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Late last year, turnover was slowing for large truckload and less-than-truckload fleets, according to the American Trucking Associations. 

“There can be various reasons for this – either freight volumes are decelerating and as such fleets pulled back on recruiting efforts or fleets’ efforts to increase pay are paying dividends in the form of reduced turnover,” explains ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. “The truth probably lies somewhere in between, but it is a trend that bears watching.”

Meanwhile, the level of driver turnover among private fleets in 2021 (nearly 23%) is consistent with the aging workforce and the increased number of drivers opting for retirement, explains a National Private Truck Council official. 

“The escalating turnover rate should be of concern, especially in the face of the projected shortfall of new drivers which many fleets are experiencing and which could reach 175,000 by 2024, according to industry projections,” NPTC said.

The National Transportation Institute used data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to show the growth in local trucking jobs compared to long-haul from 2020 to 2022. Local jobs fully recovered and surpassed the January 2020 baseline in July 2020, but long-haul jobs did not fully recover until September 2021. Local trucking jobs grew by nearly 10% from January 2020 through May 2022, but the number of long-haul jobs grew only 4.3% — and that’s only due to a big jump in May 2022. In April 2022, long-haul jobs had grown just 1.77% from the January 2020 baseline, compared to 9.75% for local driving jobs in the same time frame.  -  Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics data compiled

The National Transportation Institute used data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to show the growth in local trucking jobs compared to long-haul from 2020 to 2022. Local jobs fully recovered and surpassed the January 2020 baseline in July 2020, but long-haul jobs did not fully recover until September 2021. Local trucking jobs grew by nearly 10% from January 2020 through May 2022, but the number of long-haul jobs grew only 4.3% — and that’s only due to a big jump in May 2022. In April 2022, long-haul jobs had grown just 1.77% from the January 2020 baseline, compared to 9.75% for local driving jobs in the same time frame.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics data compiled

Turnover for large truckload carriers (with more than $30 million in revenue) fell nine points from 90 to 78%. It’s now 10 points lower than it was during the same quarter in 2017. Meanwhile, the turnover rate for small carriers rose five points to 77%. For the first time in the history of the National Private Truck Council’s annual benchmarking survey, driver turnover eclipsed the 20% barrier, coming in at 22.5% in 2021. In the previous year’s survey, driver turnover fell to 15.8%, nearly three full percentage points down from 2019’s turnover rate. When medium-duty operations, which average 44% annual turnover, are removed from the tally, average annual turnover falls by a point. To keep things in perspective, turnover has averaged 14.25% over the 15-year history of the survey. Note: 2019 LTL numbers reflect only the first six months.  -  Source: American Trucking Associations, National Private Truck Council

Turnover for large truckload carriers (with more than $30 million in revenue) fell nine points from 90 to 78%. It’s now 10 points lower than it was during the same quarter in 2017. Meanwhile, the turnover rate for small carriers rose five points to 77%.

For the first time in the history of the National Private Truck Council’s annual benchmarking survey, driver turnover eclipsed the 20% barrier, coming in at 22.5% in 2021. In the previous year’s survey, driver turnover fell to 15.8%, nearly three full percentage points down from 2019’s turnover rate. When medium-duty operations, which average 44% annual turnover, are removed from the tally, average annual turnover falls by a point. To keep things in perspective, turnover has averaged 14.25% over the 15-year history of the survey.

Note: 2019 LTL numbers reflect only the first six months.

Source: American Trucking Associations, National Private Truck Council 

Many in the industry have suggested that reaching out to underrepresented drivers, such as women and other minorities, could be a solution to the truck driver shortage. ATA reported a shortage of 80,000 drivers in 2021, an all-time high that could reach 160,000 by 2030.

However, in 2021 there was no major progress in the increase in percentages of women, Black or Asian drivers. The Women In Trucking Association's WIT Index found that the percentage of women professional drivers (13.7%) in 2022 has increased about 3% since 2019.

Women and Asian drivers continue to make the smallest percentage of the nearly 3.5 million people employed in 2021 under the occupation category of “driver/sales workers and truck drivers,” according to the latest data by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Still, compared to 2020, the percentage of each demographic increased: Hispanic or Latino drivers 6%, Black drivers nearly 2%, and Asian and women drivers a mere .9% and .1%, respectively.  -  Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Women and Asian drivers continue to make the smallest percentage of the nearly 3.5 million people employed in 2021 under the occupation category of “driver/sales workers and truck drivers,” according to the latest data by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Still, compared to 2020, the percentage of each demographic increased: Hispanic or Latino drivers 6%, Black drivers nearly 2%, and Asian and women drivers a mere .9% and .1%, respectively.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

In December 2021, the U.S. Department of Labor and the Department of Transportation jointly launched the Trucking Action Plan to address the driver shortage by creating new pathways into the career path and increasing training opportunities.

Average Truck Driver Pay

Federal statistics show the average annual wages of heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers by state, as of May 2021 (most recent figures available). Compared to a year earlier, Wyoming dropped out of the ranks as one of the highest paying states, and New Jersey move up into the top tier. * Striped states indicate it is a top paying state for drivers. They are in the dark blue category.  -  Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics

Federal statistics show the average annual wages of heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers by state, as of May 2021 (most recent figures available). Compared to a year earlier, Wyoming dropped out of the ranks as one of the highest paying states, and New Jersey move up into the top tier.

* Striped states indicate it is a top paying state for drivers. They are in the dark blue category.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics

Driver wages have grown at a rate higher than inflation since the beginning of 2021, as shown by this graph comparing NTI’s National Driver Wage Index (NDWI) growth rate from previous quarter to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) growth rate from previous quarter. (Not seasonally adjusted.)  -  Sources: The National Transportation Institute's National Driver Wage Index: Local, regional, & OTR company drivers, Class A CDL holders, Class 8 equipment and BLS CPI (Total all items)

Driver wages have grown at a rate higher than inflation since the beginning of 2021, as shown by this graph comparing NTI’s National Driver Wage Index (NDWI) growth rate from previous quarter to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) growth rate from previous quarter. (Not seasonally adjusted.)

Sources: The National Transportation Institute's National Driver Wage Index: Local, regional, & OTR company drivers, Class A CDL holders, Class 8 equipment and BLS CPI (Total all items)

Despite an increase in fuel, maintenance and truck payments, business was good for owner-operators in 2021, according to American Truck Business Services’ analysis of financial trend for owner-operators. On average, ATBS clients were up 5.1% year-over-year and brought home $71,218 on average. This is up $3,476 from 2020. This is only the average and many owner-operators performed better than this, ATBS officials said.  -  Source:  American Truck Business Services

Despite an increase in fuel, maintenance and truck payments, business was good for owner-operators in 2021, according to American Truck Business Services’ analysis of financial trend for owner-operators. On average, ATBS clients were up 5.1% year-over-year and brought home $71,218 on average. This is up $3,476 from 2020. This is only the average and many owner-operators performed better than this, ATBS officials said.

Source: American Truck Business Services

This data and analysis first appeared in the August 2022 special Fact Book issue of Heavy Duty Trucking.

2022 Fact Book

The Trucking Industry Numbers Impacting the Bottom Line

Heavy Duty Trucking’s annual Fact Book is designed to provide a snapshot of the current state of the industry, where it’s been, and where it’s going. 2022 is the eighth year for the HDT Fact Book. Dive into the other topics:

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