DriverReach founder and CEO Jeremy Reymer welcomed Rebecca Brewster, president and COO of the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI), on this week’s episode of Taking the Hire Road to celebrate the Institute’s 20th year as a leading provider of critical research for the trucking industry’s top issues.

On Thursday’s agenda, Brewster guided Reymer through ATRI’s research priorities for 2021, as well as other areas of research being conducted to improve the safety and productivity of the industry.

2021 research agenda

Brewster detailed ATRI’s research advisory committee (RAC) and how its members decide on its areas of trucking to emphasize in research each year.

“The group is responsible for annually reviewing some 20 to 30 different research proposals that have been developed either by our staff or in conjunction with RAC members or submitted by outside parties,” Brewster said, adding that RAC members come from across the transportation landscape, having backgrounds with motor carriers, trucking industry suppliers, academia, government and law enforcement.

“RAC members spend two days thoroughly vetting each of those research proposals, discussing the merits of that research for answering some of the trucking industry’s burning knowledge gaps for advancing safety and productivity.”

For 2021, ATRI’s top research priorities are:

Understanding how to best integrate 18- to 20-year olds into the trucking industry.
Charging-infrastructure considerations for electric trucks.
Impacts on the trucking industry of decriminalizing certain drugs.
Quantifying the impacts of driver-facing cameras and drivers.
Understanding the environmental impacts of zero-emission trucks.

Truck bottlenecks

ATRI collects and processes truck GPS data in support of many U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) freight mobility initiatives. Using GPS data from over 1 million trucks, ATRI has developed an ongoing truck bottleneck analysis of truck traffic congestion at over 300 locations around the nation’s interstate highway system.

ATRI has compiled a list of the top 100 bottleneck spots around the country for truckers. The top three are currently in Fort Lee, New Jersey, Cincinnati and Atlanta.

“We’ve been working with our truck GPS status heads since 2002, working with the USDOT for a whole host of analysis,” Brewster said. 

“I think about the work we did on the Interstate 40 bridge connecting Tennessee and Arkansas, which was discovered to have a structural crack in it, causing traffic to be rerouted. We were able to quickly do an analysis for the USDOT, looking at what was happening on the alternate routes that trucks were taking, what was happening with travel times, and where trucks were rerouting to.”

Predicting truck crash involvement

Brewster also touched on ATRI’s safety research involving crash prediction. Published in 2018, the Predicting Truck Crash Involvement report analyzed over 435,000 individual truck driver records, including violations, convictions and crash involvement, to identify the driver behaviors that are most predictive of a future crash. 

“In the most recent iteration … we identified that female professional drivers outperformed male professional drivers; the males in our dataset were involved in 20% more crashes than the females,” Brewster said. “So it certainly makes the case for why we want to recruit female drivers into the trucking industry.” 

Annual operational costs data collection

Brewster urges motor carriers to participate in ATRI’s annual Operational Costs Data Collection, which collects cost information directly from carriers and owner-operators to use in its research. The data collected each year makes this one of ATRI’s most requested research studies, according to the institute, as it’s used as a key benchmarking tool by trucking companies large and small.

Motor carriers and independent drivers have until Aug. 20 to provide operational costs data to ATRI. Brewster added that all participants will receive an advanced copy of the full report.

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