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ATA report shows increased truck driver turnover for large fleets

By Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
June 24, 2011

A new report from the American Trucking Associations (ATA) found that longhaul truck driver turnover was up during the first quarter.

The ATA’s Trucking Activity Report said that there was an annualized rate of 75 percent for large truckload fleet driver turnover, representing a 69 percent increase from the fourth quarter of 2010 and a 39 percent annual increase compared to the first quarter of 2010. The first quarter turnover percentage is at its highest level since the second quarter of 2008.

The report noted that turnover is on the rise, with the driver market tightening in conjunction and drivers moving around from one carrier to another for the best pay and benefits.

“The driver market is tightening,” ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said in a statement. “We hear nearly every day from fleets who cannot find enough drivers to meet demand. With the economy continuing to recover from the Great Recession, the implementation of new regulations and the number of retirees outpacing the number of drivers entering the industry, I expect to see the turnover rate continue to rise.”

Driver turnover and tight capacity are two things that clearly go hand in hand in the trucking industry, especially during the current tight market conditions, spurred on by a stalled economic recovery and the recent implementation of CSA 2010, as well as possible changes to truck driver hours-of-service regulations.

And unless capacity is added by major trucking players, it is likely that turnover will continue at its current rate, say industry experts.

“Even if carriers were buying trucks, they still cannot find drivers,” said Lana Batts, partner at Transport Capitol Partners. “In order for carriers to attract and retain drivers, rates will need to rise from where they are today. Rate hikes will go to driver pay first even though unemployment is still nearly ten percent. Possible driver candidates are collecting unemployment with a cash job on the side—and are also home every night.”

While the ATA report points to increased turnover, it should not suggest that strong economic activity is what is supporting that effort, according to FTR Associates Senior Consultant Noel Perry.

“The trucking data is not an indication of economic recovery,” Perry told LM in a recent interview. “It is an indication of a trucking recovery.  Turnover goes up early in recoveries as drivers who want to change fleets do so.  Truckers have not hired earlier because productivity allowed them to move more freight without hiring.  Now they have to hire to expand.”

The ATA report also found that driver turnover at small truckload fleets inched up one percentage point to 50 percent in the first quarter for its highest level since the third quarter of 2008, and less-than-truckload (LTL) fleet turnover rose to 8 percent in the first quarter from 6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010.

About the Author

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Jeff Berman
Group News Editor

Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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