Monthly Driver Recruiting Trends – March 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 3 million users. Over 2.3 million unique users visited using a mobile device, over 550k visited using a computer, and over 85k visited using a tablet.
For Driver Recruiting campaigns managed by Randall-Reilly:
- Drivers submitted over 910k unique leads to 952 different clients through Randall-Reilly advertising campaigns.
- 250k unique driver contacts submitted 467k unique forms to various fleets.
- 323k unique driver callers made 444k unique call leads to fleets.
The competition between carriers for drivers remains very high, but the most recent data from Randall-Reilly recruiting campaigns show decreases in both cost per hire (CPH) and cost per lead (CPL) from recent all-time highs. This suggests that drivers in the market may be more interested in finding a new employer than in the past few months.
While this is good news, it is important to remember that the average CPHs and CPLs seen are still very high, and competition for drivers is still extremely elevated: compared to last February, there are nearly three times the number of truck driver jobs posted on job boards, but there are fewer drivers searching for these jobs.
Additionally, the $1.9 trillion stimulus package that was signed into law on March 11 will likely remove some people from the job market. In the days since the bill’s passage, Randall-Reilly recruiting campaigns have seen slightly lower lead counts compared to the days before its passage. It is too early to determine whether that trend was caused by the stimulus or if it will continue in the days ahead. If the trend does continue, March’s overall CPL will likely be equal to or slightly higher than February’s overall CPL.
February CPH averages decreased due to the some of the best lead-to-hire ratios (LTH) on record for both Company Driver and Owner-Operator campaigns.
- Company Driver average CPH fell by 12% month-over-month (MoM) because LTH improved by 23%.
- Owner-Operator LTH improved by such a large amount that average CPH fell by 17% MoM despite February having the highest CPL on record.
March’s1 overall average CPL is on pace to drop for the first time since last April. The current average CPL is still on pace to be the second highest on record, though.
- Company Driver average CPL is on pace to fall 3% MoM but remains 84% higher year-over-year (YoY) per lead.
- Owner-Operator and Team average CPLs are on pace to both fall by nearly 20% MoM.
1 March stats are taken from campaign performance between March 1 and 15.
Click Cost Averages
Search click costs (CPC) continue to trend down through the first half of March after decreases in the past few months. CPC is on pace to be its lowest since last August. Clickthrough rate (CTR) continues to decrease. The drop in both CPC and CTR is mainly due to changes in Search strategy—the digital marketing team is finding success incorporating more industry terms in Search campaigns. These campaigns tend to have a lower CTR but also have a lower CPC.
Through the first half of March, Facebook’s CPC has eased slightly from February’s record high. Competition remains very high on this platform, and the decrease in CPC mainly is due to an equal increase in CTR.
Display CPC continues to rise in March despite a higher CTR MoM, suggesting increased competition.
Cost Per Lead Averages
Thus far in March, the overall lead cost (CPL) average has shifted downward. If this holds through the end of the month, it will be the first MoM decrease in CPL since last April. While this is good news, it is important to recognize that March’s overall CPL average is still on pace to be the second highest on record. Additionally, in the days since the stimulus package was signed into law on March 11, lead count is down a bit. If this continues through the end of the month, CPL likely will not decline MoM.
Company Driver average CPL is on pace to ease slightly (-3%) from last month’s record high. Owner-Operator and Teams campaigns are seeing much larger MoM average CPL decreases (down 17% and 21% respectively). Team average CPL is on pace to be at its lowest point since July.
Student average CPL is up by quite a bit, but the campaign mix has changed significantly, making comparisons with previous months challenging.
Hire Costs & Rates
Despite historically high lead costs, average hire costs (CPH) dropped for both Company Driver and Owner-Operators in February. Improvements in the lead-to-hire ratio (LTH) drove the CPH decreases.
LTH for Company Driver campaigns in February is at its second-best rate on record—only last August had a better rate. Despite having a hire rate 35% better than last February, average CPH is still 30% higher YoY.
LTH for Owner-Operator campaigns in February was at its best rate on record—being slightly better than December 2020’s hire rate. Despite the very good hire rate, average CPH is still 9% higher than last February.
Other Digital Trends
The number of users on landing pages built and maintained by Randall-Reilly are on pace to hold steady in March after a slight decline in February; however, this is due to managing an increased budget, as the number of users per dollar of budget is down. This suggests that drivers are being more discerning on the ads they click on.
But once drivers get to a landing page, they have been staying on the site for longer and have been converting at a higher rate in March. This indicates that drivers are doing less window shopping for new jobs and have a higher intent in applying to a new carrier.
External Market Trends
Truck driving jobs posted on job boards rose by 4% MoM in February. While the number of job postings continues to rise slightly, the trend suggests that the number of job postings is close to plateauing—albeit at a very high level. Meanwhile, the number of drivers seeking a job fell and was below February 2020 numbers.
Once again, these numbers explain how carriers are having difficulty filling driving positions. In February 2021 there were nearly 332,000 more job postings for truck drivers than January 2020 (approaching 3x the number of postings), but there were nearly 20,000 fewer drivers searching for these postings.
The trucking outlook for 2021 was already strong, but FTR’s latest outlook is even stronger than in past months due to higher freight rates and volume, which more than offset higher fuel costs. Conditions are likely to remain positive through at least the end of the year.
Truckload rates in 2021 are forecast at 13.6% above 2020 levels, and all truckload segments are forecast to see rate increases near this number. While some metrics—like Class 8 truck orders—are reminiscent of 2018, where there was rapid loosening in the market in the second half of the year, loosening looks like it will be much more controlled this year due to a lack of driver supply. This will keep a strong peak from developing in early summer, but the strong market will likely last a lot longer than it did in 2018.
The inventory-to-sales ratio is very low, causing products sold online to move across the country much more quickly than before. Estimates suggest that over 656,000 shipments are required to bring inventory back to 2019 levels, and that number could increase due to the recent passage of the $1.9 trillion stimulus package.
The stimulus package will almost certainly add upward pressure on freight. The smaller stimulus in December resulted in a surge in retail sales in January. It is worth noting that the case count of coronavirus is down significantly, and vaccinations are ramping up, suggesting that people may shift stimulus spending to services such as travel and entertainment. But even if a disproportionate share of the stimulus is spent on services, demand for goods will likely rise due to the large scope of the stimulus. And spending in services would increase employment in these areas, likely resulting in more goods spending by the newly re-employed.
The unemployment benefits included in the stimulus package will also likely further constrict the already historically tight driver market, as there is less pressure to find a job. However, in the medium-term, if the pandemic continues to fade, industry experts expect the CDL licensing rates of new drivers to return to close to normal. The bigger long-term question is whether drivers who lost and/or left their Class A driving job will return—especially younger drivers. Drivers under age 35 made up only 23% of the driving workforce, but they lost 60% of the jobs in 2020. Younger drivers likely not only had less commitment to the industry than those who have driven for a long time, but also have more opportunities in other industries that have been booming, such as construction and warehousing.2
2 Market information taken from:
DC Velocity Staff. “Truck driver hiring pool tightens to lowest point in three years, ACT says.” 3 Mar, 2021, dcvelocity.com.
FTR. “State of Freight Insights.” 12 Mar 2021. FTR
FTR. “Trucking Update: March 2021.” 26 Feb 2021, FTR.
Miller, Jason. LinkedIn postings (multiple). Mar 2021, Michigan State University.
Strickland, Zach. “2021 Freight Trucking Market Outlook.” 3 Mar 2021, Freight Waves.