Trucking fleets are seeing a tightening market for hiring drivers, due to a covid case surge and a rise in unemployment benefits, according to January data released today by the industry analyst firm ACT Research.
ACT’s Driver Availability Index has tightened to its lowest point in the past three years, according to the Columbus, Indiana-based firm’s latest For-Hire Trucking Index. The index is created from a monthly survey of for-hire trucking service providers, with the raw data converted to an index number where the neutral or flat activity level is 50 and lower numbers show driver shortages.
“The Driver Availability Index tightened to a new low in January, to 25.0 from 28.1 in December. We heard at our seminar last week that even the promise of further stimulus money has adversely affected carriers’ recruiting efforts,” Tim Denoyer, ACT Research’s vice president and senior analyst, said in a release.
“For the second straight month, this was the tightest reading in the three-year history of this index. Rising driver pay for several months has yet to impact the tight driver market. The surge in pandemic cases, which is now reversing, and extended unemployment benefits, which are set to be extended further, are also supply constraints.”
Another factor restricting the supply of truck drivers is the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)’s Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse, which released its first statistics last month and allows the industry to track tracks commercial drivers' alcohol and drug violations, he said.
However, the trend may reverse in coming months, through a combination of rising vaccinations, higher pay rates, and a re-opening of driver schools after pandemic closures, ACT said.