Driver churn rate zoomed north in the third quarter

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The annualized turnover rate at both large and small truckload carriers climbed in the third quarter, according to American Trucking Associations’ quarterly turnover report, with large truckload fleets reporting a turnover rate of 96% — a 9 percentage point jump from the quarter prior.

That’s the biggest quarterly jump in the large fleet turnover rate since the second quarter of 2016 and the highest turnover has been since the second quarter last year.

“Counterintuitively, we saw turnover rise even as the freight demand was relatively soft,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. “While turnover rose at both small and large carriers, the reasons were quite different. Large carriers reduced the number of drivers they employed, in keeping with lackluster freight levels, but smaller carriers added to their driver pools, increasing their number of drivers by 1.9%.”

The turnover rate at small carriers, defined by ATA as those with less than $30 million in annual revenue, rose six percentage points to 73%.

“During the first two quarters of the year, larger carriers added drivers, but in the third quarter they started right-sizing their fleets,” said Costello. “Conversely, smaller companies increased their driver pool in the third quarter for the first time this year.”

Turnover at less-than-truckload carriers dropped four points to an annualized rate of 9% – the lowest level it has been at since the final quarter of 2017.