Expectations weaken for driver wage increases

Feb. 17, 2016

The fourth-quarter Transport Capital Partners (TCP) survey finds carriers predicting smaller increases in driver wages while remaining cautiously optimistic for volume growth in 2016.

The trucking industry saw a slowdown in freight over the fourth quarter of 2015. Expectations indicate that increases in driver wages will be limited in the year ahead as volume expectations were lowered for 2016.

A substantial majority--70% of carriers surveyed--expect wage increases of only 1% to 5%. Moreover, 22% of carriers expect to see no increases at all. These expectations are similar to TCP survey results from Q4 2010 and Q4 2012, but notably more conservative than the past couple of years.

Richard Mikes, TCP partner, said: “Carriers are in a tactical seasonal strategy--the first quarter being weak in loads, more drivers being available from construction in northern climates, and deep cutbacks in truck purchases over the last couple of months. The longer term struggle between business caution and the need to improve driver staffing via driver wage levels will be interesting to watch in 2016."

Given the poor economic results from the last quarter of 2015, it is not surprising that growth increase expectations for 2016 are at their lowest levels since the fourth quarter of 2012.

This survey found that only one-third of carriers are expecting volume increases in 2016. At this point last year, that number was almost twice as high. Furthermore, half of all survey respondents are looking toward a flat year ahead. This is the highest percentage of carriers expecting volumes to 'remain the same' in the history of this survey.

“While volume and rate expectations have tumbled, there is still no fear of a looming recession in these results,” said TCP partner Steven Dutro.