The following metrics are sourced from truck driver recruiting campaigns managed by Randall Reilly. Recent trends are detailed below 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 6.8 million users. Over 5.9 million users visited using a mobile device, 820k visited using a computer, and 130k visited using a tablet.
For Driver Recruiting campaigns managed by Randall Reilly, in the past 12 months
Drivers’ high job search intent is causing lead and hire costs to fall to levels not seen since the pandemic-disrupted months in 2020.
Drivers are spending more time on recruiting landing pages and are converting on those pages at the highest rate since March 2020. The great conversion rate combined with low click costs has resulted in lead costs falling to their lowest point since September 2020.
The decline in lead costs over the past few months is lowering average hire costs.
While metrics indicate that recruiting drivers is becoming easier, trucking companies are running into other headwinds. FTR’s Trucking Conditions Index, which measures things like freight, rates, and costs, shows that increases in costs and decreases in rates are creating slightly negative conditions for carriers, and they expect these slightly negative conditions for carriers through at least the first half of 2023.
Click costs (CPC) are on pace to rise slightly in September, but Search and Facebook click costs remain lower than they have been in the past year or two. Search CPC is on pace to have its third-lowest cost since July 2020 (only the past two months have a lower CPC), while Facebook’s click cost is on pace to be at its second-lowest point since January 2021.
Display CPC continues to be higher than in past years, mainly because the digital marketing team at Randall Reilly is focusing on improving lead counts from display ads rather than click counts.
August’s overall average cost per lead (CPL) fell to its lowest point since September 2020. Through the first half of September, the overall average lead cost is on pace to inch up 1% from August.
All tracked experienced driver types are on pace to have their CPL increase by between 3% and 7% in September.
Student campaign CPL remains very low compared to historical performance. September’s lead costs are on pace to be at their second lowest point on record; only July’s CPL was lower.
Lower lead costs continue to push hire costs (CPH) lower.
For company driver campaigns, the average lead-to-hire ratio (LTH) has held quite steady for the past five months. This has resulted in a fairly linear decrease in CPH as lead costs continue to fall. The average CPH for company driver campaigns is at its lowest point in August since March 2021.
Conversely, the LTH for owner-operator campaigns in August improved significantly from the past few months and is at its third-lowest value on record. The improvement of LTH combined with lower lead costs caused August’s average owner-operator CPH to fall to its lowest point since September 2020.
Driver behavior on recruiting landing pages indicates that there are slightly fewer drivers coming to these landing pages, but those that are coming to the pages have a greater intent in their job searches. Drivers are spending more time on recruiting landing pages than at any time since August 2020 and are converting at a higher rate than in any month since March 2020.
In August, the number of job seekers for trucking jobs rose by 15% from July, which is once again the highest number on record. The number of job postings rose by 4%, so competition for drivers decreased by 11% in August. The number of seekers per job is at its highest point since July 2020.
Comparing August 2022 to July 2019 (for a pre-pandemic comparison), this past month there were 76% more people searching for driving jobs (+1,129,000), while there were 133% more jobs available (+251,000) for these searchers.
An increased cost of capital, due to the Fed’s efforts to fight inflation through rate hikes, was the largest factor in FTR saying that trucking conditions are currently slightly negative for carriers. Their Trucking Conditions Index has now had a negative reading for the past three months. FTR forecasts slightly negative conditions for carriers through H1 2023 but notes that fuel price volatility could produce some positive outlier months.
FTR’s latest outlook for truckload freight rates continues to weaken. FTR now expects rates in 2022 to decrease by 0.2% YoY excluding fuel, down from +0.9% YoY in their previous estimate. Spot rates are expected to fall 14% YoY, while the forecast for contract rates is +8.3% YoY. FTR’s forecast for truckload rates in 2023 is a drop of 7.9%, as spot rates are expected to decrease by 11.5% while contract rates are predicted to drop by 4.2%.
FTR expects total truck loadings to increase 2.9% YoY in 2022, down from +3.6% YoY in the prior forecast. They have a weaker freight outlook for all haul types except for flatbed, due to a growth in construction as multi-family housing construction has spiked recently. FTR’s 2023 forecast remains at 2.0% growth from 2022.
Truck transportation employment added another 4,300 payroll jobs in July, and for-hire trucking employment is at a record level (79,600 jobs, or 5.3%, above February 2020 numbers). Revisions to prior months’ numbers put the three-month gain during April through June at 37,500 jobs, which is the strongest such increase on record aside from one following the end of a Teamsters strike in 1994. Despite strong gains in payroll employment, the large number of carrier failures—many of which are single-truck operations not captured by BLS data—suggest that the net number of drivers being added is not nearly as large as the payroll data might imply. Instead, many owner-operators seem to be selling their trucks and are becoming company drivers again.
A weaker outlook for truck loadings translates into a slightly weaker outlook for active truck utilization. FTR now expects the share of seated trucks engaged in hauling freight to bottom out in early 2023 at about 92%, which is about a percentage point below the prior forecast. The expected trough for utilization in 2023 is nearly 5 points above that seen in the fall of 2019. If that forecast holds, the floor on contract rates should be higher than it was before the pandemic. On the other hand, downside risks are significant due to the possibility of significantly weaker freight demand than currently forecasted.
Truck production decreased by 17% in July as some OEMs reduced production over the holiday. For trucks ordered in July, the estimated average lead time from order to delivery was 8.8 months, as the demand for new trucks continues to outpace supply.
 September’s lead and hire stats are taken from campaign performance from September 1 to 18; all others are taken from September 1 to 15.
 Market information is taken from:
FTR. “Trucking Update: September 2022.” 31 Aug 2022, FTR.
Miller, Jason. “August housing starts.” 21 Sep 2022, LinkedIn.