The trucking industry serves as the backbone of St.Louis’s economy contributing significantly to both local and national GDP.The bustling city of St. Louis known for its iconic Gateway Arch also serves as a critical junction in the nation’s logistics and transportation network.
Its strategic location along the Mississippi River makes it a hub for trucking companies that contribute significantly to the local economy and beyond. However, its trucking industry faces a number of challenges that test its resilience and adaptability. In this article let us explore four such challenges.
1. Safety Concerns
Anyone who works at a trucking company knows that mishaps and accidents occur more often than one might expect. After all, this is an industry that deals with powerful machines carrying heavy loads across hundreds and even thousands of miles.
In 2022, there were over 192 fatalities as a result of truck accidents in Missouri. In St. Louis, the number of crashes was 2,462, and the number of fatalities was 8. This is a relatively low figure given the number of crashes, but even one crash or fatality is too much.
If a company truck ends up hurting someone, the victims are likely to try and sue the trucking company. They may hire a good St. Louis truck accident lawyer and try to seek compensation. Such legal concerns are highly probable after an accident and they can be potentially expensive for the trucking company.
As TorHoerman Law notes, aggressive driving, driver fatigue, and mechanical failure are all factors that cause accidents. Unfortunately, there’s no real way to completely eliminate them.
Even with the strictest safety protocols, mistakes happen, and things can go south quickly. Sometimes, a lot of the factors are outside the control of truck drivers or trucking companies. That said, trucking companies have been making strides to create safer and cleaner work environments, which does help to some extent.
2. Regulatory Compliance
Regulatory compliance is often seen as a painstaking necessity within the trucking industry. The myriad of federal and state regulations, including the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) and Missouri-specific laws, can indeed be challenging to navigate.
For St. Louis trucking companies, these regulations not only mandate how they operate on a day-to-day basis but also significantly impact their bottom lines.
One such regulation is the new fuel efficiency standards that were introduced back in 2021. These standards, which specifically target trucks of model years 2021, 2024, and 2027, are part of a broader initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector.
For St. Louis trucking firms, ensuring compliance with these standards is not just about adhering to legal obligations. It also involves adopting more sustainable and fuel-efficient operations.
Adapting to new standards can be a laborious and potentially expensive process. It may require investing in newer, more fuel-efficient vehicles or retrofitting existing ones to meet the new standards. Besides, the lack of clarity or guidance on how to comply can add to the administrative burden on many St. Louis trucking companies.
3. Driver Shortage
The issue of driver shortages in the trucking industry is complex, with numerous contributing factors and implications. Across the nation, a shortage of truck drivers has been a persistent challenge. By the end of 2022, the trucking industry was short of 78,000 drivers, a small decrease from 80,000 in 2021. One primary contributing factor to this shortage is the aging workforce in the trucking industry.
That said, St. Louis isn’t suffering too badly in this sector, even if other parts of the state might be. Data shows that St. Louis-based trucking companies have managed to increase their local driver count from 4% to 8% on average in 2021.
This divergence from the national trend could be due to various localized factors such as better working conditions and higher wages. That said, the challenge still exists, and St. Louis is still not out of the danger zone.
4. Fuel Cost Fluctuations
Fuel price fluctuations can significantly impact the operational expenses of trucking companies, given that fuel constitutes a major part of their operational costs. The trucking industry saw its total marginal costs hit a new high in 2022, rising by 21.3% to $2.251 per mile. Fuel was the main driver of this increase, accounting for 53.7% of the cost hike.
Even slight variations in diesel prices can significantly affect a trucking company’s profitability. This is especially true if these changes are not matched by corresponding changes in other areas. While fuel cost isn’t a factor that is specific to St. Louis, it affects them much the same way.
The challenges faced by St. Louis trucking companies are similar to those faced by companies around the country. One could argue that the journey of St. Louis trucking companies is akin to a long-haul trip, filled with its share of bumps and unexpected turns.
While the road ahead seems laden with challenges, each bend also brings an opportunity to steer toward innovative solutions.
From adapting to new regulations to dealing with rising fuel costs, the challenges are numerous and complex. Hopefully, the steps that St. Louis trucking companies take will be enough to see them through any hard times they face.