How shippers can weather predicted trucking shortage

As recently reported in American Shipper, analysts and trucking executives are predicting an alarming commercial truck scarcity in the US in 2012.  Currently, capacity is extremely tight, and if the economy improves, the situation will worsen.

The main factors that are leading to the looming crisis are a shortage in both equipment and drivers.  As for equipment, the trucking industry has significantly reduced its fleets since the global economic downturn began in 2007 by selling used tractors and deferring purchase of new equipment.  In addition, many small trucking companies went out of business.

With regard to drivers, more than 13 percent left the workforce left since 2007, and there are fewer younger drivers entering the market to replace older workers.  Factors such as new federal hours-of-service rules inhibit hiring, leaving a current driver deficit of 125,000.

Astute shippers can take steps to mitigate problems caused by the shortage:

  • Strengthen relationship with key carriers (give consistent business, accept fair rates, reduce dock-wait times, pay invoices early) to increase priority during busy shipping times.
  • Create more consistent shipping patterns and share demand forecasts so carriers may deploy their trucks and drivers more efficiently.
  • Secure dedicated contract carriage (set asides of certain number of vehicles or drivers).
  • Use the spot market where rates and terms are better than contract rates.
  • Increase size of private fleet, and sell empty space in trailers on return trips.
  • Work with a truck broker for flexibility in last minute scheduling.
  • Adjust production schedules to produce loads when carriers have extra seasonal capacity.

The full article, “Where did all the trucks go?,” is available here.

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