What is the number one issue facing the trucking industry today? Is it fuel costs? Increasing government regulations? The ever increasing mechanical and technological complexity of trucks? To be sure all of these are challenges but perhaps the most glaring is driver retention. The American Trucking Association estimates that U.S. trucking firms would need at least 30,000 more drivers immediately to fill open positions and have proper levels of staffing. In an industry where the turnover rate can be as high as 80 percent an enormous amount of resources and energy is spent just attempting to keep a driver in the truck.
The answer to driver retention is a complex one with the largest issue being time spent away from home. More experienced drivers are less willing to be on the road for extended periods of time as they age while younger drivers express an even lower desire for long runs. In an effort to attract and retain drivers the hub and spoke method of distribution has seen a raise in popularity as it greatly reduces the miles traveled before returning home for a driver.
Yesterday both International and Volvo trucks unveiled their latest models designed specifically for the regional haul markets and it’s no surprise that both manufacturers sited driver comfort and drive time as guiding principles behind their new trucks.
At first glance the new VNR doesn’t look much different from current models but there have been changes. The hood and fenders have been softened a bit with more sweeping curves promising increased fuel economy, up to 3.5% when paired with specific Volvo powertrain options. A wheel cut ratio of 50% speaks to the intended use of these trucks.
On the International side of things you will hear a similar story. A short sloped hood offers increased visibility while increasing aerodynamic efficiency, up to 6% over previous models. Under the hood the new International A26 diesel promises increased power, decreased weight and noise and increased fuel economy. The RH also features a 50% wheel cut, like the Volvo, for the cramped loading docks.
Both trucks feature completely redesigned car like interiors demanded by the drivers of today. With regional haul routes on the rise these could be the dominant form of trucks found on the round in the next five years. While new trucks won’t completely solve the driver crisis they will be a part of the overall puzzle.