Data issued by the American Trucking Associations (ATA) this week highlighted an overly consistent theme within a freight transportation and logistics sector that is amid many changing and moving part: driver turnover the ongoing driver shortage.
ATA reported in its “Trucking Activity Report” that the annualized turnover rate at large truckload carriers headed up 4% in the second quarter to 98%, with the increase for carriers with revenue at $30 million and above now at its highest level going back to the fourth quarter of 2015. What’s more, ATA noted that for the first half of 2018 the driver turnover average rate is at 96%, which currently puts 2018 on track to hit its highest annual level since 2013.
Looking at other carrier segments, ATA said that the turnover rate for smaller truckload fleets, with less than $30 million in revenue, fell from 73% to 72% in the second quarter.
And the less-than-truckload (LTL) fleet turnover rate, which historically remains well below that of truckload, was also up, rising 4% to 14%, which, ATA reported, is its highest quarterly turnover level since the first quarter of 2013.
“So far this year, the turnover rate at large truckload fleets is up ten percentage points,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello, in a statement. “The extreme tightening of the driver market – driven by solid freight demand – will continue to challenge fleets looking for qualified drivers.
As for the smaller truckload fleets, Costello said the driver market remains tight across the truckload sector, but the turnover rate at these smaller carriers is down 14 points from the same time last year.
“Like large carriers, small truckload carriers have been aggressively raising pay this year, which has helped their turnover rate level off,” he noted.
On the LTL side, he explained that this recent increase serves as an indication that the LTL sector is experiencing some difficulty with drivers than in recent quarters, adding that the trucking sector’s challenges in finding qualified drivers are not going away, regardless of carrier segment.
Despite the high turnover rate, motor carriers have been very aggressive in trying to ameliorate the current situation though efforts like raising driver sign-on bonuses, increasing pay, and providing financial aid options for potential drivers to attend driver training schools to get them their CDL licenses, among other things.
Earlier this year, the ATA’s Costello said that anecdotally, carriers continue to struggle both recruiting and retaining quality drivers – leading to increasing wages, adding that the tight driver market should continue and will be a source of concern for carriers in the months ahead.
“Turnover is not a measure of the driver shortage, but rather of demand for drivers,” he said. “We know that as freight demand continues to rise, demand for drivers to move those goods will also rise, which often results in more driver churn or turnover. Finding enough qualified drivers remains a tremendous challenge for the trucking industry and one that if not solved will threaten the entire supply chain.”