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January 6 2020

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98 The Journal of Commerce | Januar y 6 2020 Surface Transportation 2020 ANNUAL REVIEW & OUTLOOK driver population, and two periods of decline, both coinciding with economic recessions. It took nine years for the number of heavy-truck drivers to rise past its 2007 record of 1.7 million, after the US economy suffered its worst recession in decades. But economic growth since 2009 led to annual increases ranging from 1.6 percent to 3.3 percent. BLS driver statistics for 2019 weren't available at the time of writing, but it's likely to climb by a low single-digit percentage despite an economic slowdown, as happened in 2013 and 2016. The truck drivers in the BLS count are a subset of the total number of truck drivers, a figure the American Trucking Associations (ATA) estimates at 3.5 million. That number includes light-truck drivers and those driving garbage trucks or other vocational trucks, not hauling freight. However you add them up, there DISCUSSIONS ABOUT TRUCK drivers often focus on whether there is a driver shortage in the US, or at least a shortage of qualified truck drivers that carriers can employ, but the sheer number of drivers who have climbed into a truck cab over the past decade is often overlooked. Absent an economic recession, that number is likely to keep rising. In the new decade, the "truck driver problem" will be how to better utilize existing truck drivers, getting the most out of their miles and ensuring they earn enough money to keep them behind the wheel. The truck driver population has been expanding since 2010, increasing 3 percent in 2018 to more than 1.8 million, and 23 percent over the previous eight years, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, and a compound eight-year growth rate of 2.6 percent. That's remarkably steady growth compared to the previous decade. BLS data show two peaks — the first in 2000 and the second in 2007 — in the big truck and tractor-trailer IMCs; some estimate the share is closer to 95 percent. Railroads traditionally save their best rates for contract customers. The right direction Service is improving, with fewer containers on the move in 2019. Between Weeks 1 and 47, intermo- dal train speeds were up 4 percent compared with 2018. CSX and KCS led the pack, with double-digit increases in train speeds. UP and BNSF train speeds were slower than 2018, but each improved year over year in the second half after flooding in the Midwest paralyzed the rail networks in the spring. Speed, though, only measures when the train is in motion. The metric doesn't include how long the container sat in the terminal before being loaded onto a train or how long it took to be unloaded and made available for pickup at the destination. A more accurate measurement, IMCs believe, is the time between when a truck drops a container at the origin terminal and when a notification is sent that the box is available at the destination. CSX has been moving toward such a model, and IMCs are hopeful that other precision-scheduled rail- roads will do so, too. Another important question is whether service improvements are simply a byproduct of lower volumes or also upgrades to the rail network. In other words, will service deterio- rate when volume rises again? Shook said the network should be able to handle moderate volume growth, but anything greater than 5 percent can cause a supply chain disruption. "That was part of … why PSR was such a great idea, because it would allow railroads to scale regardless of volume by having fewer touch points, fewer lanes, and focusing on high quality," he said. "The jury is out, but I'm cautiously optimis- tic out of what we've seen from the Eastern railroads. The Western railroads are a little further behind in their journey.". JOC email: twitter: @arijashe Driver decline? Redefining the 'truck driver problem' By William B. Cassidy Continued on page 101 +1.6% +2.6% +3% 1,300,000 1,400,000 1,500,000 1,600,000 1,700,000 1,800,000 1,900,000 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 Number of US dr iver s of heavy trucks/tr actors US truck driver population growing steadily since 2010 Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics © 2019 IHS Markit US heavy-duty tractor-trailer drivers OES category from 53 to 3032, with year-over-year change

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