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Why is driver turnover in trucking so high?

Larger carriers tend to have bigger turnover challenges versus small carriers. LTL carriers have the least turnover of all trucking carrier types.

The North American trucking industry has long suffered from a severe driver retention issue. Driver retention is the inverse of turnover – the percentage of drivers that stayed as opposed to left a carrier. The operating realities of long-haul, for-hire trucking translates into working conditions that require both employee and independent contractor drivers to be away from home, and alone for days and sometimes weeks at a time. This combined with transit delays (both on the road and at customer facilities), and lifestyle-related health pressures (sleep deprivation and poor eating choices) are the primary causes of both short and long-term turnover. 

Based on periodic surveys of TCA Profitability Program participants, trucking industry turnover is heavily weighted to drivers with limited tenure  (voluntary and involuntary terminations), which is drivers with less than 180 days since original hire date. For those carriers that participated in the surveys, short-term turnover accounted for over 85% of total annualized turnover. This reinforces the hypothesis that the root cause of the industry’s retention issue is the difficulty acclimating to  working conditions that exist for drivers, especially long haul drivers. Further, the longer the average length of haul, the higher the turnover. 

Annualized Turnover Rate Formula (Monthly Method)

((# of Drivers Departed) * 12) / (Driver Count Beg. of Month + Driver Count End of Month)/2))

Interpretation: Based on the above formula, the way to interpret is if the current level of turnover reported in the period continued at the same rate for the entire year. 

Driver Turnover Statistics

Q3 2019Q2 2019Q1 2019Q4 2018
TPP Participants (All)97.50%103.13%105.31%99.74%
TPP Participants (1-249 Trucks)94.61%109.75%107.71%98.77%
TPP Participants (250 + Trucks)99.11%103.59%103.08%98.45%
ATA Large Carrier Turnover96%Not Reported83%78%
ATA Small Carrier Turnover73%Not Reported73%77%
ATA LTL Carrier Turnover9.00%Not Reported18%10%

Sources: TCA Profitability Program (TPP) participants, American Trucking Associations (ATA)

The Primary Causes of Driver Turnover

  1. Human Nature – Humans are social animals. We crave interaction and connection with others. Any occupation or endeavor that limits the connection or communication with others has an inherent labor or participation rate challenge. Truck driving, specifically long-haul trucking is one of those endeavors. In recent years, there has been a large effort among for-hire carriers to lower their average trip length (otherwise known as ‘Average Length of Haul’). The motivation behind this effort has been to increase the amount of hometime that drivers would realize in a given week or month. The hypothesis is that the more frequent the driver is home during a given month or week, the lower the possibility of voluntary turnover. Macro supply chain forces have aided this effort with the increased prevalence of regional distribution centres, and the growth of e-commerce. 
  2. Economic – The majority of long-haul professional truck drivers are paid on a per-mile basis, which remains the main freight pricing mechanism for truckload. The disparity between the number of miles driven during a payroll or settlement period can vary dramatically. This can result in a significant difference in take home pay. The contrast can lead to budgeting and expense challenges, especially for new drivers that are not used to inconsistent (albeit larger) compensation amounts. In recent years, carriers have experimented with guaranteed and even salary-based compensation for their long-haul drivers to combat turnover related to this issue. 
  3. Health – Any occupation that requires a significant amount of travel presents the worker with an overwhelming amount of unhealthy food options. The tradeoff of health for convenience has led to high levels of obesity and lifestyle-related diseases among truck drivers. Voluntary health-related turnover has sadly remained one of the largest contributors to driver turnover for decades.
  4. Expectations vs. Realities – Truck driving has always been an occupation that provides a worker the opportunity to earn above-average wages relative to educational requirements. However, the benefit of higher compensation comes with costs, most of which are outlined above. The other disparity that drivers face, especially new entrants, is expectations versus the realities of long-haul truck driving. Trucking provides a way for drivers to experience the beautiful landscapes of the continent first hand, but it also forces drivers to experience deteriorating infrastructure and general inefficiencies in supply chains. Drivers bare the costs of these.

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  1. Interesting article!

    I’m curious, however, as to why is turnover for the LTL carriers is significantly lower than the rest? What makes the LTL carriers different in that the driver turnover is much lower?


  2. Want to fix the problem pay by the hour been driving truck 40 yrs the first 5 over the road o/o then 35 years company by the hour gone weekly get payed 8 straight then ot been saying for years by the hour would keep driver’s on the road

    1. I never believe that i could be cured from Type 2 Diabetes until i met Robinson Buckler i’m very grateful to you and i know your herbal medicine will save more millions of lives. his email Address Robinsonbuckler { yahoo } com,,,

  3. The key to keeping quality drivers ,
    1. Pay,Salary, y can’t expect a guy to stay away from family and home for bare minimum wages. The responsibility of a driver is immense but they are paid like a 711 cashier.
    2. Regulations need to give more authority over driving decisions to the person behind the wheel.

    1. I currently deliver gas and I just want to know why is the pay for most truck drivers across the board so low??? So many of our products come from trucks. When I get my check every 2 weeks I feel so discouraged and angry! After taxes and health insurance my check is ridiculously low and I know I’m not the only one. The equipment that some of the companies have are horrible. I just don’t understand.

  4. Quote:

    Mental Health – Psychosocial Risk Factors in the Workplace

    Civility and Respect
    A workplace where employees are respectful and considerate in their interactions with one another, as well as with customers, clients and the public. Civility and respect are based on showing esteem, care and consideration for others, and acknowledging their dignity.

    Why it is important?

    A civil and respectful workplace is related to greater job satisfaction, greater perceptions of fairness, a more positive attitude, improved morale, better teamwork, greater interest in personal development, engagement in problem resolution, enhanced supervisor-staff relationships, and reduction in sick leave and turnover. Organizations characterized by civility and respect create a positive atmosphere marked by high spirits and work satisfaction. This civility allows people to enjoy the environment, whether they are staff, clients or customers.

    What happens when it is lacking?

    A workplace that lacks civility and respect can lead to emotional exhaustion amongst staff, greater conflicts, and job withdrawal.

    A work environment that is uncivil and disrespectful also exposes organizations to the threat of more grievances and legal risks.

    One example of disrespectful behaviour is bullying. Exposure to workplace bullying is associated with psychological complaints, depression, burnout, anxiety, aggression, psychosomatic complaints and musculoskeletal health complaints. Bullying not only affects those directly involved, but also affects bystanders, as they too experience higher levels of stress. A number of provinces currently have legislation to address such behaviours.”
    End quote.

    What does being micromanaged lead to ? DEMORALIZATION !

    Quote :

    The “D” Word That No One is Talking About in Corporate America
    Micro-managing managers, policies that limit employee autonomy and critical thinking and zero attempts to expand employee knowledge through company approved training and development programs.
    Do these ring a bell or resonate with your current workplace? If so, then “Houston, we have a problem.”

    Demoralization in the workplace. Demoralization can happen as a result of policies that result in angry, resentful employees. While no one sets out to debase their employees on purpose, it’s very important to be mindful of the psychological effects that can result when new policies are established.

    For example, if there is a new policy that limits a certain benefit or restricts professional growth and autonomy in any way, it would be in your organization’s best interest to track the psychological response from these policies – through survey or brief employee interviews. Why? Because the impact of demoralizing policies can always be tied employee disengagement which results in measurable decreased levels of productivity.


    Quote :

    Understanding the Importance of Employee Mental Health
    By Michael Galvan | 02/10/2016

    A mental health focus is important for employers. Work can sometimes worsen or in some cases even cause mental disorders in employees. These disorders can result in extended suffering, depressed mood, high stress, burnout, anxiety, demoralization, substance abuse, and sleep deficiencies.

    Some mental conditions often mean an employee will miss time from work, or not be effective at their job. Employees with high-stress positions are often at an increased risk for worsening or sometimes developing mental health conditions.”

    End quote .

    I’m surprised truck drivers keep putting up with abuse rather than going on sick leave ! Go see your doctor . Tell them about all the issues that you’re going through in your workplace . Tell them about the mental anguish that you’re feeling . See a psychologist , get diagnosed , go on compensated sick leave due to EMPLOYER MENTAL ABUSE !

    ELD’s CAUSE TREMENDOUS STRESS ! Stress is unhealthy .

    Quote :

    “Stress is something everyone experiences. Despite being unpleasant, stress in itself is not an illness. But there are connections between stress and mental health conditions including depression, anxiety, psychosis and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). ”

    Use the system to protect yourselves from ABUSE . Whether that abuse comes from regulations & regulators and or employers !

    In my humble opinion ……..

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