Do driver turnover rates impact truck sales?

Lucas Deal

March 30, 2017

I write that headline as a legitimate question. I don’t know. When driver turnover is high, does it impact your ability to move trucks?

I ask because CCJ reported yesterday that driver turnover across the trucking industry fell dramatically in last quarter, reaching its lowest point in five years. Rates weren’t only down for large carriers, either. From the nation’s largest fleets to its smaller operators, rates were down across the board. CCJ also reports the turnover rate fell on a quarterly basis “in all four quarters last year.”

Does that impact you?

I guess I can see it going both ways.

On one hand, new trucks are a recruitment tool. When turnover rates are high I can see value in telling potential drivers that if they join your fleet they’ll be dropped into the newest, slickest truck on the road. I’d imagine a cast like that will catch a fish or 12. Each iteration of today’s Class 8 tractors have more bells and whistles than their predecessors, making them easier to drive and more comforting for the person behind the wheel.

And yet, would you want to put a new driver behind the wheel of a brand-new truck? If the new driver has 20 years of experience and is moving from another carrier to your fleet it’s not such a big deal. But what if that’s not the case? What if that new driver is getting into the cab for the first time? What if he or she has come from another industry, and is just looking for something, anything, to provide a steady income?

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I don’t know the answer.

I’m a believer in the recruitment idea, the “you’ve gotta spend money to make money” concept of investing in your people and your business as way to grow. But buying a new truck—or 1,000 new trucks if you’re a major carrier—is spending money on a much larger scale than catchphrases are designed for. It’d be tough to pull the trigger on new trucks if you didn’t know who was going to drive them.

So, I ask the question to you. What do you think? Do you believe driver turnover impacts customer buying habits?

And if the answer is yes, what do we do next? How can the dealer market use that information to better communicate with customers when they are willing to buy?

If you can tell me what you think, I can do some research and see what we can do next.

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