Today’s Pickup: Tonnage Index rises, but so does driver turnover

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Good day,

Truck tonnage rose in August and driver turnover jumped in the second quarter according to the latest data from the American Trucking Associations. ATA’s advanced seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index jumped 7.1% in August, following a 0.5% gain during July. In August, the index equaled 149 (2000=100), up from 139.1 in July. That is up 8.2% from August 2016. The Index is up 2.1% year-to-date over 2016.

The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 156.4 in August, which was 10.5% above the previous month (141.6).

“Tonnage was stronger than most other economic indicators in August and more than I would have expected,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. “However, prep work for the hurricanes and better port volumes likely gave tonnage an added boost during the month. I suspect that short-term service disruptions from when the storms made landfall, as well as the normal ebb and flow of freight, could make September weaker and tonnage will smooth out to more moderate gains, on average.”

Driver turnover at large truckload carriers, reported for the second quarter, surged 16 percentage points to 90% – the highest it has been since the final quarter of 2015. The 16-point increase is the largest quarterly jump since the fourth quarter of 2010, ATA said.

“We saw double digit gains in the annualized turnover rate for both small and large truckload fleets,” said Costello. “After a period of relatively low turnover, it appears the driver market is tightening again, which coupled with increased demand for freight movement, could rapidly exacerbate the driver shortage.”

At smaller carriers, fleets with less than $30 million in annual revenue, the turnover rate rose 19 percentage points to 85%, the highest it has been since the first quarter of 2016. LTL carriers saw a mixed result, with over-the-road LTL turnover dipping one point to 9% but the rate for local LTL drivers climbing 2 percentage points to 14%.

Did you know?

After reaching a low point of 74% in the first quarter of this year, the driver turnover rate at large truckload carriers rose 16 percentage points to 90% for the second quarter, according to data from ATA.


“We predicted that last year’s period of relatively low and stable turnover could be short-lived if the freight economy recovered from 2016’s freight recession. It appears those predictions were correct and we may be seeing the beginnings of a significant tightening of the driver market and acceleration of the driver shortage.”

Bob Costello, ATA chief economist

In other news:

Trends to watch

Shifting freight patterns and ELDs are among the trends changing the dynamics of the industry, according to McLeod Software CEO Tom McLeod. (Fleet Owner)

How to fix siloed supply chains

Supply chains are complex, but they can also be siloed. Simple steps, though, can fix this and make for a more efficient operations. (Inbound Logistics)

SuperTech names 2017 tech champion

For the third time, FedEx Freight’s Mark McLean won the TMC SuperTech competition for the nation’s top technician. FedEx techs captured 10 separate station wins in the competition. (Heavy Duty Trucking)

Ford to idle plants

Ford said it will idle five plants for up to 10 weeks to deal with an oversupply of vehicle inventory as sales continue to fall. (CNBC)

FedEx earnings tumble

FedEx reported a 16.6% decline in net profit due to the cyberattack that hit its TNT division as well as rising costs and lower volume in its express shipments business. (Wall Street Journal)

Final Thoughts

The fact that FedEx Freight technicians captured 10 separate station wins in this week’s TMC SuperTech competition is a testament to the training and dedication to excellence that the companies techs exhibit. It’s a job well done.   

Hammer down everyone!

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Brian Straight

Brian Straight covers general transportation news and leads the editorial team as Managing Editor. A journalism graduate of the University of Rhode Island, he has covered everything from a presidential election, to professional sports and Little League baseball, and for more than 10 years has covered trucking and logistics. Before joining FreightWaves, he was previously responsible for the editorial quality and production of Fleet Owner magazine and Brian lives in Connecticut with his wife and two kids and spends his time coaching his son’s baseball team, golfing with his daughter, and pursuing his never-ending quest to become a professional bowler.