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Trucker job turnover rates climb, and it's actually good news

June 13, 2012|By Ronald D. White
  • Truckers haul freight across the Vincent Thomas Bridge near the Port of Los Angeles. Companies are competing for the best drivers, and turnover rates among fleets are soaring.
Truckers haul freight across the Vincent Thomas Bridge near the Port of… (Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles…)

The chief economist for the American Trucking Assn. says that job turnover rates for drivers at large, interstate fleets rose 2% in the first quarter of 2012 to 90%. That's the highest job turnover rate since the first quarter of 2008. But don't worry, it's apparently a good sign for the strength of the economy.

The economist, Bob Costello, was referring to the latest numbers in his monthly Trucking Activity Report. Costello's report also said there was a huge, first-quarter employment turnover increase of 16%, to 71%, among smaller fleets with less than $30 million in annual revenue. That was the highest figure for those companies since the second quarter of 2008.

But instead of being a sign of truckers struggling to hold onto their jobs, it's an indication that competition among trucking companies has become so fierce that drivers are continually lured by better offers.

"Perversely, it speaks to the health of the trucking industry," said Sean McNally, a spokesman for the American Trucking Assn. "It's drivers changing the companies they work for. The  turnover rate increases as freight volumes increase. They compete to hire more drivers. The higher the rate the better."

The lowest turnover rate on record was 39% and came in the first quarter of 2010 "as we really hit the bottom of the global recession," McNally said. Before the recession, he added, the industry had years when the turnover rate was more than 100%, which meant that the average driver spent less than a year at a typical trucking company before moving on to another position.

Costello said it was also a sign of trucking companies jostling each other to lure the drivers with the best safety records.

The report, Costello said, "matches up with what we hear regarding the health of the industry, the tightening of the labor market for drivers and demand for good, quality, experienced drivers.”

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