Recruiting and retaining qualified truck drivers is and always has been a top-tier concern for nearly all transportation companies, from large national operations down to midsize regionals and small family-owned companies with annual revenues of less than $5 million.
The only known published study that’s ever addressed the industry’s average cost to recruit truck drivers was performed by the Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute back in 2001. In that now-dated report, the average cost to replace a driver was estimated to be $8,200. The Bureau of Labor Statistics consumer price index says that the number in today’s dollars would be over $14,000. Expenses that contribute to driver turnover costs include recruiting, hiring, testing and screening, training and situationally dependent sitting product costs for delayed deliveries. Given those high-profile outlays, retention efforts are paramount.
In 2021 and into 2022, trucking companies have also seen the cost of retaining current drivers grow. According to the American Transportation Research Institute’s cost of trucking report released this past August, driver wages and benefits in 2021 now account for 44% of the total average marginal motor carrier costs, followed by fuel costs at 22% and truck/trailer lease or purchase payments at 15%. The study notes that drivers’ wages have reached a record high, with the per-mile basis increasing 56.6 cents to 62.7 cents, or around 10.8%, from 2020 to 2021.
Following a regressive 2019 and 2020, when the industry saw declines in total marginal costs per mile, last year saw the highest costs ever recorded, which has impacted many trucking companies’ gross margin as a percentage in 2021 and into 2022. Those organizations are closely monitoring the industry outlook and, depending on movements in the market, will need to be nimble in combatting the marginal costs per mile.
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