The following metrics are sourced from truck driver recruiting campaigns managed by Randall Reilly. Recent trends are detailed below in an effort to review driver employment activity.
In the past 12 months, the network of unique driver recruiting landing pages maintained by Randall Reilly has been visited by over 5.8 million users. Over 4.8 million unique users visited using a mobile device, 900k visited using a computer, and over 120k visited using a tablet.
Freight volume and rates continue to be quite favorable for carriers, and more people searched for truck driving jobs on Indeed in December than any other month on record. But those drivers still have their pick from many different jobs since the number of truck driving jobs posted remains very elevated, and advertised salaries for these jobs continue to rise.
Through the first half of January, the average cost per lead (CPL) has decreased by 17% from December. While this number may likely rise some in the second half of the month, the underlying data (e.g. click costs and number of people searching for jobs) are strong; this decreases the likelihood that CPL will spike in the back half of January.
Average hire costs (CPH) for December rose to their highest level on record for both company driver and owner-operator campaigns.
Expect CPH to drop significantly in January. Not only is there likely a backlog of drivers from December needing to go through orientation, but lower lead costs in January should begin to result in lower CPHs. Furthermore, there are five Mondays in January, so there is an extra orientation day for carriers to get drivers officially hired.
January click costs (CPC) for Search, Facebook, and Display are all on pace to finish at least 10% lower than December’s CPC.
Decreases in Search CPC suggest that there is elevated driver interest for truck driving jobs. Search CPC is on pace to be at its lowest level since July 2020.
Decreases in Facebook and Display CPC both indicate that there is less competition for the ad space, and increased driver interest is likely pushing CPC down further. Facebook CPC is on track to be at its lowest since last January.
As predicted in last month’s report, December’s cost per lead (CPL) average rose during the second half of the month because of decreased driver job search activity over the holidays at the end of the month and the Randall Reilly digital marketing team front-loading some budgets to increase campaign efficiency.
Through the first half of January, all driver types are on pace to see a double-digit percentage decrease in CPL from December. The pattern has been for CPLs to creep up in the back half of the month, even when there isn’t a holiday toward the end of the month that decreases traffic (like there is in November and December). Because of this, expect January’s final CPL to rise some from where it is now.
Lower CPC [see ‘Click Costs Averages’ above] and an increased pool of drivers searching for jobs [see ‘External Market Trends’ below] provide optimism that lead costs will finish lower than they have in some time.
While click and lead costs are now trending downwards, in December hire costs (CPH) rose to the highest level on record for both company driver and owner-operator campaigns. Usually, hire costs rise in December, but last year they did not. This could be an indication that the market may be beginning to move in similar cycles as it had pre-pandemic, albeit at higher costs than were previously seen.
Hire costs tend to rise in December because it is difficult to get drivers in for orientation around the holidays, and this backlog of drivers are officially hired in January. The underlying fundamentals of company driver campaigns’ average CPL and lead-to-hire ratio (LTH) did not change much. This suggests that there is likely a backlog of company drivers to be hired in January. Conversely, the large increase in owner-operator LTH is something to monitor.
Expect CPH to drop significantly in January. Not only is there a likely backlog of drivers from December, but lower lead costs in January should begin to result in lower CPHs. Furthermore, there are five Mondays in January, so there is an extra orientation day for carriers to get drivers officially hired.
The increase in landing page users on Randall Reilly recruiting pages and the decline in multicarrier applications suggests that drivers may have greater interest in picking exactly who they are applying to than they have in the past few months.
Once on a recruiting landing page, users are averaging the same amount of time on the page as in December, but they are converting at a slightly lower rate. The drop in conversion rate does not match the increase in users visiting landing pages, so conversions are up in January.
In December, the number of job seekers rose to its highest level on record. This is surely good news for carriers looking to fill truck seats, but competition for the drivers remains high. While the number of job seekers per job is higher than it was a year ago, the ratio is still much lower than pre-pandemic numbers.
Comparing December 2021 to December 2019, there were 24% more people searching for driving jobs (+309,500), but there were 117% more jobs available (+213,000) for these searchers.
Trucking conditions continue to be quite favorable for carriers through Q1 2022, and projections for the rest of 2022 continue to be advantageous for carriers. High diesel prices in October and November hindered trucking conditions for carriers, but diesel prices fell steadily in December and are not expected to have much effect on trucking conditions through H1 2022.
The outlook for truckload freight rates continues to be good and is a bit stronger than last month’s forecast: FTR forecasts total rates in 2022 to be 2.7% higher, excluding fuel, than 2021 rates, which were up more than 19% from 2020. Contract rates are now expected to be 5.9% higher in 2022, while spot rates are expected to be less than 3% lower in 2022.
Freight volumes continue to remain strong and are expected to grow in 2022 and again in 2023. After a 5% increase in truck loadings in 2021 from 2020, FTR expects a 3.9% increase in 2022 compared to 2021, and they are projecting a 3.2% increase in 2023 from 2022. FTR expects the growth to mostly come from increases in loadings for construction and bulk aggregates.
However, Jason Miller, associate professor of supply chain management at Michigan State University, cautions that retail sales have been extremely high for the past year and a half, and that there will likely be regression toward the past retail sales trendline in 2022 due to no additional stimulus, student loan deferrals ending in May, and the increased possibility of COVID-19 becoming an endemic disease in the year, which will likely open up additional spending on services. If he is correct, there will be less need to restock inventory. Miller also expects that some industries that have adjusted to a leaner inventory model (e.g. clothing) will not restock to pre-pandemic inventory levels, further decreasing the number of truck loads needed for restocking inventories.
Hiring drivers remains difficult for carriers, but there are finally some signs that hiring may soon pick up. The number of job seekers on Indeed for truck driver job postings in December rose to its highest level on record (their data goes back to March 2019). However, competition for these drivers remains fierce: there are more than twice as many jobs available as there were in in the months before the pandemic started. Carriers have responded to this increased competition by raising wages: Indeed’s average advertised salary on truck driver postings has risen by over $16,000 from last December (from $61,300 in Dec ’20 to $77,350 in Dec ’21, a 26% increase).
In recent weeks, the trucking industry has had some success in adding drivers. As a result, active truck utilization has eased below 98% for the first time since February. FTR expects active truck utilization to remain above 96% through 2023 due to strong freight demand and slow truck production leading to a massive backlog.