For five consecutive years, trucking firms have been hiring drivers at record levels. While the demand for truck drivers still seems unsatisfied, employment figures note a change in the story. For the first time since July 2010, quarterly hiring figures show that trucking firms have hired fewer drivers than they did in the preceding quarter.
Truck Driver Hiring Hit High Mark In January
The hiring trends, noted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, seem to indicate that the industry reached its hiring high-water mark early this year. The number of drivers hired in May 2016 equaled the number hired in May 2015. The numbers seem to indicate that a downward employment trend developed. Firms hired fewer drivers in June 2016 than in the same month in 2015.
Employment Will Remain Steady
The figures don’t mean that employment in the trucking industry is declining. Instead, the figures represent new drivers being hired – or drivers being hired into new or open positions. The figures may indicate that trucking firms have maxed out the number of employees they’re willing or able to hire. The reasons for that are unclear because the demand for freight transportation is still strong.
Truck Driver Hiring Affected By Turnover – Retirement
Trucking firms may be satisfied with the size and composition of their current payrolls. Alternatively, the figures may indicate that the number of available qualified drivers is declining. In addition, firms across the industry are struggling to cope with the steady number of driver retirements as their most experienced drivers age out of the workforce. The attrition rate of experienced drivers will put more pressure on transportation firms to recruit younger drivers. That, in turn, will keep employment in the transportation sector relatively constant.
Read More: Do Truckers Carry Guns-I Need Protection
Current Decline Caps 5-Year Upswing
In the past five years, employment in the trucking industry has been in recovery mode. Between 2007 and 2010, employment in the trucking industry dropped by more than 12%. This left trucking firms hungry for new drivers when the economy began to recover in earnest in 2010.
Boom-And-Bust Hiring Cycles Common
Boom-and-bust cycles in truck driver hiring are common. The last hiring boom in trucking began in 2002 and flattened out in 2007. According to BLS statistics, the most recent hiring bust began in 2007 and bottomed out in 2010, when trucking employment skidded to 1.46 million, a level not seen since 1998.
Trucking Employment Currently Near Peak
In 2015, trucking industry payrolls included about 1.68 million Class 8 truck drivers. This is just slightly less than the all-time peak of 1.69 million Class 8 truck drivers in 2007, just prior to the start of the most recent employment bust.
Truck Driver Wages Not Keeping Pace
No one is predicting a significant drop in truck driving employment just yet, but the BLS numbers also show another unsettling trend. The median wage for truck drivers is declining compared to the median wage for US employment generally. As a group, truck drivers are falling behind the average US worker in terms of wages earned. Over time, this wage gap has increased and now sits at more than 12%.
Recruiting, Technology May Offset Employment Losses
Many transportation firms have noted the disparity and offer premiums, bonuses and other incentives to help recruit and retain new drivers into the industry. Progressive firms are using technology and multi-modal transportation strategies to help relieve the pressure in urban areas. In addition, firms are looking for new ways to address congestion, detention and regulation.
Photo Credit: Jeremy Sternberg, via Flickr.com