Driver Shortage Troubles Trucking Firms

by Mark Friedman  on Monday, May. 14, 2012 12:00 am  

A good truck driver is hard to find, especially when the economy is rolling.

Since the annual turnover rate for truck drivers bottomed out at 39 percent during the first quarter of 2010, the rate has more than doubled for trucking companies that have more than $30 million in annual revenue, according to the American Trucking Associations of Arlington, Va.

The latest figures show the turnover rate stands at 88 percent for the fourth quarter of 2011, which was down 1 percentage point from the previous quarter.

But trucking executives aren’t cheering the decrease.

“This reprieve, while surprising, is likely temporary,” the ATA’s chief economist, Bob Costello, said in an April news release. “The turnover rates were going down during the recession,” he said. “It’s back on the rise again.”

Costello said that as the economy improves, more items will be shipped, which “will cause the driver market to tighten and the turnover rate to rise.”

Others are preparing for the rates to climb.

“From what we see from trends and analysts, we’re expecting it to get worse,” said Rochelle Bartholomew, CEO of CalArk International Inc. of Mabelvale.

Bartholomew said the aging driving force coupled with fewer young people entering the trade had made it harder to find drivers.

In addition, new government regulations regarding the hours a truck driver can operate, which go into effect in July 2013, will cause a 3 to 8 percent loss of productivity for each driver, she said.

The U.S. Department of Transportation will reduce the maximum number of hours a truck driver can work within a week from 82 to 70.

“We’re go-ing to need more resources,” Bartholomew said.



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