Photo by Deborah Lockridge

Photo by Deborah Lockridge

The turnover rate at large truckload carriers rose one percentage point to an annualized rate of 97% in the third quarter of 2014, according to new data released Wednesday by American Trucking Associations.

“Driver turnover, which is a good barometer of the driver market, remains high,” says ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. “While it is not approaching its historic highs of the early 2000s, continued economic growth and increased freight demand will continue to exacerbate the shortage of drivers many sectors of the industry are witnessing.”
In addition to the increase in truckload fleet driver turnover for large carriers – fleets with more than $30 million in annual revenue – the turnover rate at less-than-truckload carriers also rose to 13% from 11% in the second quarter. The turnover rate at small truckload fleets remained unchanged at 94%.
“It is interesting to note, historically, the turnover rate for small truckload fleets was much lower than for larger carriers,” Costello said. “However, with increasing pressure to recruit and retain good, experienced drivers, we’re seeing higher turnover rates at small fleets – with perhaps improving pay and benefit packages at large carriers being a reason.”

One tactic that may be helping is large-fleet efforts to even out the pay, especially for new drivers. The vast majority of turnover happens in a driver's first 90 days at a carrier. To help, some carriers have started offering higher "transition pay" or minimum weekly pay.

"Some percentage of our turnover historiecally has been caused by inconsistency in income," explains Gordon Klemp, head of the National Transportation Institute, which track driver pay packages. "Fleets who implement this are trying to take some of the 'lumpiness' out of the pay cycle and retain drivers who may become discouraged."