Thursday, November 15, 2012

Driven Off the Road

Driver shortage threatens ability of carriers to provide adequate service.

The number of heavy-truck or tractor-trailer drivers employed in the U.S. fell 13.4 percent, or by 226,850, between 2007 and 2010, according to the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. About 42,000 truck drivers joined the payrolls last year, a 2.9 percent increase. However, that means almost 185,000 CDL-carrying truckers who earned a living on the road in 2007 have yet to return to the driver’s seat — just over twice the number of truckers in the estimated current 90,000-driver shortage.

For large truckload carriers, the annualized driver turnover rate shot past 100 percent in the second quarter, rising above that percentage figure for the first time in more than four years, according to the American Trucking Association. It’s not a milestone trucking companies will celebrate. A 100 percent turnover rate means truckload carriers need to replace the equivalent of their entire driver pool each year just to maintain employment and capacity at the same level.

At a 100 percent rate – and the actual number was higher – driver turnover can cost larger truckload companies hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars a year. If recruiting one driver costs $5,000, on average, a company with 500 drivers would pay $2.5 million a year.

Equipment, also, has been sharply reduced since the economic downturn. The recession reportedly cut away as much as 20 percent of available truckload capacity. And although no large LTL carrier closed its doors during the recession, the three largest LTL carriers — FedEx Freight, Con-way Freight and YRC Freight — closed the equivalent of a large rival carrier in terms of terminals.

Recently, some loosening has appeared in what has been a very tight market for over the road shipping. Truck capacity, which has been so tight since the recession that it’s occasionally threatened to choke supply chains, is easing up heading into November and the peak pre-holiday shipping season.

But having trucks available doesn’t help if there are no drivers to run them.

Kirk Shearer
800-989-0054 x103

No comments: