ATA Reports 97 Percent Truck Driver Turnover Rate

| Dec 12, 2013 4:07PM EST

Truckload carriers did a better job at keeping drivers in the third quarter, but the annualized driver turnover rate remains high at large trucking companies, boosting operating and labor costs and making it more difficult for carriers to keep trucks moving.

Quarterly Truck Driver Turnover - 3Q2013Quarterly Truck Driver Turnover - 3Q2013

The turnover rate at large carriers dropped two percentage points to 97 percent in the quarter and fell eight points to 74 percent at companies with less than $30 million in annual revenue, according to the American Trucking Associations’ quarterly Trucking Activity Report.

“Despite this dip, the market for experienced, qualified drivers remains exceptionally tight,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. “I expect, as the economy continues to pick up, we’ll see that market get even tighter.”

Turnover occurs when truck drivers must be replaced, and high turnover rates mean carriers must hire drivers repeatedly with no net gain in employment. Most often drivers leave one carrier for another, seeking higher pay or more time at home, which means the same pool of qualified drivers circulates among carriers. A 100 percent turnover rate means truckload carriers need to replace the equivalent of their entire driver pool each year just to maintain capacity levels.

The cost of turnover for carriers is high. If the cost of hiring a driver averages $5,000, a company with 200 drivers and a 100 percent turnover rate would spend $1 million a year on recruitment alone. High turnover also makes it difficult for fleets to operate efficiently, maximize utilization of tractors and trailers and meet customers’ service expectations.

Driver turnover at large truckload carriers peaked in the second quarter of 2012 at a 106 percent rate, according to the ATA. Smaller carriers hit a peak 94 percent turnover rate in the third quarter of 2012.

The driver turnover rate at less-than-truckload carriers, historically much lower, climbed from 6 percent in the second quarter to 13 percent in the third quarter.

Contact William B. Cassidy at wcassidy@joc.com and follow him at twitter.com/wbcassidy_joc.