Monthly Driver Recruiting Trends – February 2021
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 were visited by over 2.7 million users. Over 2.1 million unique users visited using a mobile device, over 490k visited using a computer, and over 75k visited using a tablet.
For Driver Recruiting campaigns managed by Randall-Reilly:
- Drivers submitted over 933k unique leads to 1,030 different clients through Randall-Reilly advertising campaigns.
- 60k unique driver contacts submitted 483k unique forms to various fleets.
- 330k unique driver callers made 451k unique call leads to fleets.
As predicted in last month’s newsletter, January did not offer any relief from the high cost per lead (CPL) and cost per hire (CPH) averages seen in recent months. Carriers’ continued need for additional drivers coupled with both fewer total CDL-A drivers and a reluctance by current drivers to change jobs [see “Market Information”] suggest these high costs will continue for at least the next several months.
January CPH averages actually rose month-over-month (MoM) and were at or among the highest levels seen since tracking began nearly two years ago.
- Company Driver average CPH rose to its highest level on record.
- Owner-Operator average CPH rose to its second-highest level on record.
February’s1 overall average CPL continues to tick upwards and is on pace have the highest average CPL on record.
- Company Driver average CPL is on pace to rise slightly MoM and be 65% higher year-over-year (YoY).
- Owner-Operator average CPL is on pace to be 58% higher YoY.
1 February stats are taken from campaign performance between February 1 and 15.
Click Cost Averages
Search click costs (CPC) continue to trend down through the first half of February after a decrease in January. CPC is on pace to be its lowest since last August.
Through the first half of February, Facebook’s CPC is on pace to be at its highest point in the past two years, indicating that competition on Facebook is high while driver interest is low.
Display CPC is rising and has closely matched YoY trends from December through the first half of February.
Click-through rates (CTR) are low for all three channels. This suggests that drivers are not as interested in finding new employment at this time as they have been in the past, since they are clicking on a smaller percentage of driver job advertisements that are served to them.
Cost Per Lead Averages
Lead cost averages continue to tick upward. The combination of carriers’ needs for additional drivers, current drivers’ hesitancy in changing jobs, and a decrease in the overall number of drivers have driven average CPL to all-time highs.
Company Driver, Owner-Operator, and Team campaigns’ average CPL are all at their highest point in the past two years (we do not have data split out by driver type before March 2019). All three have an average CPL of at least 58% higher than last February.
Student campaign CPL continues to be more in line with last year’s numbers. The small sample size makes it difficult to determine whether this represents trends across all student campaigns.
Hire Costs & Rates
In normal years, the average cost per hire (CPH) decreases in January as a larger number of drivers are looking to switch carriers and carriers seek to capitalize on lower hire costs. However, this year there was no relief, and hire costs remained elevated.
High costs per lead continue to drive high CPH for both Company Driver and Owner-Operator campaigns. Both Company Driver and Owner-Operator hire rates are slightly better than last January’s hire rate, but CPH is 84% and 90% more expensive, respectively.
Owner-Operator CPH was much lower in December due to very good hire rates and a lower average CPL. Bringing one’s truck to a carrier can save Owner-Operators the costs of renewing base plates and registration fees, and this likely played a part in the better CPH and hire rate. It is worth noting that December 2019 did not see a similar improvement, so this likely does not fully explain the dramatic change.
The underlying data suggests that CPHs will remain elevated until the market shifts, either from decreasing competition from carriers, which should improve hire rate, or from an influx of drivers looking to switch jobs, which would decrease CPL. Neither of these are likely to happen soon.
Other Digital Trends
Conversion rates and average session durations on Randall-Reilly built landing pages continue to decline, further indicating that driver interest in finding a new driving job is diminishing. Both conversion rates and average session duration are at their lowest point since the pandemic began.
While the overall number of unique visitors to Randall-Reilly built landing pages has risen in January and February, this is due to managing increased client budgets, as the number of visitors (users) per dollar is down slightly.
External Market Trends
Truck driving jobs posted on job boards only rose by 3% MoM in January. This is the first month with less than double-digit MoM job posting increases since last spring. While the number of job seekers for trucking jobs increased again in January, it was a small increase in comparison to previous Januarys.
In January 2021 there were nearly 314,000 more job postings for truck drivers than January 2020, but there were 170,000 fewer drivers searching for these postings. Last year in January there were three times the number of drivers searching per available job as compared to this year.These numbers show just how extremely competitive the hiring market is right now.
Forecasts suggest that contract rates will increase between 8% and 15% in 2021 YoY, and in the past few weeks average contract rates have risen above average spot rates. While this will diminish spot rates in the long term, spot rates will likely continue to be high through the summer.
The elevated spot market prices will continue because the supply chain is stretched so tightly that any little disruption becomes magnified. For example, the winter storms in the past week have caused a larger disruption than they would have in past years because there is no slack in the supply chain to compensate for missed routes. Furthermore, port activity will continue to bolster spot rates: port imports are bottlenecked and there is no end in sight to the backlog.
Freight demand will likely taper as early as Q3 2021 (or as late as Q1 2022) as consumers pivot towards spending for experiences such as travel, concerts, restaurants, etc., that have been limited by the pandemic. Before that, manufacturing will continue to expand through the summer, and e-commerce shopping for durable goods will likely continue to be robust. Overall, trucking activity is back to 2019 levels, but it does not seem likely that 2021 activity will increase much beyond what was seen in 2019.
The biggest question now is how carriers will fill their new trucks as they become available. Trucking industry employment is down 20,000 jobs YoY, and there were a lot fewer CDLs issued in 2020 than 2019—as many as 200,000 fewer, according to some analyses. Long distance trucking employment has been most affected (down 6.4% YoY in July) as drivers are shifting to regional, local, and last-mile delivery jobs that are a byproduct of the increase in e-commerce spending.
There’s a very real possibility that the tough driver market could become even tougher over the next few months, causing the carriers with superior operating models—those that can attract and retain good drivers—to benefit. The Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse’s removal of drivers from eligibility and training schools’ class size restrictions continue to play a part in the difficulty to find drivers. Furthermore, previous Randall-Reilly studies have shown that one-quarter of drivers that apply for a new driving job are doing so because they aren’t getting the miles they want. In the current market, there isn’t a shortage of miles, which removes approximately 25% of the normal driver pool that is looking for a new job in a given month. 2
2Market information taken from:
DAT. “2021 Freight Focus: The Transportation & Logistics Outlook.” Feb 2021, DAT.
FTR. “State of Freight Insights.” 12 Feb 2021. FTR
FTR. “Trucking Update: February 2021.” 29 Jan 2021, FTR.
Lintner, Kyle. “The Week in Preview.” 17 Feb 2021, K-Ratio.
Miller, Jason. LinkedIn postings (multiple). Feb 2021, Michigan State University.
Reid, Nick. Discussion. 18 Jan 2021, Randall-Reilly.
Strickland, Zach and Anthony Smith. “FreightWaves Market Update Webinar.” 9 Feb 2021, FreightWaves.
U.S. Department of Transportation. “Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse: December 2020 Monthly Summary Report.” 14 Jan 2021, FMCSA.
U.S. Xpress. “2021 Economic Outlook.” 20 Jan 2021, U.S. Xpress.