Truckers & Turnover Research Project

Truckers & Turnover Research Project

The Truckers & Turnover Project is a multi-year study conducted by a team of University of Minnesota Morris faculty and students, as well as faculty at other institutions, in cooperation with several motor carriers.

The cooperating firms operate in the "truckload" (TL) segment of the trucking industry. Long haul TL trucking is a high-turnover occupation, and thousands of people train for this job every year, try it out, and leave, while relatively few stay on.

Project researchers have worked with data from study firms along with new data collected by the project to identify the factors that predict retention, productivity, crash risk, and other on-the-job outcomes for truckers.

A distinctive part of the project in its early years was its use of behavioral economic field experiments conducted by the researchers at a company training site with trainee truckers who were learning how to handle a big rig for the first time. This enabled empirical work on both business issues and the foundations of economic psychology.

More recently the project has developed the distinctive capacity to combine motor carrier operational and human resource data with medical diagnosis and medical insurance claim data on the same drivers who are employed at a large motor carrier. This combination allows the project's researchers to examine the relationships between medical conditions and individual truck driver outcomes, which has been the main focus of the project in recent years.

Project History

Initial work with the first cooperating firm began in 2002, and the current larger-scale project has been under way since 2005. Using data on truckers (and some data on related control groups) the project has explored several areas of economic psychology such as social preferences, risk aversion, time preferences, and personality. Other topics have included the economic value of employee referrals, truck driver job attachment, and the use of behavioral economic measures in predicting undergraduate student outcomes in a student control group. The more recent focus on medical conditions has led to an analysis of the relationship between employer-mandated sleep apnea treatment compliance and crash risk among truckers, and related topics. (A full list of papers and other publications.)

Involvement by Morris undergraduate research students has been and is still critically important to the success of the project. More than 60 students have been trained and meaningfully employed on the main project, and more have worked on smaller research projects (see the full list). Many of these students have made substantial contributions to publishable work and have been listed as co-authors on articles published in peer-reviewed scientific journals (5 of 10 recently published T&T articles have undergraduate co-authors).