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What Happens if Freight Economy Rises?

 

A market that is already beleaguered by a significant shortage in workforce is seeing a disturbing trend in the form of an uptick in turnover rates.

“The slight uptick in turnover, despite weak freight volumes in the first quarter, may be indicative of a tightening in the driver market,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. “The situation bears watching because if the freight economy picks up significantly, turnover will surely accelerate – as will concerns about the driver shortage.”

Turnover will surely accelerate – as will concerns about the driver shortage

Within the first few months of 2017, the annualized rate of turnover for large TL (truckload) fleets, rose three percent, up to 74 percent. While it’s somewhat heartening to know that this is still down 15 points from what it was last year, a 74 percent turnover rate is nothing to be ignored. For small TL fleets, the increase was a bit smaller, two points, bringing the turnover rate to 66 percent.

Fixing a Growing Problem

When you consider the importance of trucking to the United States, the shortage in drivers is becoming a serious issue. Add in the fact that a large portion of the active drivers on the road are just about at retirement age and you have a full-blown crisis for the industry.

The shortage in drivers is becoming a serious issue.

So what is being done to fix or, at the very least, soften the blow of the driver shortage? Well, for starters, many trucking companies are taking steps to recruit more women into what is typically considered a predominately male industry. Anything from offering better maternity leaves to other incentives. At this point, anything that can draw in more personnel and drivers is considered a win.

Many trucking companies are taking steps to recruit more women

‘The American Trucking Associations, declared in a recent report that the industry needs to add almost 1 million new drivers by 2024 to replace retired drivers and keep up with demand. Some companies have added 401(k) and tuition reimbursement programs. Others have hired “female driver liaisons” and started support groups called “Highway Diamonds,” said Ellen Voie, president of the Women in Trucking Association,’ in a quote taken from the Washington Post.

The industry needs to add almost 1 million new drivers by 2024 to replace retired drivers and keep up with demand.

“In 2015, her organization created a Girl Scout badge to teach girls that trucking isn’t just for men,”  WP added.

Women in Trucking

Carriers are really pushing for more female drivers, according to Voie. “They’re facing the retirement issue, yes, but they also know that women tend to be more risk averse, which is extremely important.”

The drive for more women drivers is starting to pay off, however, there was a slight increase in female drivers over the course of the past year, rising from 6 to 7 percent.

There was a slight increase in female drivers over the course of the past year

Even as we see some slight improvements, it’s almost impossible to believe that one of the most predominate fields of employment in the United States might be on the verge of extinction, or at the very least is in danger of heading that way.

Is the Trucker the Only One at Risk?

A recent post from Bloomberg has a rather interesting interactive chart that shows whether or not your job might disappear in the future. For the trucking industry, it’s not just the drivers who might be dusting off their resume, but even shipping clerks and freight agents might soon be out of a job as the industry continues to change and evolve through new technology.

Even shipping clerks and freight agents might soon be out of a job

Most of what the chart predicts is that low skill, low paying jobs, will eventually be phased out by computerization and automation. For example, Shipping, Receiving and Traffic clerks have a 98% probability of having their position becoming computerized in the future. However, as we’ve learned from history, the evolutionary path of technology isn’t always the easiest to predict. While it’s true some jobs might become obsolete, there are a number of jobs that will simply become augmented with technology, still maintaining the need for the human element.