Transport Capital Partners’ (TCP) 2012 Q4 Business Expectations survey found that 82% of the carriers surveyed are “willing to support allowing younger, properly trained drivers to enter the [trucking] driving pool.” TCP noted that this finding comes in the wake of a hike in driver turnover to over 100% in 2012 Q3 that is pushing carriers to look at new ways of attracting quality, long-term drivers.

Carriers with revenues over $25 million were slightly more supportive regarding “younger, properly trained drivers” than smaller carriers, per the survey - 86% vs. 77%. 

“Most carriers know that turnover levels have doubled since the recession, which has continued to negatively impact our industry,” said Richard Mikes, TCP partner. “Past surveys have indicated that pay must go up to significantly higher levels over the long-term.”

He also pointed that “once construction and manufacturing begin to ramp up, many drivers will leave ‘the wheel’ for more family friendly time at home. Driver attraction and retention will continue to be an important issue for carriers.”

Currently, according to TCP, only 30% of the carriers surveyed hire “inexperienced entry-level drivers.” The firm noted that larger carriers are “more inclined to spend the time, money, and effort to develop entry-level drivers than smaller carriers (38% vs. 12%).”

While only a third of the carriers currently use entry-level drivers, in the future 51% reported they expect to utilize inexperienced, entry-level drivers and will be training them. Larger carriers see this option at a rate of 2:1 to the smaller carriers (62% vs. 28%).

“Investment in effective training programs will be essential to our industry,” remarked Steven Dutro, TCP partner. “Those who are successful in properly training and developing loyalty will gain a real competitive advantage. Developing the proper programs and corporate culture should be considered a critical investment in the future.”

Regardless of how carriers find drivers, the survey also found that the respondents “all acknowledge they are going to have to pay them more.” Sixty-six percent expect that driver wages will increase up to 5%, down slightly from six months ago when 71% were expecting wage increases.

“Current operating margins allow little room to raise driver compensation levels,” noted Mikes. “Everyone in the supply chain needs to recognize the critical need to pay a little more to keep quality drivers moving the freight.”