ATA: 1Q driver turnover for large TL declines 20%

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The driver turnover rate among large truckload carriers experienced its largest quarterly decrease in 10 years during the 2006 first quarter, the American Trucking Associations reported.

ATA, which began collecting driver turnover statistics in 1995, reported that turnover for large truckload carriers was at a 116 percent annual rate for the first three months of the year. This figure was 20 percentage points below the 2005 fourth quarter rate of 136 percent. “Softer freight volumes and looser capacity during the quarter likely helped lower the rate of turnover,” says Bob Costello, ATA chief economist. “However, the rate still remains high and hasn’t been below 100 percent since the fourth quarter of 2002.”

Small truckload carriers saw the average turnover rate increase slightly to 111 percent, marking the highest annualized rate on record. Reports from carriers indicate that a number of large truckload fleets are reducing some of their long-haul freight to accommodate drivers’ preferences to spend more time at home. “Some small truckload carriers appear to be picking up a portion of the larger carriers’ long-haul freight,” Costello says. “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.”

The less-than-truckload linehaul driver annualized turnover rate was just 13 percent during the 2006 first quarter, compared with 17 percent in the previous three-month period. Both small truckload and less-than-truckload fleets experienced reductions in total employment during the first quarter of this year. Despite a contraction in the local driver pool, the employee base of large truckload carriers increased by 1.9 percent during the same period. The number of line-haul drivers increased 1.8 percent for this group, ATA said.

Costello said softer freight volumes usually lead to less competition for drivers and often result in lower turnover rates, but that driver pay increases also may explain the lower turnover rate, particularly among large carriers.