Freight Volumes, Driver Pay on the Rise

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Freight volumes and driver pay will continue on an upward swing as the economy grows, Bob Costello, vice president and chief economist at the American Trucking Associations, told NATSO Show attendees Feb. 18.

Speaking at The NATSO Show in Las Vegas, Nev., Costello said that economic growth has resulted in an acceleration in volume for carriers.  Dry van freight, which makes up about 50 percent of all truckload freight, increased 2.4 percent in 2014.

Intermodal freight decreased 1.3 percent, said Costello, and in some cases returned to the highways.

Costello forecast 2015 GDP growth to be the best since 2005, meanwhile consumer spending will grow 3.6 percent. 

Despite growing freight demand, fleets will struggle to add capacity amid an inability to find drivers. 

“I would be very hard pressed to find a trucking company that doesn’t want to add trucks. But why can’t they? They can’t find the drivers,” Costello said.

The trucking industry for years has grappled with a driver shortage, with the current shortfall near 40,000 drivers.

Fleets increasingly are offering financial incentives to seat tractors, including 10 percent to 15 percent base pay increases. Nearly 50 percent of for-hire carriers and one-third of private fleets now offer a sign-on bonus, he said.

Driver pay increases from fleets coupled with a 15 percent jump in spot market rates also are generating a shift in the number of company drivers versus owner operators, he said.

The average length of haul is on the rise after several years of decline. Length of haul increased 0.2 percent in 2014 after dropping 1.3 percent and 1.4 percent in 2012 and 2013, respectively.

Costello said that the average miles-per-gallon for tractors is on the rise, with the trucks coming off of the assembly line averaging close to eight miles-per-gallon.

Photo Credit: Chuck Fazio/NATSO

Mindy Long's photo

Mindy Long

Before launching a full-time freelance career, Long edited NATSO's Stop Watch magazine. Prior to that Long worked as a staff reporter for Transport Topics, a weekly trade newspaper, covering freight transportation, fuel and environmental issues. In addition to covering the transportation sector, Long has written, reported and edited for a variety of media outlets. She was the Washington correspondent for WCAX-TV (CBS) in Burlington, Vt., a criminal court reporter in Chicago and a freelance copy editor for Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine in Washington D.C. Long hold a master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism in Evanston, Ill., and a bachelor’s degree in Communications from Westminster College in Salt Lake City.More
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