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Pay Hikes Abound as Fleets Try to Retain Drivers


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Steven Martinez, Heavy Duty Trucking (HDT)  /  October 20, 2017

Several fleets have announced pay and benefit increases for drivers as the industry keeps trying to address the driver shortage.

Driver turnover remains at extremely high levels-- 90% at large truckload carriers, according to the latest American Trucking Associations report– and fleets are working hard to curb it. A recent report on operational costs shows that fleets currently spend more on driver wages and benefits combined than they do on fuel costs.

The push to retain drivers is evident in recent announcements from Boyd Bros. Transportation, Pride Transport, Roehl Transport, Hornady Transportation, A&R Logistics, Epes Transport System, Kenan Advantage Group, and Ozark Motor Lines. All of these fleets have focused on incentivizing drivers to sign and stay on board.

Boyd Bros. Transportation announced a 4-cent per mile pay increase for company drivers in September. The new pay package also includes a $900 per week pay guarantee.The increase is available to company drivers of all levels.

“Our drivers make much more than $900 per week,” stated Boyd Bros. CFO Dwight Bassett.  “We just wanted to take away financial concerns so that drivers can focus on what they do best, drive.  We are also eliminating the perceived risk that typically accompanies the start of a job with a new company.”

Pride Transport has implemented a new point-to-point pay program that pays drivers for the distance of the leg they drive and not just the total length of a load. Pay under the new program comes out to a higher per mile– up to 55 cents per mile, according to the company.

This program includes pay for deadhead miles at up to 20 cents more per mile than base pay. Company drivers at Pride Transport can also earn a $2,000 sign-on bonus, opportunities for safety and MPG bonuses, in-cab DirecTV, affordable healthcare plans, and paid orientation.

“We’re ensuring that drivers truly get paid for their time and don’t fall short,” said Steve Schelin, director of recruiting at Pride. “We want drivers to know that they can get the pay they deserve here at Pride Transport.”

Roehl Transport added a new limited time, $10,000 sign-on/stay-on bonus for experienced CDL-A drivers. The bonus applies to drivers who have 6 months of solo, over-the-road tractor/trailer experience.

The bonus is given in installments. The first payout of $500 occurs upon completion of the first load hauled and it continues at $500 for every 10,000-mile interval. Roehl Transport  also has additional retention incentives that significantly increase the scheduled payments. After running 30,000 paid miles, drivers will receive an additional bonus payment of $500, for a total of $1,000. Thereafter, payments of $500 will continue every 10,000 miles until the driver reaches the $10,000 total.

“We’re excited to be able to offer our new, experienced drivers a great bonus that is easily attainable,” said Tim Norlin, vice president of driver employment for Roehl.

Hornaday Transportation is guaranteeing its drivers a weekly minimum pay of $1,000 per week. The company already offers a $2,500 sign-on bonus and $1,000 orientation pay as well as bonuses for driver and customer referrals.

“The guarantee gives them assurances of being paid, even if they’re not driving due to customer delays, congestion, operations, and market conditions. Rolling out this program will help protect our drivers from issues they have no control over,” said Chris Hornady, CEO of Hornady Transportation.

Dry bulk carrier, A&R Logistics has increased driver pay per mile, now allowing company drivers to earn up to 10% more per loaded mile. The company has also improved its driver vacation policy to provide for more home time.  

“We have significantly improved our driver vacation policy to provide for more time at home and are implementing a significant increase in their ability to earn higher wages,” said Steve Brantley, senior vice-president of terminal operations for A&R. “Drivers are our face to our customers' client-- their professionalism and commitment to safety and customer service is what makes A&R the leader in dry bulk transportation."

Epes Transport System has invested more than $1 million in its new driver compensation programs, the company announced. For company drivers, Epes has raised its per-mile pay an additional 2 cents, which the company said will boost earnings dramatically.

Independent contractors have all been changed to a percentage based pay. “This spring, we improved our independent contractor pay package which has led to sustained growth,” said Phil Peck, vice president of operations for Epes. “In the summer, we increased the hourly pay for local drivers, as well as mileage pay for all company drivers, including regional operations.”

Tanker fleet Kenan Advantage Group has implemented a strategy designed to proactively address the driver shortage through guaranteed pay increases for the next three years. The company said it would be contacting its customers to secure additional funding to support the program.

"The perfect storm is upon us," said Bruce Blaise, president of KAG. "Developing factors include the coming industry-wide driver capacity impacts of the ELD mandate, an economy near full employment and an aging workforce. Estimates indicate that as many as 20% to 25% of current drivers will be retiring over the next five years. We simply have to make the adjustments needed to attract new drivers to our company and industry."

Ozark Motor Lines has rolled out a new pay package for its company drivers. The new pay package includes both a pay-per-mile increase and accessorial pay.

Starting rates for linehaul drivers under the new pay package are 41 cents per mile for drivers with less than a year of experience all the way up to 46 cents per mile for drivers with five or more years of experience. Top-out pay is 48 cents per mile. Linehaul team drivers start between 23-26 cents per mile, topping out at 26 cents per mile. Regional drivers can expect to start between 38-43 cents per mile, depending on experience, with top-out pay at 46 cents per mile.

In addition to pay increases, Ozark will make insurance benefits available to new drivers from their date of hire. This includes Teladoc access to physicians, dental, vision, life, and disability insurance options. Cancer and minimal essential coverage insurance options are also available one month after the driver’s hire date.

“At Ozark, we’re committed to bringing drivers the best when it comes to their compensation packages,” said Mike Higginbotham, director of recruiting at Ozark. “We’re proud that Ozark is a place where drivers truly feel at home and know they can have a successful career here.”

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