Truckload carriers have been aggressive in reducing driver pay during this economic cycle, so much so that demographic and regulatory changes could exacerbate an upcoming driver shortage in the next few years
, according to Morgan Stanley. This could limit any growth in truckload capacity and support pricing gains in 2011 and beyond.

According research by Morgan Stanley, driver pay has decreased by 6.6 percent from the third quarter of 2007 through the first quarter of 2010. In contrast, from 2001 to 2003, driver pay was down 3.3 percent. The most recent decline is the largest peak to trough drop since Morgan Stanley began conducting the survey.

Morgan Stanley said a few private carriers have had problems with driver recruitment, most likely because the low pay has caused drivers to stay on unemployment.

According to the research, driver pay is down 10 percent compared to the Consumer Price Index.

As the economy recovers, truckload carriers will likely be forced to bring wages back up to support driver recruitment, Morgan Stanley said. However, with the aggressive reductions in pay during this cycle, the pay increases could outpace those of the 2003-2006 cycle. "As a result, as TL pricing fully recovers, cost pressures could offset much of the margin benefit from pricing gains," Morgan Stanley said.