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Driver turnover from worst to bad

June 27, 2006
The American Trucking Assns. (ATA) said the softening freight environment, better pay, and recent initiatives to keep drivers happy helped large truckload carriers maintain their driver pool during the first quarter

The American Trucking Assns. (ATA) said the softening freight environment, better pay, and recent initiatives to keep drivers happy helped large truckload carriers maintain their driver pool during the first quarter. However, with turnover at a 116% annual rate, the shortage remains a serious problem.

Turnover has not dipped below 100% since 4Q 2002, ATA said.

The 116% rate represents a 20% drop compared with 4Q 2005. The turnover rate dropped only 4% from 120% in the same quarter last year. This indicates that much of the quarter-by-quarter drop was seasonal, although there was some improvement over last year’s historically high levels.

For small truckload carriers, its 111% turnover rate represented a “slight increase” compared with 4Q 2005, ATA said. The association received some anecdotal reports that large truckload carriers have been accepting fewer long-haul routes to accommodate drivers’ preferences for shorter, closer-to-home jobs while long-haul freight has shifted over to smaller truckload carriers.

“Some small truckload carriers appear to be picking up a portion of the larger carriers’ long-haul freight,” stated chief economist Bob Costello. “This could explain why the turnover rate among small truckload carriers was only a few percentage points below that of large carriers, when historically the gap has been much larger.

“We had several large truckload carriers tell us they’re trying to get out of long-haul because drivers don’t like it,” Costelllo told FleetOwner. “Some carriers are even trying relays. They’re not necessarily turning [long-haul freight] down but changing the mix of freight to include rail, for example.”

LTL line-haul driver turnover fell to 13%, compared with 17% in 4Q 2005. Small truckload and LTL fleets saw reductions in total workforce while large truckload carriers increased its employee base by 1.9%. The number of line-haul drivers for large truckload carriers increased 1.8%, while there was a contraction in the short-haul driver pool for the group.

Costello added that it is too early to draw conclusions on whether the industry is successfully addressing the core driver shortage issue or if it’s simply a matter of slower business.

For more information, go to http://www.truckline.com/NR/exeres/37156C10-D5A7-4908-AC4B-23817A2A1964.htm

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Terrence Nguyen

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