DriverReach Chats | Bob Costello, Chief Economist and Senior Vice President, American Trucking Associations

When two long-time industry peers haven’t seen each other since pre-pandemic times, there is bound to be plenty to catch up on. For DriverReach CEO Jeremy Reymer, chatting with Bob Costello during this special DriverReach Chats was the perfect chance to catch up on all things happening across the CDL trucking industry.

Bob is the Chief Economist and Senior Vice President of the American Trucking Associations, which offers a compelling perspective on the state of the industry today.

Here are several key takeaways from Jeremy and Bob’s conversation:

The trucking industry is actually on an upturn.

While everyone in the industry was nervous back in March about how the trucking industry would survive a global pandemic (followed by a national lockdown), things are actually looking up in Q4 of 2020. On the retail side, Bob notes, things are going okay since people can still buy goods online instead of services or experiences. Additionally, there are other parts of the freight world – home improvement materials, for example – that are helping the industry bounce back better than some maybe thought it would back in Spring.

The industry learned some valuable lessons this year.

Although things are starting to shut down again here in December 2020, a huge shutdown like the Spring’s may yet be avoided. Regardless, the industry as a whole learned some valuable lessons from the confusion of earlier this year, especially as the nation is becoming more confident in a full-scale health solution to help the economy bounce back.  

The timing of ATRI’s survey tells the story about the driver shortage. 

When ATRI ran its annual Top Issues survey for carriers earlier this Fall, the driver shortage came out on top for the fourth year in a row. However, the timing of the survey tells the story. If it had been conducted during the first half of 2020, the top issue would likely not have been the driver shortage. But since the survey was done in Q3 of this turbulent year, the demand rebounded: 

  • The new Clearinghouse regulations that cut nearly 40,000 drivers from the roads
  • The lack of training for new drivers in training schools due to new social distancing rules
  • New driver health concerns are keeping them home instead of on the road
  • Retirement rates are also increasing as safety concerns rise

There are other ways to combat the driver shortage.

Lowering the minimum driver age probably won’t eliminate the driver shortage completely, but it will have to be done to get the ball rolling in the right direction. Providing advanced training to 18 and 19 year olds will set them up with the right knowledge and the right technology for years of success on the road. Additionally, because you do not need a college degree to be a driver and since the unemployment rate remains high, there is a huge untapped opportunity here for the industry that needs to be capitalized on.

Recent changes in our government will also have an impact in 2021.

After a long election period, many in CDL trucking are wondering if the new president will have any impact on the industry. From Bob’s perspective, the answer is yes: in a good way. The new president will likely bring in an opportunity for big infrastructure changes that we need both as a country and an industry. This is great news for the trucking industry as there will be plenty of freight needs while the work is being done while also paying dividends for years to come on the productivity side. While these kinds of changes have support on both sides of the aisle, new government leadership is sure to make this a priority in 2021.

Watch the Chat

Stay up to date on CDL trucking trends! Be sure to check out the DriverReach blog for other relevant articles and head over to our webinars page for an up-to-date list of upcoming events and on-demand recordings.


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