CCJ Daily Dispatch, Dec. 7: Fleet hiring accelerates as industry claws out of COVID employment hole

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Trucking news and briefs for Monday, Dec. 7, 2020: 

For-hire trucking’s employment rally continues, still down 50k jobs from February
The for-hire trucking industry added a seasonally adjusted 12,700 jobs in November, as the industry continues to try to make up for ground lost in March and April, when total employment among for-hire fleets fell off a cliff. According to the Department of Labor’s monthly Employment Situation Summary, total employment in the for-hire trucking industry was 1,474,400 in November — still 52,900 jobs shy of February’s recent peak. It’s also 55,400 jobs shy of the same month last year.

However, November’s hiring numbers were the strongest for trucking since the freight recovery began in June, helping close the gap of the nearly 97,000 jobs lost in March and April. It’s largely presumed those were drivers that were either laid off or left the industry when freight demand crumbled in the early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since May, for-hire fleets have added back 43,800 jobs.

November’s acceleration in hiring by motor carriers bucked the trend of the overall economy, which saw hiring slow significantly in November. The U.S. economy added 245,000 jobs – historically a strong month, but well below recent months’ gains. In September and October, respectively, the economy added 638,00 jobs and 661,000 jobs. In July and August, the economy added well over a million jobs each — 1.4 million in August and 1.8 million in July. In June, nearly 5 million jobs were added.

Nonetheless, in November, the country’s unemployment rate fell to 6.7% — well down from the nearly 14% in the depths of the COVID-caused recession in April.

Among major freight producing sectors, construction and manufacturing each gained 27,000 jobs. The retail sector, which has carried the economic recovery, was a mixed bag. General merchandise stores, which includes department stores and supercenters, shed more than 20,000 jobs. Likewise, sporting goods, book stores and hobby stores dropped 12,000 jobs. Health and personal care stores lost 8,000 jobs. On the flip side, furniture retailers added nearly 6,000 jobs, and auto dealers and parts stores added about 5,000 jobs. Overall, retail sector employment fell by nearly 35,000 jobs.

Showing renewed strength in spite of surging virus cases, the leisure and hospitality sector performed well, adding 31,000 jobs. Food services and drinking places dropped 17,400 jobs, but those losses were outgained elsewhere. Spectator sports and performing arts added 21,000 jobs, while the arts, entertainment and recreation sector added 43,000 jobs. Amusement and gambling facilities added nearly 19,000 jobs.

The transportation and warehousing sector, under which trucking falls, added a whopping 145,000 jobs total. In addition to trucking’s gains, warehousing and storage added 37,000 jobs. Couriers and messengers — parcel delivery drivers — added nearly 82,000 jobs, and air transportation, one of the hardest hit sectors, added 2,800 jobs (yet it’s still down some 200,000 jobs from the same month a year ago).

Werner Enterprises trucker Ivan Hernandez won a new Kenworth T680 through the Transition Trucking: Driving for Excellence Award.Werner Enterprises trucker Ivan Hernandez won a new Kenworth T680 through the Transition Trucking: Driving for Excellence Award.

Werner driver wins new Kenworth in military vet trucking rookie contest
A 20-year Army veteran is this year’s winner of the Transition Trucking: Driving for Excellence Award.

Ivan Hernandez, who drives for Werner Enterprises (CCJ Top 250, No. 11), won the award Friday, Dec. 4, along with a fully-loaded Kenworth T680. The presentation was made at the Kenworth plant in Chillicothe, Ohio.

Hernandez’s military career included four combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. He received two Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart after being wounded in action. Originally from El Paso, Texas, he enlisted in the Army in 1998 and retired Dec. 21, 2018.

In January 2020, Hernandez graduated from the Roadmaster Drivers School and has been employed by Werner Enterprises since February. He has a safety record of more than 35,000 accident-free miles.

Ray Miller, a U.S. Army veteran and Stevens Transport driver, was this year’s runner-up. He was presented with a $10,000 check during the ceremony, while the other two finalists were presented with a $5,000 check. Gail Losee, U.S. Army veteran and Stevens Transport driver, and Shaun Mason, a U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Army veteran and Prime Inc. driver, tied for third place.

“Each of the finalists recognized today embodies the skills and abilities instilled by the military and have applied these qualities to be successful in their new career field: the trucking industry,” said Lisa Berreth, Kenworth marketing director. “You are all role models. You are the everyday heroes that keep our country moving forward.”

Minnesota petitions FMCSA to consolidate CDL skills test
The state of Minnesota is asking the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to reconsider a petition it previously denied to allow the state to combine two of the three parts of the CDL skills test.

Minnesota’s request is three-pronged. The state asks that it be allowed to combine vehicle control skills and on-road driving parts of the skills test, thus having just two parts to the test, along with the pre-trip inspection. It also requests to be exempt from the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA) 2005 Test Model Score Sheet. Finally, the state requests to be exempted from the requirement the CDL applicants pass the pre-trip inspection portion of the exam before proceeding to the rest of the test.

FMCSA denied the petition in 2017 because the agency said not following the AAMVA score sheet could cause issues if a CDL holder moved to another state and needed to transfer his or her CDL. FMCSA added that combining the two parts of the skills test would allow a prospective driver to pass the test while exceeding the maximum point deduction allowed when the two parts are given separately.

The agency is asking for public comment on Minnesota’s reconsideration request, which can be made here through Dec. 30.