DAILY NEWS Nov 28, 2012 9:43 PM - 16 comments

Driver shortage a good news/bad news story: Prime's Low

Companies that can't recruit and retain safe professional drivers won't survive, Low asserts

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By: James Menzies

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. -- Prime Inc., a 5,000-truck outfit based out of Springfield, Mo., has constructed a Millennium Building for its drivers that could be considered the envy of the industry.

It includes: a cafeteria; aerobics equipment and gym with personal trainers; a weight room; a small movie theatre; a certified, subsidized day care; a day spa and hair salon; a doctor’s office; showers and hotel-style dorm rooms; and mailroom.

Prime’s president and founder Rob Low meets with drivers weekly to host an open mic-style drivers’ meeting, where any questions or concerns are addressed head on.

All that, and still Prime’s annual driver turnover sits at about 54%. Granted, 54%, by US standards, is well below the going rate. But still it’s a number that’s difficult to comprehend given the lengths to which Prime has gone in an attempt to accommodate and provide for its drivers.

Low spoke at the most recent Driving for Profit seminar in early November. The driver shortage was one of many issues covered during the seminar’s popular How They Did It section.

“The bad news is, we’re going to have a driver shortage and the good new is, we’re going to have a driver shortage,” Low said. “The driver shortage is the one constraint, in my opinion, that exists in the marketplace to keep that lid on capacity and prevent us from overexpanding. The folks aren’t out there in the numbers required to grow this industry to respond with adequate capacity to fill the needs of every shipper if we get a little more growth in the economy. I think we’re at the tipping point now. Business is not great, but it’s not horrible. If the economy gets back to the level it should be growing at, trucks are going to get tied up, rates are going to go up, drivers incomes are going to go up and to me, that’s a really good thing.”

Asked how high driver salaries will need to go before trucking is viewed as an attractive career, Low said it’s not all about the money.

“I think part of the solution is making the job better, making the lifestyle better, getting them home more, treating them with more respect,” Low said. “If they’re getting treated like second class citizens, even making $100,000 a year might not be enough to tolerate that.”

Low said the solution lies in employing more sophisticated routing techniques, getting drivers home more frequently and treating them with respect.

Prime’s investment in its 40,000 sq.-ft. Millennium Centre is one way the company has chosen to show it respects its professional drivers.

“Our idea is for the Millennium building to be a slice of the contemporary middle-class lifestyle,” Low said. “Our feelings are that drivers aspire to those same kinds of things that you and I would, and if you can provide them with that which they are largely deprived of while driving in many respects, you have a leg up on your competitors that maybe don’t value those things.”

Looking ahead, Low said an ability to recruit and retain professional drivers will be of monumental importance to carriers.

“Companies that can’t recruit and retain high quality, safe, productive drivers are not going to make it in this environment,” he said.

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Reader Comments

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John H.

To Mike:

You claim that you are making $100,000 a year after all costs as a single driver.

This includes all costs of running your truck, plus all expenses being on the road. (meals, showers, etc).

You say you are only home one weekend a month and on the road the rest of the time.

Lets do some basic math based on three senerios:

(A) You drive 14,000 miles a month. (168,000 yearly)
(B) You drive 15,000 miles a month. (180,000 yearly).
(C) You drive 16,000 miles a month. (192,000 yearly).

Based on this you are claiming a clear and free profit after all expenses of the following:

(A) 59.5 cents per mile.
(B) 55.5 cents per mile.
(C) 52.0 cents per mile.

(Example for A: take 100,000 and divide 168,000 to get 59.5 cents).

Considering the rate the carriers are paying these days a clear and free profit margin with these numbers is really amazing.

Posted December 28, 2012 06:24 PM


I do make $100,000 a year (after overhead). Do I go home every weekend?....No Do I go home 1 weekend a month?......No So figure out what your priorities are. If it's money, then all you have to do is work. If it's time off, that's fine but don't complain about your income if you decide not work. Oh by the way, I'm leased to Prime and have been for almost 14 years, never been a Company Driver, I've always leased and yes I do make that much after costs........Mike

Posted December 26, 2012 06:46 PM

Dutch van Noggeren

I wish one large company would pay 60 cents/mile plus attractive benefits. The industry would see how foolish the term 'driver shortage' is. This company who offered 60 cents per mile would have more driver applicants than they could handle. Yes, it's all about money and the large carriers don't want that fact to see the light of day. Dutch

Posted December 9, 2012 02:10 PM

John H.

Quote from article:

"Asked how high driver salaries will need to go before trucking is viewed as an attractive career, Low said it’s not all about the money."

“I think part of the solution is making the job better, making the lifestyle better, getting them home more, treating them with more respect,” Low said. “If they’re getting treated like second class citizens, even making $100,000 a year might not be enough to tolerate that.”

Now let's look at these comments in detail:

When you factor in the comsumer price index the incomes of drivers have fallen about 50% in the last twenty five years.

However, if trucks drivers were making "$100,000 a year" do you really believer there would be a truck driver shortage?

This is the sort of circular thinking which is manifest within the executive management of the trucking industry.

If I could make one hundred thousand a year as a truck driver I would leave my current job and return to the trucking industry ... in fact I would be breaking down the door to get back in.

But according to this acticle it is about "respect" and not about the "money" because even if we paid drivers well then they would still be unhappy ... hence we will not pay them more, and use a non-monitized criteria like "respect" as to why this shortage exists.

Give me all the respect in the world and pay me peanuts and I still will not do the job when other careers are out there for smart hard working people.

Last week my boss asked me to work a twelve hour shift, over my normal eight hour shift.

He pays me well and I am happy to work long and hard hours.

In the trucking industry I could sit at loading dock for an extra four hours then I get paid ... let's see ... that would be zero.

Posted December 7, 2012 07:04 PM


35 years into this industry and I am not making much more now than I did back then, and many of these companies are still paying per mile rates as what they did back then.

A trucking company executive, that for argument sake was making 100k back then is now making a 500k! The entire spectrum seems a bit out of balance!

But I continually hear that they are deserving of those numbers in order for the company to retain TOP talent; we see where the TOP talent of Hostess is heading, with the CEO making $125k a MONTH; probably to the trucking industry.

Stay tuned; I am writing a book in attempt to presuade those considering driving for a living to seriously reconsider, and I hope that it will be published in the early part of 2013.

Posted December 7, 2012 07:27 AM

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