OOIDA contends that growth in small fleet, owner-op numbers play large role in driver turnover

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Updated Mar 11, 2019
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A new report from the research arm of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, the OOIDA Foundation, suggests the “driver shortage” perceived by many larger fleets is more of a myth than a reality and is due in large part to a recent trend of small fleet growth. The driver shortage has been the industry’s top concern for the last two years, according to the American Transportation Research Institute’s annual Top Industry Issues report.

As Overdrive has reported in the past, driver pay is one of the biggest factors in the perceived shortage of truckers. According to OOIDA Foundation’s report, a recent trend of drivers joining smaller fleets or becoming owner-operators is the biggest contributing factor to large fleets’ driver issues, but that is exacerbated by low wages. The report notes a Business Insider analysis showed median truck driver wages have decreased by 21 percent on average since 1980, and by as much as 50 percent in some areas.

The study also cites Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration data that shows the trucking industry has added more than 600,000 jobs since 2012, a 32 percent increase in employment. Much of that growth was seen in “very small” trucking fleets of 1-6 trucks, which increased by 89.9 percent from  March 2012 to March 2018. The report also notes the number of small fleets (7-19 trucks) grew by 46.6 percent in the same time period, while medium-sized fleets (20-100 trucks) grew 34.6 percent, large fleets (101-500 trucks) grew 20.2 percent, and very large fleets (501 trucks and up) grew 20.5 percent.

In total, companies with 100 or fewer trucks gained 345,925 drivers since 2012, while fleets with 501 or more trucks added just 169,467 drivers, the report shows.

The report also cites two 2016 reports from the FMCSA that show there are 455,000 new entry-level CDL holders and 98,000 CDL reinstatements each year, exceeding the current 50,000-driver shortage and the 150,000-plus driver deficit ATA predicts by 2026.

According to the Foundation’s report, data from DAT, the Journal of Commerce (JOC), IHS Markit and the American Trucking Associations’ Truck Tonnage Index shows that “there are more trucks on the road than there is freight to haul.”

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“This demonstrates that much of the growth in trucking employment is happening at the very small and small fleet level,” the Foundation says. “The trucking industry can experience healthy employment growth at the same time that large carriers complain of a ‘driver shortage.’”

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