back out toward the Gulf of Mexico, the map lit back
up and, within hours, freight was being pushed south
toward communities that needed help the most.
A similar situation occurred in Florida during
Hurricane Irma, with 100 trucks loaded with supplies
in Northern Florida heading south with police escorts as
soon as the storm moved on and I-95 reopened.
While the freight those trucks carried will never be
able to replace lost lives and destroyed homes, what
Clark describes illustrates how important the trucking
industry is to the U.S. As head of BMO Transportation
Finance, Clark has an insider’s view of the ways 2017
shaped the industry and how it will fare into the future.
The Driver Shortage
One thing that is clear from speaking with Clark is
the shortage of drivers in the last few years has gotten
worse. According to a report from American Trucking
Associations, the industry could be short by as many as
50,000 drivers before the end of 2017.
“In addition to the sheer lack of drivers, fleets are
also suffering from a lack of qualified drivers, which
amplifies the effects of the shortage on carriers,” says
ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. “This means that
even as the shortage numbers fluctuate, it remains a
serious concern for our industry, for the supply chain
and for the economy at large.”
American Trucking Associations characterize the trucking industry as a barometer of the U.S. economy. The industry can also serve as a
gauge of more than just dollars and cents. The past year
has been colored by turbulence, especially for those
ravaged by natural disasters that spread throughout the
country, particularly in Florida, Texas and California.
When Dan Clark of BMO Transportation Finance
attended the America Trucking Associations’
Conference in Florida, he received a unique look at
the utilization of trucks in response to these natural
disasters. As Clark tells it, a GPS map showing 1,000
monitored trucks in Texas depicted a situation where no
freight was moving south of Austin as Hurricane Harvey
neared the Lone Star State. Once Harvey hit, devastating parts of Southern Texas, particularly Houston,
the map went dark. However, when the storm moved
Stuck in Traffic:
Driver Shortage, Electronic Logs
Make for Small Fleet Trouble
BY PHIL NEUFFER
During a year when the industry took on a major role in helping rebuild from devastating natural disasters
in Texas, Florida and California, overcapacity and a driver shortage continued to hamper trucking. That
doesn’t mean the future doesn’t hold promise. Dan Clark, head of BMO Transportation Finance, discusses
what 2017 was like for the industry and what to expect in 2018 and beyond.
“Talking to the fleets and various customers around the country they would add additional units in a minute if they knew they could get drivers.
Currently, you’re seeing up to 10% to 15% of some fleets’ trucks just
sitting because they don’t have enough drivers. For a lot of fleets, that’s
really capping the amount a freight they can move.”