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 was visited by over 4.7 million users. Over 3.8 million unique users visited using a mobile device, over 820k visited using a computer, and over 120k visited using a tablet.
For Driver Recruiting campaigns managed by Randall-Reilly:
Trucking market conditions continue to be very favorable for carriers, and conditions are still forecast to remain very favorable through the end of the year before declining modestly through 2022—but remaining positive for carriers.
While lead costs (CPL) remain elevated from pre-Covid levels, average overall CPL in August is on pace to drop by 17% from July. Recent trends have seen average CPL rise in the second half of the month, so August’s average CPL will likely rise some, but it will almost certainly finish with its lowest average CPL since March. This decrease in CPL could be due in part to a lower ratio of available loads to trucks on the spot market, as this has tended to correlate with the number of drivers in the job search market.
Both company driver and student campaigns are on pace to have double-digit decreases in CPL month-over-month (MoM).
July’s hire costs (CPH) increased MoM for both company driver and owner-operator campaigns due to decreases in hire rates.
On the surface, the increases in CPH and rising LTH numbers suggest that drivers were much more hesitant to change jobs in July. While this may well have been the case, it is important to consider that July only had four Mondays—and the first Monday of the month was an observed holiday. Most fleets have driver orientations on Monday, so the lack of orientation days likely affected July’s CPH. By contrast, August will have five Mondays, so even if the driver market wouldn’t change from July, CPH would decrease in August.
 August stats are taken from campaign performance between August 1 and 15.
Click costs (CPC) remain elevated but seem to have stabilized for the most part. Search and Facebook CPC have stayed within a percentage point or two over the past three months (for Facebook) and four months (for Search).
Through the first half of August, average overall cost per lead (CPL) is on pace to drop by 17% from July. Recent trends have seen average CPL rise in the second half of the month, so August’s average CPL will likely rise. Even so, it will almost certainly finish with the lowest average CPL since March. This decrease in CPL could be due in part to a lower ratio of available loads to trucks on the spot market since this has tended to correlate with the number of drivers in the job search market.
Student campaigns are on pace to be lower than in August of both 2020 and 2019. Recent data suggesting that driving schools are booked full and CDL numbers are up further back up this trend [see ‘Market Information’ section for more information] and suggest that more potential drivers are wanting to get a CDL and begin driving.
In August, the average CPL for company drivers is on pace to be lower than the average CPL for owner-operators for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic. While it is likely the average CPL for Company Drivers will rise over the second half of August, this indicates that the driver market may be normalizing a bit. Owner-operator CPL has held steady for the last four months, so it is less likely that its CPL will rise in the back half of August.
Note that year-over-year (YoY) comparisons are beginning to shift as costs began to rise significantly in H2 2020. Comparing to 2019 numbers will better show how the current situation relates to a more normal market.
Average hire costs (CPH) for both company driver and owner-operator campaigns saw substantial increases in July due to decreases in hire rates.
The average CPH for company driver campaigns in July rose to its highest level on record and was over 115% more expensive than in July 2020 and 2019. The lead-to-hire ratio (LTH) is at its highest point since June 2020.
July’s owner-operator CPH rose by over 50% from June but remains in line with 2019’s CPH. LTH rose to its highest point since this past January.
On the surface, the increases in CPH and rising LTH numbers suggest that drivers were much more hesitant to change jobs in July. While this may well have been the case, it is important to consider that July only had four Mondays—and the first Monday of the month was an observed holiday. Most fleets have driver orientations on Monday, so the lack of orientation days likely affected July’s CPH. By contrast, August will have five Mondays, so even if the driver market wouldn’t change from July, CPH would decrease in August. As a result, it is quite likely that August’s CPH will be lower than July’s.
Visitors to Randall-Reilly recruiting landing pages (called ‘users’ below) are on pace to increase in August, and they are also spending more time on the websites and converting more frequently. These all suggest that drivers are more interested in finding a new driving job than they were in July.
While the number of multicarrier applicants is on pace to be down slightly from July, applicant numbers remain well above numbers from this spring.
The number of job seekers on job boards continue to closely resemble the numbers seen before Covid, while the number of truck driving jobs posted on job boards has stabilized at a very elevated number. Furthermore, the number of employers seeking truck drivers remains far above levels seen in prior years.
Comparing July 2021 to July 2019, there were nearly 60,000 fewer people searching for driving jobs (-4%), and at the same time, there were over 140,000 more jobs available for these searchers (+69%). As a result, the number of job seekers per job remains far below pre-Covid levels.
Trucking market conditions continue to be very favorable for carriers, and conditions are still forecast to remain very favorable through the end of the year before declining modestly through 2022—but remaining positive for carriers. FTR’s freight outlook forecast for 2022 is a 3.1% gain from 2021, which is slightly weaker than their previous estimate.
The outlook for truckload rates has barely changed in the last month: FTR forecasts total rates to be up nearly 18% YoY in 2021. Spot rates look to rise 27% YoY, while contract rates are expected to be up 13%. It appears that contract prices have plateaued for this freight cycle, at least on the dry van side. FTR’s 2022 outlook is that rates will decline by 0.8% from 2021. The forecast is for spot rates to fall 7.6% while contract rates rise by 3.4%.
June posted the strongest seasonally-adjusted payroll employment gain of the year, but payroll employment is still 38,300 jobs below February 2020’s level (-2.5%). After adding nearly 29,000 jobs in Q4 2020, trucking has added a net of just 7,600 jobs through the first half of 2021. Data from the BLS shows that drivers continue to shift from OTR to Local routes, so the decrease in drivers is especially felt by carriers running OTR routes.
The number of recent graduates from driving schools has increased substantially in 2021: on average, 50,000 CDLs have been issued per month. This is 60% higher than in 2020 and 14% higher than in 2019. Additionally, many trucking schools have classes booked for several months out. The influx of new drivers should help carriers who hire drivers with little experience soon, but carriers that require a year or more of experience will continue to deal with the effects of 2020’s low CDL numbers for a while yet.
The number of newly authorized small carriers continues to surge, and many of these drivers are not captured in payroll data. This suggests that many drivers may be becoming owner-operators and are no longer in employment data but continue to haul freight. In this past, many small carriers have exited the business quickly once spot rates fell and carriers’ margins evaporated. While some of these drivers leave the industry, many return to larger carriers as either leased operators or company drivers. So, when rates drop, it is likely that there will be a surge of available drivers for both carriers hiring company drivers and leasing owner-operators.
On the other hand, it is likely that current drivers may leave the industry in greater numbers than in the past. If the recently passed infrastructure bill is signed into law, it will benefit the transportation industry in the long run, but it will diminish available labor in the short term. Domestic manufacturing would get a massive boost from the bill, and that will mean that the industrial sector will be looking for workers and paying higher wages to attract them. Construction of these new infrastructure projects will require physical labor, which will also compete for labor with trucking. Add warehousing to store these goods, and you can imagine just how difficult it will be for trucking fleets to compete for labor.
Carriers will almost certainly have to continue to raise wages to compete with jobs in these industries, but they should have unparalleled pricing power due to the needed increase in capacity to complete the infrastructure projects.
 Market information taken from:
Fuller, Craig. “Trucking rate relief in 2022? Not so fast.” 13 Aug 2021, FreightWaves.
FTR. “Trucking Update: August 2021.” 30 Jul 2021, FTR.
Hollis, David. “Podcast: CDL training rebounds after COVID interruption.” 20 Jul 2021, Truckers News.
Miller, Jason. LinkedIn postings (multiple). Aug 2021, Michigan State University.