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Q1 driver turnover rate is flat, reports American Trucking Associations

By Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
July 09, 2014

To be sure the ongoing truck driver shortage is crimping overall freight transportation production, and based on data issued today by the American Trucking Associations (ATA) that situation is unlikely to change in a meaningful way anytime soon.

ATA said that for the first quarter the turnover rate at large truckload carriers inched up 1 percent to an annualized rate of 92 percent and remained above the 90 percent for the ninth quarter in the row in officially cracking the two-year mark.

Even with the current trends of high turnover for large truckload carriers, ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said things are not nearly as bad as they could be.

“While high, turnover at large truckload carriers is lower than other years when the driver shortage was as acute,” Costello said in a statement. “In 2005, turnover averaged 130 percent. In 2006, another year with a tight driver market, turnover averaged 117 percent for this group of carriers. “Today, the industry has in the range of 30,000 to 35,000 unfilled truck driver jobs,” Costello said. “As the industry starts to haul more because demand goes up, we’ll need to add more drivers – nearly 100,000 annually over the next decade – in order to keep pace.”

And he added that the harsh winter weather in the first quarter could have possibly quelled turnover activity, noting that turnover could head up should an improving economy and higher freight volumes put increased pressure on the driver market and driver shortage.

On the less-than-truckload (LTL) side, first quarter driver turnover is not nearly as severe as it is on the truckload side, with turnover down 1 percent to 10 percent, which the ATA said is its lowers level going back to the second quarter of 2013.

As LM has reported, 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 last year’s truck driver hours-of-service (HOS) regulations that took effect last July.

And regulations like CSA and HOS, as well as the coming Electric Logging Device rule 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.

Projections from freight transportation forecasting consultancy FTR Associates estimate that this problem is likely to get worse and by 2014 the driver shortage could be in the 250,000 range, which Stifel Nicolaus analyst John Larkin said is going to create a capacity shortage which will translate into “fairly sizable rate increases” that might be steeper than what has occurred during the slow growth period over the last couple of years.

While turnover figures to remain prevalent in the future as it is now, the onset of additional regulations to HOS and CSA, will lead to increased hiring. FTR Senior Consultant Noel Perry said that by the third quarter of 2016 there could be 1.4 million new drivers in the marketplace.

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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