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 5.5 million users. Over 4.5 million unique users visited using a mobile device, over 900k visited using a computer, and over 120k visited using a tablet.
For Driver Recruiting campaigns managed by Randall-Reilly:
Trucking conditions will continue to be highly favorable for carriers through at least Q1 2022 and will likely continue to be favorable for carriers through the rest of 2022. This is continuing to cause a lot of competition between carriers for drivers as they post jobs in more locations and offer increased pay. As a result of this competition, lead and hire costs remain elevated.
The number of job seekers on job boards in October rose to its highest level since January 2020. The number of truck driver jobs posted rose to its highest point since March, but there were 700 fewer companies posting those jobs than in September. Despite the increase in job seekers and decrease in companies posting, it remains an extremely competitive market.
Through the first half of November, the average cost per lead (CPL) has decreased by 12% from October, but this number will likely rise by quite a bit in the second half of the month. Historically, lead costs have been high during Thanksgiving week as driver job search activity decreases over the holiday.
Average hire costs (CPH) differed by driver type: hire costs for company driver campaigns increased in October, while owner-operator campaigns’ average CPH decreased.
 November stats are taken from campaign performance between November 1 and 15.
Search and Facebook click costs (CPC) eased some in October but are on pace to inch upwards in November. Both channels have a higher click-through rate than they had in the past few months, so the CPC increase suggests that competition has increased, and it is more expensive to win ad auctions.
Display CPC rose in October and is on pace to reach its highest point on record in November. In 2021, the Randall-Reilly digital marketing team has shifted more budget to Display channels that have higher click costs but have better lead costs, so comparisons with prior years aren’t as relevant, but the trend within 2021 indicates there is currently greater competition on Display placements than in past months. Its click-through rate is on pace to be higher than in the past two months, giving further proof that there is increased competition in November.
As predicted in last month’s report, October’s average overall cost per lead (CPL) ended up being higher than September’s.
Through the first half of November, the average CPL has decreased by 12%, but this number will likely rise by quite a bit in the second half of the month. Historically, lead costs have been high during Thanksgiving week as driver job search activity decreases over the holiday. With this in mind, the Randall-Reilly digital marketing team has pushed a higher percentage of budget to the first three weeks of the month to spend more money when leads cost less. This shifting of budget is further affecting the apparent disparity between CPL costs in the first and second halves of November.
 Research has shown similar results in December around the Christmas holiday; expect similar results in next month’s report.
September’s cost per hire (CPH) numbers have had large adjustments for both company drivers and owner-operators as more hire data was gathered. September’s company driver CPH ended up being 10% lower than what was reported last month. Conversely, September’s owner-operator CPH has risen by 30% from what was reported. This is a good reminder that these numbers are preliminary for the first month and can continue to shift as additional hire data is collected.
October’s company driver CPH is currently 9% higher than September’s despite the lead-to-hire ratio (LTH) being equal. Increased lead costs are the main cause of the increase.
October’s owner-operator CPH is currently 4% lower than September’s. A large improvement in LTH is counteracting the higher lead costs seen in October. Owner-operator LTH is at its lowest point on record. With the large number of new owner-operators [see the Market Information section at the end of this report], it is not surprising that carriers partnering with owner-operators are able to do so at better rates than they have in the past.
Visitor behavior on Randall-Reilly recruiting landing pages in November is remaining fairly close to October’s numbers. Total users are down slightly, and they are spending a bit less time on the recruiting pages but are converting at a better rate.
The number of multicarrier applicants in October was at its highest point since January. Through the first half of November, leads are on pace to drop by more than 20%, a number that would still be higher than the number of applicants in any of the months from February to May of this year.
The number of job seekers on job boards in October rose to its highest level since January 2020. The number of truck driver jobs posted rose above 400,000 for the first time since March, but there were 700 fewer companies posting those jobs than in September. While the increase in job seekers and decrease in companies posting indicates hiring drivers may be a bit easier than in the past few months, it remains an extremely competitive market. Additionally, the average salary for jobs posted in October was nearly $3,000 higher than those posted in September, the largest MoM increase in the past year.
Comparing October 2021 to October 2019, there were 4% more people (+54,000) searching for driving jobs, but there were 116% more jobs available (+216,000) for these searchers. As a result, the number of job seekers per job remains far below pre-COVID levels, although the ratio is the same as last October when the number of jobs posted was spiking.
Trucking conditions will continue to be highly favorable for carriers through Q1 2022, and projections for the rest of 2022 continue to be favorable for carriers.
The near-term outlook for truckload freight rates continues to improve: FTR forecasts total rates to be up 19% YoY in 2021, which is nearly a full point stronger than last month’s projection. FTR now expects rates for 2022 to be 2.2% higher than 2021 rates, which is nearly two points higher than last month’s forecast. Contract rates are now expected to be 5.0% higher in 2022, while spot rates are expected to be 2.2% lower in 2022.
Freight volumes continue to remain strong and are expected to grow further in 2022. FTR forecasts 5% more truck loadings in 2021 than in 2020, and they expect a 3.8% increase in 2022 compared to 2021. Both of these revised forecasts are a bit weaker than last month’s outlook.
Since freight volume and rates look to remain elevated for the foreseeable future, the surge in diesel prices is the biggest new threat to carrier’s profitability in the near-to-medium term. FTR is forecasting diesel rates to be ~$3.60/gallon in 2022.
Taking advantage of the favorable rates and plentiful loads will remain difficult: getting and seating trucks will remain a struggle so long as rates remain as elevated as they are. The competition for drivers remains fierce, and the pool of available company drivers looks to be shrinking—especially for OTR routes since drivers are expressing a greater preference for driving shorter routes with better home time.
The Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse continues to remove many drivers from the industry every month. As of October 1, there had been over 90,000 drivers with a violation, and fewer than 19,000 (21%) are eligible to drive again. Nearly 60% had not even begun their return-to-duty (RTD) process, and another 13% are eligible for RTD testing but have chosen not to do so. Most drivers in these categories have likely moved to other industries.
Furthermore, more and more drivers are operating under their own authority (becoming owner-operators). Through October, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has authorized more than 92,000 for-hire carriers, and more than 70% are solo operators. The total number has already smashed 2020’s total of 59,000 approved applications. Before last year, 2018 was the most active year with 44,000 authorized applications. This surge almost certainly means there are more drivers today than before the COVID-19 pandemic, but many are supporting local pickup and delivery operations instead of driving OTR.
Finding trucks will continue to be difficult for the foreseeable future. Class 8 truck production fell 3% per day in September as supply disruptions continued. Build rates are slow and won’t improve until semiconductor and other supplies increase.
As a result, active truck utilization remains very high, and FTR expects active utilization to remain at 99% through the end of the year and above 97% through the end of 2022.
 Market information taken from:
FMCSA. “Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse: September 2021 Monthly Summary Report.” 22 Oct 2021, fmcsa.dot.gov.
FTR. “Trucking Update: November 2021.” 29 Oct 2021, FTR.
Solomon, Mark. “’Beyond unprecedented’ surge in authorized drivers continues to flood market.” 15 Nov 2021, freightwaves.com.