Trucking Industry Seeing Increased Demand, Needs More Drivers


There are subtle hints that the economy in the United States is improving. One of these is a bit of an increase in the demand for truckers to get freight from one point to another. That increase is creating a need for more drivers to fill available truck driving jobs. But it appears that the turnover rate for truck drivers in the over-the-road category is rising, from 75 percent in the first quarter of 2011 to 79 percent in the second. These numbers are courtesy of the Trucking Activity Report put out by the American Trucking Association.
While the over-the-road truckers are seeing an increasing shortage of drivers, companies that operate small truckload fleets actually saw a drop in turnover, from 50 percent to 47 percent when comparing the same first and second quarters of 2011. For less-than-truckload fleets, or LTLs, that percentage went from eight percent to six percent. Fleets operated by trucking companies like Fort Smith-ABF Freight System, which is a unionized firm, are likely to have turnover rates that are lower than the industry average.

Another reason for the higher turnover rates may be that drivers are leaving one firm to join another, lured by better pay and benefits packages. Driver’s are in demand and firms are willing to pay for talent and experience. A driver already employed at a competitor has a proven record. It is hard to prove this is going on, but it does make good business sense.

The shortage may also stem from other factors directly related to the struggling economy. During the recession, firms had to lay off drivers because of a lack of work. At the same time, those that did the hiring and the training for those truck driving jobs were also let go. Now that there is an increase in freight demand, it might be harder to get some drivers back in the cabs because of generous unemployment packages. Then again those that do come back may have to wait until they can qualify with the new federally imposed safety standards. Some drivers may just not be inclined to do so.

Meanwhile the industry is in a wait and see mode. It is possible that the perceived increase in business may be legitimate. The increased demand might also be, at least partially, the result of trucking companies closing down during the recession. Someindependent truckers may have walked away from their rigs for good. That leaves fewer truckers to pick up the slack.

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