Due to the driver shortage/turnover issue that is again plaguing over-the-road trucking, more motor carriers are looking into hiring inexperienced drivers and are seeking them out at truck-driver training schools.

That’s the key finding of the American Trucking Assn.’s (ATA) just published Benchmarking Guide for Driver Recruitment and Retention. The new guide, which ATA is selling, runs 92 pages and contains data and anecdotal information based on interviews with more than 50 fleets, which together run over 130,000 trucks and manage more than 155,000 drivers and contractors. 

 “As the economy continues to recover, fleets need to work even harder to keep up with demand – and in turn – they need to focus more time and attention on recruiting and retaining drivers,” pointed out ATA president & CEO Gov. Bill Graves “This report shows how some of our industry’s leading authorities are doing just that.” 

“We found more and more carriers are considering hiring inexperienced drivers and are turning to truck driver training schools to help them place those drivers,” said ATA chief economist Bob Costello, who conducted the survey.

“Demand for new, inexperienced drivers is likely to increase at a faster pace than in the past,” he continued. “Fifty-six percent of truckload fleets we spoke with said while they currently do not hire inexperienced drivers, they are considering hiring these drivers.” 

Costello also related that half of the respondents that had their own driver-training school but had closed it in recent years said they “would consider reopening the school if they can’t get enough new drivers from their school partners. However, they all said this would be a last resort and that they would prefer not to reopen the school.”

According to the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI), a nonprofit that certifies driver-training courses and is managed under contract by the Truckload Carriers Assn. (TCA), truck driver-training programs that recently received course recertification from PTDI expect the combination of the driver shortage and increased regulations will benefit their programs.

Larry Fishman, campus president forAll-State Careerof Baltimore, told PTDI that its driver program is in greater demand.  “Our truck-driving program has always been our backbone,” Fishman said, “but it’s been interesting employers are banging on our doors. One guy came looking for 70 drivers.”

And Randy Zimmerman, coordinator of training at Lehigh Career and Technical Institute in Schnecksville, PA , said Lehigh has experienced “an increasein requests for our drivers since last July” and that he expects carriers’ requests for their graduates will continue to increase, as will the number of students in the program.

Last month, ATA reported that after a one-quarter reprieve, the annualized turnover rate for large truckload fleets rose slightly in the first quarter of 2012 while small truckload fleets saw a tremendous surge in turnover. 

According to Costello, the turnover rate for large truckload fleets rose two percentage points to 90%-- marking its highest point since the first quarter of 2008. But at truckload fleets with less than $30 million in revenue, turnover jumped 16 percentage points to 71% in the first quarter– for its highest level since the second quarter of 2008.

Costello added that turnover at less-than-truckload carriers remained “remarkably low,” at just 8% . However, that was up one percentage point from the previous quarter.

“We were surprised that the [large truckload] turnover rate dipped in the fourth quarter,” Costello noted “This report of a slight rise at large fleets and a significant increase at smaller fleets matches up with what we hear regarding the health of the industry, the tightening of the labor market for drivers and demand for good, quality, experienced drivers.”

The ATA benchmarking guide’s data is broken down by carrier type and it covers such topics as driver profiles, driver hiring and recruiting practices, and driver- training school usage. It may be purchased as a downloadable PDF or as a book through ATA Business Solutions by clicking here or by calling 1-866-821-3468.