FORECASTING THE FUTURE A LOOK AT THE TRUCKING INDUSTRY'S CRYSTAL BALL FOR 2018 JANUARY | FEBRUARY 2018 By Rebecca M. Brewster Direction 32 I n today's world, immediacy rules. Order something online in the morning-have it delivered that afternoon. Want to know about your friend's vacation-look at their Facebook page. Concerned about geopolitical interactions-check Twitter. Knowing the here and now is easy. Predicting the future more reliably than tarot cards or a crystal ball is a little more challenging. And strategically planning for the future requires an understanding of current trends and what they mean for you and your business. One such indicator of current trends and future issues for the trucking industry is the American Transportation Research Institute's (ATRI) "Critical Issues in the Trucking Industry 2017" report, which is available free of charge at www.truckingresearch.org. Launched every August, ATRI's annual survey asks trucking industry stakeholders-motor carriers and professional drivers-to select their top issues of concern and identify key strategies for addressing each issue. The survey results, released in October, provide a good road map for what the industry can expect in 2018. DRIVER SHORTAGE For the first time since 2006, the driver shortage topped the list of industry concerns. Improving economic growth in the U.S. has many concerned that the demand for truck drivers will further outpace the supply of qualified drivers. The latest estimate from the American Trucking Associations has the driver shortage climbing above 174,000 drivers by 2026 if current trends continue. Where will those new drivers come from? It's clear that the industry has to look beyond its current base of middle-aged males. An ATRI analysis of 2016 data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that nearly 57 percent of our workforce is 45 and older, while just 4.4 percent is age 20-24. That percentage is down from ATRI's 2013 data analysis, which showed 4.9 percent of our workforce in that youngest age bracket.