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ATA: Turnover at large truckload carriers slips in 4th quarter

The decline was the second straight one for the measure of churn in the driver pool; however, ATA believes it continues to be elevated.

The Trucker News Services

3/14/2014

ARLINGTON, Va. — The turnover rate at large truckload carriers fell six percentage points to 91 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013, but held above 90 percent for the eighth consecutive quarter.

The decline was the second straight one for the measure of churn in the driver pool; however, ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said it continues to be elevated.

“We saw turnover at fleets with at least $30 million in annual revenue bottom out near 50 percent at the depths of the Great Recession and have increased steadily since,” Costello said.

“The rate appears to have flattened out at an elevated level for the moment. However, it could easily increase as tightness in the labor pool should continue, and even worsen, as the economy improves.”

For all of 2013, driver turnover averaged 96 percent, just below 2012’s average of 98 percent and well off the all-time high of 130 percent set in 2005.

Turnover at small truckload fleets rose five points in the final quarter of the year to 79 percent, but was still below the 82 percent mark the figure hit in the first half of 2012. For the year, turnover at small fleets averaged 82 percent.

Turnover in the less-than-truckload sector fell two points to 11 percent in the fourth quarter, which was also the average for 2013.

In determining driver turnover, ATA among other things takes into consideration the waves created by the churn effect. For example, if a driver goes from carrier A to carrier B, that counts as two turnovers, as it impacts two companies. If a carrier creates 10 new positions, that is counted as 10 turnovers. And of course drivers who just leave the profession and those who retire are also counted into the mix.

Looking ahead to 2014, Costello said he expects stronger economic growth and increased growth for the trucking industry, which in turn will put more pressure on the driver market and the driver shortage.

“At the moment, we already have 30,000 unfilled jobs for drivers in the trucking industry,” 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.”

The Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at editor@thetrucker.com.

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