Shifting Gears – Higher Wages for Truckers Just the Start

Justin Christensen |

Download PDF 180274674

When the Department of Transportation (DOT) reduced a trucker’s workweek to 70 hours from 82 in July of 2013, the new regulation was not so well received. A loss of productivity and ensuing wages posed further strain on an industry already burdened by rising growth, labor shortage and low pay rates.

However, just 14 months later, it seems that move has lifted the load. According to experts, a recent wage hike for truckers in one division of Schneider National, marks the onset of a lengthy but positive trend. Armed with data, fleet owners can now justify shipping rate increases, which translate to higher wages for drivers and added benefits for their companies.

Employee Satisfaction

In addition to higher wages, industry demand is allowing drivers to capitalize on their permissible hours and fleet owners are offering a variety of significant incentives to attract new talent.

  • Bonuses of up to six cents more per mile through summer months
  • Signing bonuses from $500 to $12,000, based on geography
  • Tuition reimbursement up to $6,000
  • Salary 30 percent above national average plus benefits
  • New hauling routes to keep drivers closer to home
  • Covering the cost of acquiring a license up to $7,000 with a fixed driving term
  • “Relay” trucking has drivers meet mid-way to swap trailers and head home sooner

The extent to which a company is willing to sweeten the pot will depend on the degree of driver shortage and competition in its area. What’s deemed important for employee satisfaction will depend on each driver; some just want to be on a first-name basis with co-workers where they are treated like family.

Fleet Owner Benefits

It may seem that fleet owners are getting the short haul of the stick having to fork over all the extras, but it’s really a case of return on investment. Being able to attract and retain competent drivers ultimately translates to lower turnover rates. With those conditions, they can:

  • Save time and money lost through the re-hiring and re-training processes
  • Continue to offer higher wages and incentives to drivers
  • Grow their companies and meet business objectives, both now and in the future
  • Capitalize on increasing industry demands as the economy improves
  • Reduce driver shortage issues across the nation
  • Improve the cost and quality of service provided to customers
  • Reduce capacity constraints experienced by shippers

The issue of driver pay and compensation has been one of contention for decades, on a gradual decline since the 1980s as recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, with these latest developments it looks as though the industry is finally turning a long-awaited corner.

Pulling Ahead

Chief Economist Bob Costello of the American Trucking Association anticipates pay rates to keep climbing from the latest 10 to 15 percent increases seen throughout the industry.

A shift in fleet operation expenditures is also expected. In an interview with Fleet Owner magazine, Sandeep Kar, global director of automotive and transportation research at Frost & Sullivan, reported that, “In 2013, driver wages represented 28 percent of every $100 spent by a fleet, with benefits at 9 percent with fuel at 33 percent. By 2022, driver wages will represent 31 percent of every $100 spent by a fleet, benefits 11 percent, while fuel will fall to 29 percent; largely because trucks are now much more fuel efficient.

No matter how you slice the pie, the consensus seems to be that change was overdue, and as the industry and your business need change, your fuel distributor will be there to help you through the transition.