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Turnover of truck drivers is surging -- good sign for the economy

December 12, 2011 | 11:59 am

TrucksLBFWBrian Vander BrugLAT

Competition for top-notch drivers at large trucking companies has steadily picked up over the past year -- a sure sign that the U.S. economy is growing, according to the American Trucking Assn.

The turnover rate of drivers at big fleets rose to 89% in the third quarter of this year, the fourth straight quarterly jump, the association said Monday.

"Clearly, due to the economic recovery, as well as regulatory factors ... we are seeing the market for good, quality drivers tighten," said Bob Costello, the group's chief economist. "As our tonnage index has shown recently, demand for freight continues to rise, so we expect the need for quality drivers to become more acute going forward."

That supply could tighten even more if government safety regulations force some current drivers to leave the industry and require trucking companies to put more big rigs on the road, Costello said.

The turnover rate hit a low point in the first quarter of 2010 but since then has climbed by 50 percentage points, the trucking association said. The average rate so far this year is 81%.

Among smaller companies, the turnover rate rose to 57% in the third quarter, its highest level in three years, the association said.

The American Trucking Assn. is the largest national trade group for the trucking industry, with affiliated groups in all 50 states.


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-- Marc Lifsher

Photo: Trucks on the Long Beach Freeway going to and from the nearby shipping ports. Credit: Brian Vander Brug / Los Angeles Times