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Monthly Driver Recruiting Trends – September 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 was visited by over 5 million users. Over 4 million unique users visited using a mobile device, over 860k visited using a computer, and over 120k visited using a tablet.
For Driver Recruiting campaigns managed by Randall-Reilly:

    • Drivers submitted more than 942k unique leads to 836 different clients through Randall-Reilly advertising campaigns.
    • 273k unique driver contacts submitted 486k unique forms to various fleets.
    • 330k unique driver callers made 456k unique call leads to fleets.

Summary

Trucking market conditions remain largely unchanged from last month: freight volume and loads continue to be very favorable for carriers, and these conditions are still forecast to remain very favorable through at least November before declining modestly—but remaining positive for carriers—for the next two years. As a result, many carriers are looking to add drivers, and hire costs (CPH) remain elevated.
While lead costs (CPL) remain elevated from pre-COVID levels, average overall CPL in August dropped to its lowest level since February and is on pace to drop further in September.[1]
Many in the industry were interested in seeing how the expiration of the federal unemployment benefits on September 6 would affect the job search market. While Randall-Reilly campaigns have not seen a drastic change thus far, the number of leads per day is up 6.5% since the week before the expiration of unemployment benefits.
Average hire costs (CPH) for company driver campaigns decreased to its lowest level since March. Conversely, average CPH for owner-operator campaigns increased to its highest level since April.

  • Average CPH for company driver campaigns in August decreased by 18% MoM.
    • Despite this decrease, company driver CPH is still twice as high as August 2020.
  • Average CPH for owner-operator campaigns increased by 12% MoM.

[1] September stats are taken from campaign performance between September 1 and 15.


Click Cost Averages



Click costs (CPC) remain elevated. Recent search costs are in line with 2020 costs, while recent Facebook and Display click costs are quite a bit higher than last year’s costs.
Facebook click costs have had month-over-month (MoM) increases in 16 of the past 17 months. Since Facebook ads recruiting truck drivers compete against all sorts of ads (e.g., ads for goods, ads for services, political ads, etc.), the consistent increase indicates that there are more and more companies and organizations from different sectors spending more on Facebook advertising.
By contrast, Search ads are served based on a user’s search terms, so ads for a truck driver job position will only show on relevant searches. As a result, search click costs give a better indication of competition within the trucking industry. The trends suggest that competition increased significantly in August 2020, and competition has held fairly steady since then.

Search CPC


Facebook CPC


Display CPC


Cost Per Lead Averages

The average overall cost per lead (CPL) dropped by 12% MoM in August and is on pace to drop further in September. There are likely multiple factors causing the average CPL to drop, but it is worth noting two in particular:

  1. There has tended to be a lower ratio of available loads to trucks on the spot market in the last few months. In the past, that ratio has tended to correlate with the number of drivers in the job search market.
  2. Federal unemployment benefits ended on September 6. While about half of states had ended these benefits early, this could drive additional people back into the labor force.
  3. The average number of leads per day Randall-Reilly has received is up 6.5% since the week before unemployment benefits ended.

Overall Recruiting CPL Averages Chart


Company Driver CPL Averages Chart


Owner-Operator CPL Averages‡ Chart


Team CPL Averages Chart


Student CPL Averages Chart


Hire Costs & Rates

Average hire costs (CPH) for company driver campaigns decreased to its lowest level since March. Conversely, average CPH for owner-operator campaigns increased to its highest level since April.
The large MoM decrease for average CPH for company driver campaigns was the result of both an improvement in lead-to-hire ratio (LTH) and a decrease in CPL. Despite the large MoM decrease, average hire costs for company driver campaigns remain exactly twice as high as last August’s number.
August’s average owner-operator CPH rose by 12% MoM despite the lead-to-hire ratio remaining unchanged. This indicates that increases in lead costs are causing the higher CPH.
Once again, it is worth noting the number of Mondays in the month since most fleets have driver orientations on Monday. As noted in last month’s trend newsletter, August had five Mondays whereas July had four—and the first was an observed holiday. The decrease in average company driver CPH was likely influenced by the extra driver orientation day or two. The fact that owner-operator CPH rose in August suggests that it may be even more difficult to partner with an owner-operator than the CPH suggests. Be aware that September only has four Mondays, and the first was a holiday. As a result, expect CPH to increase in September.
Company Driver Average CPH Chart


Company Driver Hire Ratio^ Chart


Owner-Operator Average CPH Chart


Owner-Operator Hire Ratio^ Chart


Other Digital Trends

Visitors’ behavior on Randall-Reilly recruiting landing pages are not showing any increased pressure to apply to trucking jobs in September. There are fewer visitors (called ‘users’ below) to recruiting pages, they are spending a bit less time on the pages, and they are converting slightly less frequently.
On the other hand, the number of multicarrier applicants is on pace to increase by 16% and be at its highest level since April 2020.
mca applicants, landing page users, conversion rate, and average session duration graphs


External Market Trends

The number of job seekers on job boards continued to rise in August and is now at its highest level since January 2020. At the same time, the number of jobs posted rose by 13% from its already elevated number. As a result, the number of job seekers per job fell below 4.
Comparing August 2021 to August 2019, there were 5% more people (+71,000) searching for driving jobs, but there were 109% more jobs available (+206,000) for these searchers. As a result, the number of job seekers per job remains far below pre-COVID levels.
Truck Driver Job Seekers per Job Chart


truck driver job posted and driver job seekers graphs


Market Information[2]

Trucking market conditions remain largely unchanged from last month: they continue to be very favorable for carriers, and conditions are still forecast to remain very favorable through at least November before declining modestly—but remaining positive for carriers—for the next two years.
The outlook for truckload rates also remains unchanged. FTR forecasts total rates to be up nearly 18% YoY in 2021. Spot rates look to rise 27% YoY, while contract rates are expected to be up 13%. FTR’s outlook is that rates will be basically flat (-0.1%) in 2022 compared to 2021; their previous estimate was that rates would decline by 0.8%.
Rate Outlook: Total TL
Freight volumes and tonnage continue to surge and are expected to grow further in 2022. Freight tonnage is about 10% above 2019 levels, and freight patterns continue to be wildly disrupted relative to pre-COVID patterns as wholesale, retail, and warehousing continue to spike. For March 2021 through July 2021, retailer purchases have been 16.3% above their 2019 levels. These goods are mainly shipped across the Pacific, and there are currently ~70 ships at anchor off the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. It would take about 14 days to clear the backup of ships currently waiting to dock, but there is no letup in arrivals in sight, and it looks like there will be no relief for the ports in 2021. Furthermore, FTR’s freight outlook forecast for 2022 is a 3.4% gain from 2021, which is stronger than their previous estimate.
Finding and seating Class 8 trucks to take advantage of the extra freight and high rates continues to be the biggest difficulty for carriers. While for-hire trucking added 3,400 jobs in July (seasonally adjusted), payroll employment is still down 2.2% (33,000 jobs) from February 2020’s level. However, the ongoing surge in new for-hire carriers could be pulling drivers away from payroll jobs. Most of these operations are very small (70% have just one driver) and would not be counted in payroll employment. In other words, many drivers may be becoming owner-operators and are no longer in employment data but continue to haul freight.
Class 8 truck production plummeted 31% per day in July as semiconductor shipments shrank and OEMs fought other parts shortages. Retail sales slowed and inventories dropped. For trucks ordered in July, the estimated average time from order to delivery increased to a record 17.7 months. Dealer inventory is extremely limited and will remain that way until OEMs secure more semiconductors and parts, which will likely not be resolved through at least the first half of 2022.


[2] Market information taken from:

Cannon, Jason. “Trailer production recovery expected next year, 2023 for trucks.” 14 Sep 2021, CCJ.

FTR. “Trucking Update: September 2021.” 31 Aug 2021, FTR.

Miller, Greg. “Just how many containers of cargo are stuck off California’s coast?” 21 Sep 2021, FreightWaves.

Miller, Jason. LinkedIn postings (multiple). Sep 2021, Michigan State University.


 

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Sept 2021 Monthly Driver Recruiting Trends