Truck Driver Recruitment Refocused on Pay During Q1

Report Finds Competition for Their Services Intensified
Truck driver in cab
Compensation overtook equipment as the top issue for truck drivers for the first time since the fourth quarter of 2022, according to the PDA and CIA report for the first quarter of 2024. (welcomia/Getty Images)

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Truck driver recruitment and retention continued to face downward pressure in the first quarter because of overcapacity, but there have been signs that competition for drivers is starting to increase.

“There’s just a lot of overcapacity,” said Tom Bray, senior industry business adviser at J.J. Keller & Associates. “We had the whole COVID drop, and we had the COVID spike, and now we’re getting back to normal. So, the problem is suddenly we have all this excess capacity in the industry. Plus, there’s macroeconomic changes going on.”

Bray added that drivers are facing a lot of uncertainty in the current market. That includes corrections such as carriers and owner-operators shutting down since there isn’t as much freight as there was previously. But he also pointed out the consumer side of the economy is doing well, and freight is still moving.

“Whenever something like this happens, the drivers tend to hunker down where they are,” Bray said. “Carriers aren’t offering big bonuses to try to hire drivers away from each other. But they’re not putting big efforts into giving raises to retain the drivers they have because the drivers they have just seem to be hanging on.”

Tom Bray, an industry consultant at J.J. Keller


The Q1 2024 Driver Recruiting & Retention Data Download Report, produced by the Professional Driver Agency (PDA) and Conversion Interactive Agency, found that competition for drivers intensified during the first quarter with driver leads from social media ads growing 109% from the prior quarter, and driver job postings increasing 39% from March to April.

“We often look at the ratio of truck driver jobs to truck driver job seekers as an indicator of the market intensifying, and truck driver job postings have increased over the past 60 days, while the number of job seekers in the market is also growing,” said Priscilla Peters, vice president of marketing at Conversion. “More job postings are an indicator that carriers are expecting improvement in freight volume.”

PDA-CIA Data Download Q1 2024

The report also found compensation overtook equipment as the top issue for drivers for the first time since the fourth quarter of 2022. It noted that compensation was the top issue for retention at 31.6%, followed by equipment (31%) and operations (19%). The report also stated that the specific compensation issues have shifted.

“Drivers complaining about miles or lack of freight, that has slowly come down, and drivers complaining about their pay rate is going up,” said Scott Dismuke, PDA vice president of operations. “I think probably the biggest takeaway I had in this report is the shift in data.”

Scott Dismuke


Dismuke said miles and a lack of freight remained the top issues for compensation since the start of the freight recession, but they have been slowly chipped away by drivers wanting better rates. He believes rates have become more critical because drivers understand there is a lack of freight available across the industry.

“I think that ultimately what we’re dealing with here is drivers have come to the realization that they know that the freight recession isn’t a carrier-specific issue,” Dismuke said. “It is an industrywide issue. And so right now, it is all about the predictability. And to be honest with you, a lot of companies, even during COVID, started looking at that guaranteed pay model.”

MG Truck Driving School in Glendale, Ariz., notes the carriers it works with have not been able to attract enough drivers. But it’s not because the freight environment is improving; instead, it has to do with the disproportionate number of drivers at retirement age.

Russell Hoyt


“The fact is, nobody wants to drive and we have a whole generation retiring,” said Russell Hoyt, director of education at MG Truck Driving School. “I think that’s where the growth mainly is. It’s not necessarily that the economy is changing in a positive way. It doesn’t have anything to do with manufacturing at all. In fact, as you probably know, manufacturing is down. Everything is down.”

To Hoyt, the current freight market has only made the situation worse. He has seen some older drivers decide to retire since the lack of freight means less paid miles. Basically, they see little point sticking around into retirement age if the pay is less.

“Freight has dropped and in some instances, because the miles aren’t there, the pay quarterly, yearly, has dropped for drivers,” Hoyt said. “And because of that, the older drivers, too, that are used to the higher wage, that can retire, they’re opting out as well — not just because of age but because of the pay.”

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