual increases since 2019 for long-haul truckers. “It will take a while to dig out of this supply hole, so driver pay will continue to increase.”

Drivers working fewer hours, due to federal hours of service requirements, and the average driver age reaching nearly 50, means the shortage will only get worse. Geale said the industry needs to work on attracting younger recruits and women, that later of which are only 7 percent of drivers.

“We need to do a better job of telling people about good jobs in the industry,” Geale said. “We can’t fill these jobs unless we make a long-term investment in our people and make it a job people want to be in because it’s a career and has long-term growth.”

In the short term, there are programs like the DRIVE Safe Act apprenticeship program and a task force that aims to increase the number of women in trucking. He emphasized making truck drivers a national in demand position for workforce training funds. In the longer term, Geale said it’s about expanding the poolto attract more women, former felons, young people, urban populations, and veterans among others.

A Look at Zero-Emission Trucks 

The committee also heard from Jeffrey Short, vice president at the Atlanta-based American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI), who presented recent findings of their report, “Understanding the CO2 Impacts of Zero-Emission Trucks.”

The study compared the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions across the lifecycle of three types of vehicles: 
  • Internal combustion engine (ICE) powered by diesel
  • Battery electric vehicle (BEV) powered by electricity
  • Fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) powered by hydrogen
It examined production, energy production and consumption, and vehicle disposal and recycling for a Class 8 sleeper cab with a minimum range of 500 miles and vehicle life of one million miles.

The battery on a BEV was about six times more polluting than an ICE truck when it came to carbon dioxide because of the amount of mining and pollution involved in producing it. Production emissions for ICE trucks and FCEV were 75 percent and 84 percent less, respectively, according to the study.

DSC00052-(1).JPGIn terms of energy production and consumption, BEVs and FCEVs were comparable, and approximately 43 percent and 47 percent, respectively, less than the ICE vehicle emissions. The two also were lower in terms of life-cycle emissions by 30 percent and 46 percent, respectively. The two 17,000-pound lithium-ion batteries necessary for BEVs create some 20 times more emissions when it comes to disposal and recycling. Those batteries also impact BEVs in a lost revenue weight analysis versus ICE trucks.

The projected decrease in fuel production emissions for BEVs is more than 19 percent by 2030 and almost 34 percent by 2034. It’s “not as significant as you would think and not the panacea for decarbonizing the trucking industry,” Short said.

Both presentations and a recording of the meeting are available here.
Posted: 6/28/2022 12:15:16 PM by Mark Hrywna | with 0 comments