The trucking industry currently lacks the resources to recruit and train enough drivers despite an abundant and available labor pool, a recent study by the consultancy FTR Associates said.
According to FTR, about 100,000 drivers—both inexperienced and experienced—were hired in the first quarter of 2010 to fill available positions. That falls far short of the 130,000 to 140,000 drivers that will need to be hired each quarter for truckers to meet an expected 4 to 5 percent increase in freight demand through the rest of 2010, according to Noel Perry, a partner at Nashville, Ind.-based FTR.
Perry said FTR's freight growth projections for 2010 are relatively tepid compared with typical post-recession growth rates. If volumes were growing between 7 and 10 percent a year—as they historically do in a post-recession environment—demand for freight services, and for drivers, would be significantly stronger, he said.
In 2006, the last period of reasonably solid growth in freight volumes before the near four-year freight recession took hold, the industry was filling about 150,000 driver jobs per quarter, according to Perry.
Perry said truckers have reduced head count in departments traditionally tasked with recruiting and training drivers. The recession has also crimped driver demand, he said.
The latter trend has been particularly tough on inexperienced drivers looking to break into the field, as cost-conscious truckers have scaled back their investments in training schools and have instead focused their recruiting efforts on experienced drivers who could hit the road running.
Chip Grissom, CEO of ProDrivers, an Atlanta-based driver-staffing firm, said he is seeing an increase in requests to provide recruiting services as opposed to simply leasing a driver to a trucking client. Truckers that "traditionally handled hiring on their own, and rarely used leased drivers, are contacting us for both recruiting and sometimes leased drivers," Grissom said.
Grissom said ProDrivers' traditional driver leasing business is growing by 50 percent a year as truckers wary about the recovery remain reluctant to add drivers to their payrolls.
"The uncertainty, although business is improving, continues to plague folks," he said. For the labor pool, the good news is that demand for drivers should escalate dramatically in 2011 as growing volumes accelerate the call for drivers, Perry said. At the same time, driver wages should increase significantly, he added.
"A driver's job will be more attractive in 2011 than it was in 2005 or 2006," Perry said.