What Driver Turnover Rates Actually Measure

In recent years, amidst post-pandemic disrupted supply chains, there have been a large number of couch experts who talk and write a lot about the problems in the U.S. trucking industry. These people try to explain the lack of employees and the constant hiring of large numbers of new drivers by seeing the high turnover rate as a big problem.

But note that most of them are just bureaucrats and journalists who have never had any experience in the transportation company.

Trying to argue for this approach, they tell us that truckers have been quitting the industry at a crazy rate for the past few decades. So, the turnover rate three years ago was 91%. In their opinion, this means that out of 100 people who entered the trucking industry, 91 left it. Since the profession is very difficult and working conditions are too life-threatening, people don’t want to continue working as truckers for such low wages.

The main misconception of this approach is that these “experts” have absolutely no understanding of what is measured by the annual truck driver turnover rate. It is misleading to believe that this rate indicates employee attrition from the industry.

Imagine what would happen if 91% of drivers stopped working each year. It would be a disaster that would cause the imminent collapse of our economy.

Let’s understand what this indicator, which was created and introduced by the American Trucking Association, actually shows. To put it in a nutshell, it is a fairly accurate indicator of truckers moving from one employer to another.

It measures the turnover within the industry, not the exit from it. The number of trucking employees who have left the trucking industry and retired is only a tiny percentage that can be disregarded.

What is the real reason why drivers move from one transportation company to another so often and so many times? There may be many factors, but the main ones are opportunity and demand.

The trucking industry has always been and still is a very tight labor market. In addition, the high demand for professional drivers has been exacerbated by COVID and its aftermath. To retain truck drivers, employers are now forced to constantly raise wages and improve working conditions.

At the moment, there is an unprecedented increase in wages in the trucking industry. The average weekly wage for drivers has already increased fivefold when compared to the historical average.

For long-haul and truckload drivers, the increase has already been a quarter since 2019. Likewise, ten-thousand-dollar hiring bonuses and full benefits are now considered a normal trend. 

HMD Trucking also has to do this because we compete for a very limited pool of professional drivers with other companies. We offer our employees decent wages, good bonuses and other benefits.

And we try to do everything we can to make the company a second home for them. That’s why our turnover rate is much lower than the industry average.

That is why it is fundamentally wrong to consider the high level of driver turnover as an indication of drivers’ dissatisfaction with working conditions and wages.

In fact, the situation is quite the opposite and the high turnover rate is an indication of increased opportunities and rights for truck drivers. The labor market is tightening and many people with CDLs have a chance to develop their careers under conditions they never had before.

Therefore, we can conclude that a career as a truck driver was and still is one of the surest paths to the middle class. It requires certain skills, but they don’t require an expensive college education.

We cannot ignore the fact that for many, many Americans choosing this job becomes their road to the American dream, despite what newspaper pundits say to the contrary. It is their chance to live a life free of loan debts, which they are taking advantage of.

Author: Doug