ATA: Increased driver hiring, turnover indicate economic recovery

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Updated Apr 19, 2011

Hiring in the trucking industry 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, the American Trucking Associations said Thursday, April 14.

According to ATA’s quarterly trucking activity report, truckload and less-than-truckload carriers increased payrolls in the last three months of 2010. Small truckload companies increased their employment by 0.8 percent, all within the driver pool, while large truckload companies boosted total employment by 0.3 percent, adding linehaul drivers but trimming back their local driver pools.

Also in the truckload sector, fleets increased their dispatch work force by 3.1 percent, but overall administrative staff fell by 2.1 percent. Less-than-truckload employment rose 0.4 percent, rising in all categories except for linehaul drivers, which fell 0.2 percent, according to the survey.

The survey also showed that after hitting a record low of 39 percent in the first quarter of 2010, turnover among linehaul drivers at large truckload fleets rose to 69 percent (annualized rate) in the fourth quarter, its highest level since the second quarter of 2008. Third-quarter turnover was 49 percent. Turnover at small truckload fleets rose to 49 per ent in the fourth quarter from 44 percent, and LTL turnover remained low at 6 percent.

ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello says 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,” Costello says. “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, 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,” Costello says.