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ATA reports large fleet driver turnover is down slightly

By Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
April 11, 2012

Following four straight quarters of increasing turnover rates for truckload drivers at large fleets, data from the American Trucking Associations (ATA) found that the turnover rate in the fourth quarter declined, albeit very slightly.

The fourth quarter turnover rate, according to the ATA, was 88 percent, which was preceded by 89 percent, 75 percent, and 79 percent, respectively, over the previous three quarters. The ATA added that for all of 2011 large truckload rate turnover came in at an average of 83 percent, representing its highest annual rate since 2007’s 117 percent.

An ATA executive observed that the slight decline in driver turnover is probably not lasting.

“This reprieve, while surprising, is likely temporary,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello in a statement. “As the economy continues to recover, freight volumes should continue to grow, which along with regulatory challenges related to hours-of-service and the government’s CSA fleet oversight program, will continue to cause the driver market to tighten and the turnover rate to rise.”

For small truckload carriers with revenues less than $30 million, the ATA reported that the turnover rate at 55 percent dropped 2 percentage points from the previous quarter, with less-than-truckload carriers seeing the fourth quarter turnover rate dip to 7 percent from ten percent recorded during the third quarter.

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 slow economic recovery and the December 2010 implementation of CSA, as well as planned changes to truck driver hours-of-service (HOS) regulations that are set to take effect in mid-2013.

Regulations like CSA and HOS, as well as Electronic On Board Recorders (EOBR) continue to play a major role in carriers’ being hesitant to increase capacity and subsequently hire drivers, which continues to be challenging, as evidenced by ATA’s data.

“It is not too early for carriers to worry about these things, and it is part of the reason why carriers are a little hesitant to add capacity,” said Lana Batts, partner at Transport Capital Partners. “They are wondering if they are going to be able to find trucks and drivers, which is a valid concern. Many carriers have a large enough percentage of their fleets parked and are very concerned about it. They will get drivers coming in that have run out of unemployment, and they are concerned that a driver will come in for a few months and then quit and go back on unemployment. They have seen it happen before.”

And as LM reported in its recent Truckload Market Update, although the nation has avoided—so far—the much-dreaded “double-dip” recession, truckload carriers are being hit with their own double-whammy. Their cost for both recruiting and maintaining qualified drivers, as well as the expense of new trucks, are rising sharply—the forecast is more of the same for at least the next year or so.

About the Author

Jeff Berman headshot
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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