ARLINGTON, VA -- After a year of quarterly increases, the turnover rate for truck drivers at large truckload fleets unexpectedly dipped one percentage point to an annualized rate of 88 percent, according to American Trucking Associations (ATA) Chief Economist Bob Costello.

"This reprieve, while surprising, is likely temporary," Costello said. "As the economy continues to recover, freight volumes should continue to grow, which, along with regulatory challenges related to hours-of-service and the government's CSA fleet oversight program, will continue to cause the driver market to tighten and the turnover rate to rise."

Turnover among large truckload fleets had risen to 89 percent in the third quarter of 2011 after bottoming out at 39 percent in the first quarter of 2010, according to ATA statistics.

For all of 2011, the large truckload turnover rate averaged 83 percent — the highest average since 2007 when churn averaged 117 percent.

At small truckload firms, with less than $30 million in annual revenue, the turnover rate dipped to 55 percent from 57 percent in the previous quarter. The fourth quarter turnover rate for less-than-truckload fleets fell to just 7 percent from 10 percent in the third quarter, according to the ATA.