The truck-driver shortage is back in full swing, according to an analysis released this morning by Bob Costello, chief economist of the American Trucking Assns. (ATA). Costello reported that hiring by both less-than-truckload (LTL) and truckload (TL) carriers “picked up in the fourth quarter of 2010, which coupled with an increase in the turnover rate for linehaul truckload drivers, portend increased demand for drivers as the economy recovers.”
Costello said that per ATA's quarterly trucking-activity report, TL and LTL carriers increased payrolls in the last three months of 2010. Small truckload companies increased their employment by 0.8%, all within the driver pool, he noted, while large truckload companies upped total employment by 0.3%, “adding linehaul drivers but trimming back their local driver pools.”
He also said that fleets in the truckload sector increased their dispatch workforce by 3.1%, but overall administrative staff fell by 2.1%.
Less-than-truckload employment rose 0.4%, rising in all categories except for linehaul drivers, which fell 0.2%, according to the ATA survey.
The survey also showed that after hitting a record low of 39% in the first quarter, turnover among linehaul drivers at large truckload fleets climbed to 69% (annualized rate) in the fourth quarter. That marks its highest level since the second quarter of 2008. Third-quarter turnover was 49%.
Turnover at small truckload fleets also rose significantly to 49% in the fourth quarter from 44%.
However, turnover at LTL fleets remained “exceptionally low” at 6%.
Costello said the increased hiring, coupled with rising turnover, indicated that fleets are responding to signs of the growing economic recovery. "Fleets are clearly hiring more drivers as demand for freight hauling increases," he said. "In addition, while part of the turnover can be attributed to regulatory changes, we believe the bulk of this churn is due to increased demand for drivers.
"As the recovery strengthens,” he added, “we're likely to see demand for drivers and trucking services continue to increase, with that demand manifesting itself in rising turnover rates and ultimately, once again, a shortage of truck drivers.”