I have been asked by many of my industry peers, “Why is Transport America increasing pay for drivers? Aren’t you just driving up the costs of business for our industry?” The short answer is, “No, because drivers have choices when it comes to careers.” By increasing pay, my goals are to make driving more attractive than the other career options available to our drivers and to put Transport America at the top of the list of truckload carriers that drivers would like to work with.
Being a professional over the road (OTR) driver is a very demanding job and requires a significant amount of sacrifice. For example, drivers are away from home, working irregular schedules based upon customer needs, eating on the road, and sleeping in their vehicle. We do many things to make the experience the best it can be, including focusing on driver-friendly freight—like drop-and-hook—firing customers that do not treat drivers well, and employing fleet managers who are professional and recognize that their primary responsibility is to get the issues and headaches out of the drivers’ way so they can run miles and get home.
But, in the end, when someone is making the decision on which career to pursue, money is going to enter the equation. As someone compares being an OTR driver to a career opportunity that will allow him or her to be home nightly, work a regular schedule, eat at the kitchen table, and sleep in his or her own bed, the OTR job is going to have to provide a sizable salary premium to better entice prospective employees. Over the past 10 years or so, the truck driver salary premium has been eroded. Drivers are finding opportunities to stay home and make a similar salary.
So, in turn, Transport America is working hard to bring driver pay to a level that is commensurate for the work our drivers do and to a level necessary to attract new drivers into the industry. While we would like to do that in one big step, it is not practical. We need shippers to recognize the need and increase the shipping rates they pay accordingly. That will happen over time as they continue to experience the shortage of drivers that exists today. Our goal here at Transport America is to be a leader in the industry—and one way to do that is to be one of the first to offer our drivers the salary levels that they deserve. That is why we are increasing driver pay.
This post originally ran September 24, 2014