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ATA whitepaper highlights ongoing pain points of the truck driver shortage

By Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
November 07, 2012

While the truck driver shortage is far from a new development, a recently-released white paper by the American Trucking Associations (ATA) highlights that the current shortage is “acute and limited primarily to the truckload sector. And it added that long-term trends could lead to an even more severe shortage in the next decade.

In the white paper, entitled “Truck Driver Shortage Update, November 2012,” ATA points out that motor carriers are continuing to have difficulty in finding qualified, professional drivers, with 90 percent of for-hire truckload carriers indicating they cannot find enough drivers capable of meeting Department of Transportation requirements.

This was highlighted in September data released by the ATA which stated that in the second quarter of this year the annualized turnover rate for linehaul truckload fleets of all sizes increased as turnover at large fleets eclipsed the 100 percent mark for the first time in more than four years.

What’s more, the ATA’s September data noted that driver turnover has increased six times in the last seven quarters. ATA officials said that the turnover rate for large truckload fleets—those with more than $30 million in revenue—increased 16 percent to 106 percent, which is the highest level of turnover since the fourth quarter of 2007 and the first time the driver turnover rate topped 100 percent since the first quarter of 2008.

“ATA estimates the current shortage of drivers to be in the 20,000 to 25,000 range in the for-hire truckload market . . .  on a base of roughly 750,000 trucks,” the report said, adding that if current trends continue, the shortage has the potential to grow to 239,000 over the next decade.

The report went on to say that if Hours-of-Service (HOS) changes take effect next year, it has the potential to reduce motor carrier productivity by up to 3 percent, which may result in carriers needing to add more trucks and drivers to haul the same amount of freight, which, in turn, makes the driver shortage situation worsen.

And the CSA program, said ATA, also adds to the driver shortage problem, with the report explaining that about 7 percent of drivers generate a significant portion of the CSA scoring problems for carriers. It added that CSA and its related pre-employment driver screening program facilitated by the government will exacerbate the shortage.

Due to this confluence of circumstances, including industry growth, driver requirements, and drivers leaving the industry, the ATA said it estimates that there is a need for about 100,000 new drivers per year, on average, over the next ten years.

At last month’s CSCMP Annual Conference, J.B. Hunt President and CEO John Roberts said that there is clearly a shortage of long haul truck drivers and added that the truckload business model is very unstable.

And Transplace CEO Tom Sanderson added that the shortage is due to a situation in which drivers are away from home for weeks at a time and is a very high-turnover business.

“There really is nothing that is going to serve to increase capacity, because you can build all the trucks you want, but you are not going to find drivers that want to live that lifestyle,” said Sanderson.

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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