Driver turnover rate dipped in third quarter while industry employment rallied at year’s end

In 2018’s third quarter, the turnover rate at large truckload fleets fell 11 percentage points to 87 percent on an annualized basis, according to the American Trucking Associations. That’s the lowest rate of turnover since the first quarter of 2017’s 74 percent.

Large truckload fleets are those with more than $30 million in annual revenue.

Turnover rates had surged since mid-2017, running up to 98 percent in the second quarter of 2018. ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello says there are several possible explanations for the dip in turnover, including a softening freight environment and pay increases by fleets.

“Large pay increases fleets have been offering appear to be working,” he said, “and drivers are remaining with their current carrier. Second, we did see a softening of freight markets in the third quarter from the incredibly strong pace it had set earlier in the year. Historically, softer freight volumes lead to lower driver turnover.”

Turnover at large truckload fleets, those with less than $30 million in annual revenue, remained unchanged at 72 percent. Turnover rate at less-than-truckload carriers was just 10 percent, a 4 percentage point decline from the quarter prior.

Meanwhile, for the eighth straight month, the for-hire trucking industry added jobs on a month-to-month basis in December, according to the Department of Labor’s monthly Employment Situation Report. Trucking’s addition of 2,900 jobs came amid strong employment growth in the U.S. economy, which added 312,000 jobs in December — one of the largest gains of 2018 and beating expectations.

The country’s unemployment rate ticked up to 3.9 percent, up from November’s 3.7 percent, due to an increase in job seekers.

Total employment in the for-hire trucking industry was 1.4969 million in December, according to the DOL. Save for April, the industry has now added jobs on a month-to-month basis in every month since last September 2017, with total employment growing by more than 44,000 jobs in that stretch.

On a year-over-year basis, industry employment was up 36,600 jobs from December 2017.

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