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In 2000, the number of active truck drivers in the U.S. decreased by 0.9 percent to 3.1 million.
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High Turnover of US Truck Drivers

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By Willie Johnson

The trucking industry continues to dominate the freight transportation market.
Almost every product consumed in the United States is transported on trucks.
In 2001, the industry hauled close to 80 percent of all U.S. freight tonnage.

Currently, there are more than 500,000 interstate motor carriers in the U.S., including for–hire (truckload and less–than–truckload), private carriers, owner–operators and government fleets. Most trucking companies are small; about 80 percent have 20 or fewer trucks. The remaining 20 percent operate more than 20 trucks, down from previous years.

In 2000, the number of active truck drivers in the U.S. decreased by 0.9 percent to 3.1 million. Although the industry grew in the early to mid–1990s, it has decreased in two of the past three years; decreasing approximately 2.1 percent, to roughly 3 million, in 2001. There is a direct correlation between the number of active truck drivers and the 4,000 failed companies.

The decrease in active drivers has also resulted from the dramatic rise in fuel costs, which led to an economic slowdown in early 2000. However, the percentage of active minority truck drivers steadily increased during the 1990s.
Minority truck drivers represented approximately 27 percent of the active truck drivers in 2000.

The turnover rate for truck drivers varies greatly due to the various types of trucking.
An annual turnover rate is difficult to calculate. Industry sources say that the turnover rate for long–haul truck drivers is roughly 80 percent; several companies have put the rate at between 90 and 100 percent. The figure is around 30 percent for short–haul truck drivers.

Information for industry research revealed that the average truck driver changes jobs about eight times during a typical 30–year career. On average, a truck driver is unemployed for about four months after a layoff. So, why do so many leave their current employers or the trucking industry entirely?

The first major reason is that potential drivers are trained for jobs, not careers. They are not trained to mesh their personal and company goals, or taught how to live on the road. Schools and companies must learn to measure the effectiveness of their training programs as well as their content. The second reason is that recruiters fail to ask the right questions during interviews and fail to seek the right references. Third, trucking is hard. Many do not realize this until they complete training and are hired. Once they determine the level of difficulty, they quickly get out.

Fourth, the industry loses drivers who decide to find jobs closer to home. Over the past several years, the lack of time with families has been one of the leading reasons why most women leave the industry. Since peaking at 5.7 percent in 1997, the percentage of active women truck drivers has steadily declined. As we entered the new decade, only 4.7 percent were women.

A final reason for high turnover is poor communication and little genuine concern for the jobs these drivers perform. Insensitive dispatchers and an initial misunderstanding of pay and benefits head the list. In America, money talks, and if truck drivers feel they are not paid well, they often walk. With truck drivers changing jobs so frequently, most lose wages, medical coverage, 401(k) benefits and vacation time. Consequently, many decide to leave the trucking industry to obtain these benefits. During the previous economic boom in the U.S., many truckers took advantage of the employee markets and found jobs in other industries.

The industry's problem is that some of these causes probably cannot and will not be solved. The job has remained a difficult and sometimes lonely occupation. Truck drivers will more likely than not, elect to be closer to their families than their jobs.

Some studies indicate that one way to maintain staff is to make the profession a worthy career, not just another job. Several companies have begun offering additional responsibilities, such as customer service and sales, as well as opportunities to advance. A truck driver who feels satisfied is more likely to work harder and feel more committed.
Other ways to satisfy employees are to treat them well financially and provide support equipment.

In mid–2001, many signs pointed toward a reduced turnover ratio. September 11, 2001, seems to have reversed this trend. With fewer companies in the market, the employee market no longer exists. This is especially true for new hires. The recovering economy in 2002 shows now is the time to review the reasons for losing drivers and to develop retention programs. The driver shortage is not over. The recovering economy, retiring baby boomers and competing, skilled occupations are wake–up calls to the trucking industry.

This article is provided by Willie Johnson, a senior manager in the transportation arena for more than 15 years.
He is the originator of the innovative TrendsPortation seminars.
His research and insights give access to information needed to meet the challenges affecting your bottom line.
For more information, visit http://www.trendsportati

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