A shortage of truckload capacity—and the rate increases that could result from it—will be the biggest challenges facing shippers next year, according to comments heard today at the National Industrial Transportation League's annual meeting in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
When asked in an informal poll at the conference which of the major transport modes will experience the fiercest pricing pressure next year, 44 percent of the respondents said "truckload," by far the highest percentage of any of the modes. Shipper executives interviewed at the meeting said truck rate increases will be problematic for their businesses next year. The informal poll, as well as off-the-record comments by shippers, did not indicate that rate increases would be a problem for other modes.
Driving those concerns is what many fear will be a reduction in the driver pool once the federal government's new safety initiative, known as CSA 2010, kicks in fully early next year. The program's goal is to identify drivers with spotty safety records and, if necessary, remove them from the road. While many in the transportation industry laud the program's intentions, they worry that it will only aggravate an ongoing shortage of qualified drivers.
Appearing today on a panel of three chief executives, Christopher B. Lofgren, president and CEO of trucking and logistics giant Schneider National Inc., said CSA 2010 could lead to the removal of up to 10 percent of the current driver workforce. Next year's mission "will be about finding drivers," said Lofgren, adding that supply is likely to remain constrained as truckers work to build up driver forces depleted by the regulations.
Lofgren predicted a slow improvement in the economy during 2011, indicating that the absence of a full-blown economic recovery might actually help shippers and truckers mitigate the looming capacity issues brought on by driver shortages.