Driver Shortage Troubles Trucking Firms

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

“More drivers and more trucks to make the same loads.”

The state of Arkansas is trying to increase the number of truckers by offering more classes through colleges and the Arkansas Truck Driver Training Pilot Initiative.

(See also Students Line Up to Be Truck Drivers.)

But Lane Kidd, president of the Arkansas Trucking Association, said the only way the trucking industry is going to reduce turnover is to offer higher wages and find a way to get drivers home more often.

Higher Pay

Some companies are planning to pay drivers more while trying to improve working conditions for drivers.

“Unfortunately, there’s not one thing a carrier can do that would stop turnover,” said Bernie Kremer, vice president of Dancor Transit Inc. of Van Buren. “If there was, I can promise you, … people would have figured it out years ago and become a multimillionaire by selling the solution to the trucking industry.”

Between 2003 and the first quarter of 2008, the turnover rate for truckers was more than 100 percent, which meaning that a position was vacated and filled more than once within a year, according to the ATA. It hit an all-time high of 136 percent in the fourth quarter of 2004.

For 2011, the turnover rate for large truckload companies was 83 percent, the highest it had been since 2007, when it was 117 percent.

People who sign up to be long-haul truck drivers for companies such as J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. of Lowell or USA Truck Inc. of Van Buren can earn between 35 and 45 cents a mile, which translates to about $38,000 annually for someone without experience and $50,000 to $60,000 for someone with experience, said Kidd, of the Arkansas Trucking Association.

The job pays higher than Arkansas’ per capita income of $34,000, “but it does require the driver to be away from home, four to five days at a stretch,” Kidd said. “A lot of people’s lifestyles are such that they just can’t do that, which is a challenge for the industry because it’s not like the freight can go by hovercraft.”

Costello told Arkansas Business that the turnover rate is expensive. It’s estimated to cost a company between $5,000 and $6,000 in lost revenue and expenses to replace a single driver, he said.



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