Turnover Remains High as Today's Truck driver Pool Shrinks Lower

by Jana Ritter - Published: 12/11/2012

For the second straight month, the annual long haul driver turnover rate at large truckload fleets remain over 100% and the smaller truckload carrier ratio has risen to 94%, its highest in five years. According to American Trucking Associations' Trucking Activity Report, 90% of for hire truckload carriers say they cannot find enough drivers qualifying the DOT's new requirements. Industry experts predict the increasing government regulations along with the economy's continuing recovery, will add to the truck driver shortage even more so and retention and recruitment measures have become critical for employers.


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While some encouraging news is that the larger fleets (earning more than $30 million in annual revenue) has reduced the driver turnover ratio by 2 percent, the numbers are still at 104% and the first time since the fourth quarter of 2007 and the first quarter of 2008 that the turnover rate has pierced the 100% barrier in consecutive months. ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello explains these numbers as the increasing competition for quality drivers, coupled with gradual, albeit choppy, growth in demand for trucking services, continuing to put pressure on the driver market. "These numbers continue to reflect a tight driver market, and an actual shortage for drivers. We believe the industry is actually short between 20,000 and 25,000 drivers, but if freight volumes were to accelerate, I would expect that number to grow and grow rapidly,” Costello warns.

The ATA also released a study this year suggesting that increasing government regulations will continue making it even more difficult for motors carriers struggling to find qualified professional drivers capable of meeting the DOT standards. The association predicts that if changes to the Hours of Service rule are implemented in July 2013, motor carrier productivity will likely be reduced by as much as 3 percent.  “As a result, carriers will have to add more trucks and drivers to haul the same amount of freight, thus exacerbating the shortage,” an ATA report said. The report also indicates that approximately 7 percent of drivers generate a significant portion of the CSA scoring problems for carriers, decreasing the qualified pool to an even smaller amount. “While not all 7 percent will be pushed out of the industry overnight, over time, CSA and the related pre employment driver screening program facilitated by the government will exacerbate the driver shortage,” the report said.

In a discussion at American Trucking Associations' Management Conference & Exhibition on Tuesday, a panel of experts suggested that it's become critical for the industry to retain current drivers and attract younger ones to the profession. According to Derek Leathers, president and chief operating officer of Werner Enterprises, ensuring drivers have more time at home, providing reliable equipment to company drivers and offering pay incentives and bonuses are all important steps that fleets should take. Using his company as an example, he said that through schedule adjustments, about 71% of his drivers get home at least once a week and that has already helped lower his turnover and attract more applicants as well.