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Driver turnover rate at large truckload carriers climbs

Feb. 2, 2016
The annualized turnover rate at large truckload carriers rose 13 points to 100% in third quarter 2015, the highest it has been in three years, according to Bob Costello, ATA chief economist.

The annualized turnover rate at large truckload carriers rose 13 points to 100% in third quarter 2015, the highest it has been in three years, according to Bob Costello, ATA chief economist. However, the rate at smaller truckload carriers dipped to 68%—its lowest point since fourth quarter 2011.

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“It is just one data point, so it is hard to draw any real conclusions on what is happening with turnover,” said Costello. “However, the increase in the turnover rate at large carriers matches up with what we’ve been hearing anecdotally from fleets: that the market for drivers continues to be tight.”

For the first three quarters of 2015, the turnover rate for larger carriers—fleets with more than $30 million in annual revenue—has averaged 90%, down slightly from 2014’s average of 95%. The small carrier rate has averaged 75% year-to-date, a decrease from the 90% it averaged in 2014.

The turnover rate at less-than-truckload fleets fell three points to 10% in the third quarter and has averaged 10% for the first nine months of 2015—down from the 11% it averaged for 2014.

According to an article posted on the Fleet Owner website by Jane Clark, vice-president, member services with NationaLease, the truck driver shortage is not a problem for all fleets. In her article, Clark says:

There are fleets out there with driver turnover rates way under 20%. Sure, many of them are private fleets, but there are other fleets that are managing to not only hang on to the drivers they have, but continue to attract new ones.

So why is it that some fleets see 20% driver turnover and others 120%? What’s making the difference is the kind of relationship the driver has with his or her direct supervisor.  A recent Gallup poll found that the #1 factor in employee engagement is an employee’s relationship with his or her direct supervisor.  A bad relationship with a supervisor can cause a driver to bolt for the door, and another fleet.

So how do you foster good relationships between drivers and their direct supervisors? It starts by making sure both the driver and the supervisor understand exactly what is expected of the driver. Clarity about job responsibilities eliminates a lot of conflict. It’s also critical to keep the lines of communication open. Drivers need to feel like they can bring their concerns to their supervisor, and more importantly, that those concerns will be taken seriously and responded to.

Costello said, “We may likely have a clearer picture of the driver market once fourth quarter turnover figures are in so we can better analyze any possible trend.”

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