• DATVF.ATLPHL
    1.797
    -0.057
    -3.1%
  • DATVF.CHIATL
    1.898
    -0.055
    -2.8%
  • DATVF.DALLAX
    1.389
    0.030
    2.2%
  • DATVF.LAXDAL
    1.354
    0.041
    3.1%
  • DATVF.SEALAX
    0.950
    -0.072
    -7%
  • DATVF.PHLCHI
    1.133
    0.022
    2%
  • DATVF.LAXSEA
    2.180
    0.028
    1.3%
  • DATVF.VEU
    1.609
    -0.031
    -1.9%
  • DATVF.VNU
    1.515
    -0.006
    -0.4%
  • DATVF.VSU
    1.371
    0.035
    2.6%
  • DATVF.VWU
    1.565
    -0.022
    -1.4%
  • ITVI.USA
    9,546.810
    -198.000
    -2%
  • OTRI.USA
    7.640
    -1.270
    -14.3%
  • OTVI.USA
    9,566.310
    -195.060
    -2%
  • TLT.USA
    2.730
    0.020
    0.7%
  • WAIT.USA
    151.000
    -8.000
    -5%
  • DATVF.ATLPHL
    1.797
    -0.057
    -3.1%
  • DATVF.CHIATL
    1.898
    -0.055
    -2.8%
  • DATVF.DALLAX
    1.389
    0.030
    2.2%
  • DATVF.LAXDAL
    1.354
    0.041
    3.1%
  • DATVF.SEALAX
    0.950
    -0.072
    -7%
  • DATVF.PHLCHI
    1.133
    0.022
    2%
  • DATVF.LAXSEA
    2.180
    0.028
    1.3%
  • DATVF.VEU
    1.609
    -0.031
    -1.9%
  • DATVF.VNU
    1.515
    -0.006
    -0.4%
  • DATVF.VSU
    1.371
    0.035
    2.6%
  • DATVF.VWU
    1.565
    -0.022
    -1.4%
  • ITVI.USA
    9,546.810
    -198.000
    -2%
  • OTRI.USA
    7.640
    -1.270
    -14.3%
  • OTVI.USA
    9,566.310
    -195.060
    -2%
  • TLT.USA
    2.730
    0.020
    0.7%
  • WAIT.USA
    151.000
    -8.000
    -5%
AskWavesInsightsLess than TruckloadTruckingTruckload

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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260 Comments

  1. Go to college! Learn to be a welder,electrician,diesel mechanic or plumber. You will be paid for all your work. Home at night most of the time. Quality sleep and food. Better access to exercise! Just look at all these trucking companies that are going under. Most of the articles report that their drivers have all found jobs within hours or days. Wow! Goes to show trucking hires anything. Compare hiring to doctors,physicians and airline pilots. Standards are much hire! Remember in trucking you work with coal not diamonds. 32 years otr.

  2. Poor management and dispatching and an Owner OPERATOR operates to make money to pay bills and maintain his equipment ,he cannot work his equipment for nothing and all the regulations but no pay money making is getting harder to do and it’s the same for company drivers also truckstops are taking advantage of drivers charging for parking due to regulations and the ELDs don’t make the hwys safe the drivers are racing the clock trying to make a check that’s worth being out here and this is hard to do with all the unforseen things that they did not factor in when they came up with the ELD , sitting in traffic at the shippers no extra pay to make up the difference this is the reason for tired drivers just pay for the on duty time for when your not driving and this will make it safer it’s all about the money not more miles it’s about the pay when your not driving but your on duty because you don’t make any money unless you complete the run and turn in your paper work the ELD just makes you stay on the road longer not safer.

  3. The DOT. Need to get it together . First place because the trucks are big doesn’t mean they are at fault . But any time there aacciecnt
    they get sued . Because of money . Police target trucks for tickets because the trucks are out there . Sundays and holidays the trucks are more prone to get a ticket . Otr truckers that drive all 48 states need to be able to drive 12 hours a day to spend more time at home . They spend most off duty time on the other side of the country instead of home . They need as much time it home that they can get . Most DOT. Rules are against the driver . Not the company . The get paid mile the labor laws dont help them in a wage despite . A lot of companys cut the drivers short on the miles that they drive . Only chouse.the driver has is to move on to another company plus the money isn’t what it made out to . Drivers have to eat need to wash or buy closes . Winter roads closed they spend days waiting for them to open no pay for those days but their cost still goes on .DOT plays Politics instead of resolving problems.

  4. money money money. I started driving in 1984 and compared to other occupations as they should have. The base pay for every long-haul driver should begin at around $75,000 a year. It’s just that simple. If you pay enough money a person will endure almost anything.

    1. I agree, They really have to keep up with the standard of living expenses plus add additional bonuses for the other things that revolve around the transportation industry or job. Most jobs can start around the same pay and if you work two jobs you’ll be able to make the same amount, home everyday with regular breaks and paid overtime. No more delay, wife stress and away from the kids. They know when your coming home.

  5. Ultimately, it comes down to respect, and carriers don’t have it for drivers. A driver is just the mule that moves the cart (the company in this case) The conditions in which a driver has to endure from the company is the reason for the turnover, and nothing else. For example,

    Why do drivers get 1 day off for 7 days out while anyone else who works gets 2 days off a week for 5 days of work?
    Why are drivers still paid CPM, based on a regulation that goes back to 1933, instead of a reasonable salary?
    Why are drivers paid zipcode to zipcode or HHG miles when the technology today can easily route door to door and pay for every mile?
    Why are the first 2, 3, or 4 hours (company dependent) free at a shipper/receiver?
    Why does it take 24 to 48 hours of not being loaded to receive layover?
    Why do some companies only pay $100.00 (or any low number) for 4 to 5 days of orientation?

    They don’t care. That’s why. Companies will never take these questions into consideration, and we the drivers let them treat us this way and let them get away with it. Ultimately, its one or all of these reasons that a driver ultimately leaves their company. Forgive me if I missed 1 or 2 in there… these are just my questions I ask myself daily and reasons I leave a company when it is time.

  6. So as a driver for some 25 years now I have led a sheltered life. I spend 20 years with Schneider National. But had an incident and was terminated. Now I drive for a smaller company out of Santa Maria CA. To date my highest in come was close to 65 thousand a few years. Now is much less. To answer the LTL point most of them are Union jobs and if you’re lucky to make it to a real job with them not much reason to leave. That the best I can say.

  7. Seriously, because of 62 M.P.H. trucks … shippers and receivers taking there time to load and unload ….length of hauls ….. these are just starters … I have been trucking since 1984 luckily most of my career was local driving SORRY BUT O.T.R. sucks … I can’t wait to put this career behind me …. part time I think is best you can pick your days and times

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