‘Chronic Underutilization’ of America’s Trucking Capacity Means 40 Percent Is ‘Left on the Table Every Day’: MIT Expert

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He says adding just 18 minutes of driving time per truck driver per day would the fix trucking shortage

An expert from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) told lawmakers at a Nov. 17 congressional hearing that holdups at pickup and delivery points are causing a chronic underutilization problem impacting U.S. long-haul truck drivers, leading to 40 percent of America’s trucking capacity being “left on the table every day.”

David Correll, a research scientist at MIT’s Center for Transportation and Logistics, blamed “conventions for scheduling and processing” around pickup and delivery appointments for drastically reducing the amount of time truck drivers actually spend driving.

Correll told lawmakers at the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing that America’s long-haul drivers are “seriously underutilized,” driving an average of 6.5 hours a day even though safety regulations allow them to drive 11 hours.

“This chronic underutilization problem does not seem to be a function of what the drivers themselves do or don’t do, but rather an unfortunate consequence of our conventions for scheduling and processing the pickup and delivery appointments,” Correll added.

Crunching the numbers, Correll said, “implies that 40 percent of America’s trucking capacity is left on the table every day,” adding that this is “especially troubling during times of perceived shortage and crisis, like we find ourselves now.”

Correll said that adding just 18 minutes of driving time, on average, to each of America’s 1.8 million truck drivers every day “could be enough to overcome what many of us feel is a driver shortage.”

Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, asked Correll to clarify the 18-minute estimate, which the lawmaker called an “extraordinary figure.”

The MIT expert explained that the origin of the calculation is an extrapolation based on the ATA number of 80,000 drivers short, which represents around 4.5 percent of all 1.8 million existing truck drivers in the United States, a figure based on U.S. Census Bureau data.

The question is “how do we add 4.5 percent back to our existing population instead of bringing in a new headcount,” Correll said. “And if we do that, it’s only 18 minutes.”

“So the idea of that calculation is to look at the estimate of the shortage and look at a solution that is not raising headcount but raising utilization,” he added.

By Tom Ozimek

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