As we look to the remainder of 2022, technology will reign. We anticipate more tech to emerge, with improved safety and sustainability, making the industry a pretty exciting place.
By Tim Thornton
We made it to 2022! As we look ahead, the need for vocational trucks will continue to escalate. However, some of the same issues the trucking industry faced over the past two years will most likely continue throughout 2022.
In 2021, the Autocar brand celebrated 124 years with unprecedented sales. Even though last year had its challenges, we launched innovative product offerings, leveraged new partnership opportunities, maintained our manufacturing and kept on—so to speak—trucking.
As an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) of severe-duty vocational trucks, we have our finger on the pulse of the trucking industry. Here are four trends we are watching in 2022.
#1: Truck Driver Shortage
First is the severe shortage of certified commercial driver’s license (CDL) drivers—across all vocations. From snowplow
operators to refuse operators to long-haul drivers, this shortage is one of the most significant issues facing the trucking industry—as a whole—since the pandemic rocked the economy starting in the spring of 2020. The American Trucking Association (ATA) estimated that the truck driver shortage hit a historic high of just over 80,000 drivers at the end of 2021.
The truck driver shortage is not likely to improve as we have watched the workforce dissipate before our eyes. So, what is
driving the trend? Unfortunately, it is a plethora of causes:
1. The workforce is aging.
2. Drug testing is weeding out some would-be drivers.
3. Finally, the minimum age requirement is creating recruitment challenges. According to ATA reports, the federally mandated minimum age is 21 years old to drive commercially across state lines.
ATA states that at current trends, the CDL driver shortage could surpass 160,000 by 2030. Another potential obstacle for the trucking industry is the new 2022 mandates as part of the Entry-Level Driver Training (ELDT) requirements by the
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. These requirements go into effect February 7.
While the new requirements are designed with safety in mind, they add another cog into the machine of hiring enough
drivers to meet demand. Here are a few of the new requirements that newly CDL holders must meet, according to the American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA):
• Beginning February 7, no entry-level driver may take a CDL skills test to receive a Class A CDL or Class B CDL endorsement (among others) unless the driver has completed a mandatory theory (knowledge) and behind-the-wheel (BTW) training program.
• The ELDT regulations do not permit BTW training to be conducted by using a driving simulation device and a driver-trainee may not use a simulation device to demonstrate proficiency for any of the BTW curricula.
• The ELDT Program operates with a national baseline for entry-level driver training by identifying standards that training providers must meet.
• A Training Provider Registry has been implemented requiring training providers to register to offer the federally mandated training.
Subsequently, as these new drivers make their way into the industry, it will take even longer for them to be BTW if the entirety of their training has to be done on the road.
#2: Demand for Driver Assist Technology
This is where the next trend we see comes into play. As these less experienced drivers enter the industry, we will likely see an even greater demand for driver-assist technology. Fleet companies are looking for tech to address the various safety
challenges of being behind the wheel.
Working in the waste business can be a dangerous job. Refuse and recyclable materials collection remains the sixth deadliest occupation in the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2020 National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, released in December 2021.
While those statistics are not all entirely driver-related, there is the potential to reduce some of those incidents using driver-assist technology. While all drivers and operators have been through CDL training and are capable of operating a truck, drivers and operators need to be aware of the many potential distractions in truck cabs.
Beyond technology and electronics within the cab, more trucks are operated by a single driver on long routes in bad weather or in the dark. In years past, it was common to have multiple people—perhaps a driver and two or three workers—on a truck with rear loaders, which meant more eyes on the street and the area to help improve safety. Today, anything we can do to improve safety through driver-assist technology is something the industry desires.
The driver-assist style technologies that appeal to most fleet companies include features like blind-spot detection. For
Autocar, that means a flashing light located on the A-pillar to warn the operator of a vehicle in his or her blind spot. Forward collision warning is another popular feature in which the operator is visibly and audibly warned of an impending collision.
Also, fleet management reporting and recording tools are increasingly in demand. Fleet management tools such as telematics and onboard camera system telematics provide real-time location and traffic data as well as route analytics that can help improve safety, efficiency and productivity. Onboard camera systems record continuously, providing a full video surveillance system. These cameras help monitor driver and operator behavior and are also beneficial to record accidents. The camera’s footage provides unequivocal video evidence.
We are proud to be the nation’s first fleet of waste collection vehicles featuring Advanced Driver Assist System (ADAS),
released in early 2021. While some of the costs of added safety features might cause some fleet owners to pause, we know that if a driver-assist system prevents just one accident, it pays for itself.
#3: Alternative Fuel Options on the Rise
In August, the U.S. EPA announced plans to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and other pollutants from heavy-duty trucks through a series of regulations over the next several years. The first will be finalized this year and will apply to heavy-duty/severe-duty vehicles starting in 2027. This means OEMs and fleet owners need to get with the program and start looking at the available alternative fuel options.
As a result of these regulations, we believe we will see more and more demand for heavy-duty and severe-duty work trucks using compressed natural gas (CNG) or electric as they move away from diesel fuel.
In general, companies are looking at how to move away from diesel in specific markets because they have to—whether by
customer requirements or government mandates to meet emission standards.
The move to zero emissions or carbon-neutral drives many manufacturers and fleet owners to adopt CNG or electric. Refuse companies that own landfills can repurpose their landfill gases into waste energy conversion for fuel. However, it is not just limited to refuse. Bigger haulers also have that capability and can end up carbon negative with enough energy to fuel their entire fleet. This change has the potential to provide a significant economic advantage for the company, plus it is great for the environment.
Autocar has more than 8,000 CNG cabover engine trucks in service and are currently running our fourth generation of CNG
engines. We are a big proponent of CNG. In 2021, Autocar launched its first EV terminal tractor, the ACTT, with plans to
introduce a new EV cabover truck in 2022.
While meeting these zero-emissions or carbon-neutral standards can potentially be expensive, government subsidies can help defray costs. For example, the EPA created its SmartWay program to help companies advance supply chain sustainability with resources to apply for grants, loans and other incentives.
#4: Automated Side Loaders to the Rescue
Another trend we expect to see in the refuse industry is more companies investing in automated side loaders (ASLs), which are one-operator trucks. While rear loaders have historically been the most popular refuse body, rear loaders require more people to operate. With the hiring challenge currently faced by the waste industry, we anticipate seeing more waste companies and municipalities adding ASLs to their refuse fleets for residential routes wherever possible.
Additionally, ASLs can potentially reduce labor expenses by reducing the staff needed. ASLs are oftentimes faster than a rear-loader as well. Ironically, another benefit of the single-operator ASL is safety in at least one regard: with an ASL truck, the refuse operator stays inside the truck, reducing the amount of refuse contaminant exposure.
As we look to the remainder of 2022, technology will reign. It is easy to get behind improved safety and sustainability. We anticipate more tech to emerge, making the industry a pretty exciting place. | WA
Tim Thornton is Vice President and General Manager, Refuse, for Autocar Truck, a leading company in addressing societal issues such as climate change with its CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) electric fleets and by placing driver safety in its mission. Autocar is also an industry leader in green innovation, becoming the first OEM to offer CNG trucks a full two years ahead of other industry players. As a result, Autocar has been an industry leader with more than 8,000 CNG trucks in service. Today, 60 percent of the trucks Autocar sells operate with CNG, and Autocar is the largest supplier of class 8 CNG trucks across all industries. For more information, call (833) 857-0200 or e-mail [email protected].
Trucking Associations’ Driver Shortage Report 2021 Executive Summary: www.trucking.org/sites/default/files/2021-10/ATA%20Driver%20Shortage%20Report%202021%20Executive%20Summary.FINAL_.pdf
Entry-Level Driver Training: www.fmcsa.dot.gov/registration/commercial-drivers-license/entry-level-driver-training-eldt
“New Federal Rule for Entry-Level CDL Training Goes Into Effect in February”: www.atssa.com/Blog-News/ATSSA-Blog/ArtMID/569/ArticleID/472/New-federal-rule-for-entry-level-CDL-training-goes-into-effect-in-February
Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries Summary 2020: www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/cfoi.pdf
Regulations for Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Commercial Trucks & Buses: www.epa.gov/regulations-emissions-vehicles-and-engines/regulations-greenhouse-gas-emissions-commercial-trucks
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency SmartWay Program: www.epa.gov/smartway/smartway-heavy-duty-truck-electrification-resources