Latest BLS jobs report bodes well for the trucking industry

Transportation management software is capable of eliminating many of the problems associated with driver retention in the trucking industry. Earlier this year, the American Trucking Associations (ATA) released data highlighting a substantial increase in employment turnover rates among large freight carriers between 2012 and 2013. According to the report, the third quarter rate for the number of employees leaving their current jobs nearly reached 100 percent.

"Continued high turnover shows that the market for qualified, experienced drivers remains extremely tight," ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello stated during the official release of the report in October. "The continued improvement in the freight economy, coupled with regulatory challenges from the changing hours-of-service rule and [compliance, safety and accountability] will only serve to put a further squeeze on the market for drivers."

A sign of recovery
The most recent national employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) may come as positive news for many fleet owners. However, automated tools such as trucking dispatch software and routing software can make it easier for managers to take full advantage of available resources while the industry continues to recover from a driver shortage. The online economic news publication Quartz said the latest jobs report revealed overall unemployment across the country fell to 7 percent in November from 7.3 percent in October. The current rate is the lowest that number has been since 2008, when businesses were just starting to feel the negative effects of the Great Recession. The website attributed the spike in employment largely to the fact that the federal government started back up in November after a temporary shutdown resulting from a political stalemate over budget issues in Congress.

The industry publication Commercial Carrier Journal said of the 203,000 payroll jobs added during the month across all sectors of the U.S. economy, 2,400 came specifically from the trucking industry. In comparison, freight organizations only added 800 new jobs in October. Actual employment levels may even be much higher because the BLS only measures data in the for-hire trucking industry and doesn't include related jobs, such as drivers or private fleet operators. In other words, the number of people employed in transportation-related jobs may ultimately serve to reduce industry-wide turnover rates.

Managing new business activity
However, there continues to be an especially large demand for reliable, efficient ground transportation in the U.S. For example, the magazine Fleet Owner reported freight tonnage in September 2013 was 5.4 percent higher than it was during the same month in 2012. A boost in business activity from the oil and gas sector is primarily responsible for these trends. Housing construction jobs also tend to inflate the number of work opportunities available for people in the trucking industry. The Los Angeles Times said an uptick in employment may also have a multiplying effect on the overall economic recovery.

"More jobs, and the paychecks that go with them, may help drive up consumption growth through the first quarter, and support a continuation of the housing market recovery," Kathy Bostjancic, director of macroeconomic analysis at the Conference Board, told The Times. 

As drivers age and new state and federal regulations place greater limits on the number of consecutive hours companies can assign their employees, freight organizations must think of creative solutions for avoiding the negative effects of high employee turnover. As the economy makes its slow and steady recovery from the Great Recession, advanced technology may be one of the most reliable tools for streamlining operations.

In the face of driver shortages, fleet managers can use trucking dispatch software to make assignments, schedule pickups and leverage automated tools to complete more work with fewer resources. High turnover rates may also require drivers to complete more deliveries on a regular basis. Direct route software can be a valuable companion to any business owner who depends on the ability to reduce the amount of time it takes to complete individual shipments and avoid excessive fuel costs. This particular software can identify the fastest travel routes, ultimately allowing existing employees to make full use of their time on the clock. Completing shorter, faster trips will likely have a positive impact on long-term productivity for most firms.