Should carriers start paying drivers a yearly salary?

With the use of ELDs now required by law in the U.S. and the Canadian government announcing in December that we would follow suit by 2020, I think it’s time to examine the idea of paying drivers a yearly salary.

My argument for this is simple, and I think with a more foolproof manner in which HOS is monitored that a salary-based pay model would make sense.

To start, ELDs are not changing the rules around HOS, just the level in which authorities and carriers can monitor them. HOS have always been “regulated” by the government and enforced by commercial vehicle enforcement. ELDs will now make that effort, not failsafe, but closer to it than before.

Fudging paper logs was never a difficult task, and though I’m sure this was a practice few took advantage of, it would be naïve to think it didn’t happen.

So now that the U.S. and soon Canada will have a mechanism to better ensure HOS compliance, why can’t carriers pay company drivers (not owner-operators) a salary instead of per mile or hourly?

The gripe behind being paid a salary is with hours worked. Some feel employers can take advantage and force employees to work extra hours and not have to pay them for their service. This is true in some cases. Many of us have had jobs that expected us to put in more than 40 hours a week. But in the trucking world, companies cannot force a driver to work beyond what is legally allowed. The law states (in simple terms, as there are many factors that go into HOS) that a truck driver must have 10 hours off-duty a day and cannot drive after 14 hours on-duty in a day.

Sure, 14 hours is significantly more than eight, but a yearly salary can reflect what the individual driver will be taking on.

Fleets have also voiced how ELDs will “level the playing field,” so this should also make it easier to offer a base salary and not be compromised from a competitive standpoint.

Returning to altering HOS, I ask you this: if a driver was being paid a yearly salary, why would they even want to falsify their HOS? There would be no point monetarily speaking.

Drivers fudge their HOS for two reasons; they were held up by something and need to cover more miles and can’t in their remaining hours, or they want to get home.

The reality with ELDs is that if they work the way they are expected, there will be no getting around your HOS, so the number of hours a driver is in service should be clear to the company they work for.

Companies would also benefit from paying drivers a salary. Budgeting for a group of drivers with a yearly salary is more accurate than by mile or hour.

What about productivity, you ask? Would it suffer if drivers were being paid a yearly salary and knew they’d get the same paycheck regardless?

It could, which is no different than any other industry that offers salary-based pay to employees. A driver’s productivity is easy to monitor in 2018 with all the technology available. Most companies I have talked to are already tracking where their drivers are and when on a daily basis…it’s nothing new. So productivity should not be an issue. And why not offer bonuses to drivers who go above and beyond the call of duty if motivation is a concern?

Oddly enough, there are carriers out there paying drivers a yearly salary. One I spoke to would not go public with that information for fear of pushback from others in the industry.

I’d love to hear your thoughts as to why this is the case.

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A university graduate with a degree in English, I have worked in the media and trucking industries as a writer, editor, and now as western bureau chief of Today's Trucking and I have several years of management experience in journalism, as well as hospitality, but am first and foremost a writer, both professionally and in my personal life, having completed two fiction novels.

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  • strongly believe in running legal.

    work for a company that I thought would be hooped when ELD’s come in.
    Then I realized that when notification comes in the driver is over his hours on the ELD, what will the difference be? They do not care now the driver working past the max. Why are they going to care when they are told electronically?

  • Just a few words about this yearly salary yes it would be good to know that you will be paid say ex. 50000.dollars per year equal to a hourly wage of 25.00 dollar per hour.
    Now there is already companies out there giving bonuses for performance and well managed.
    ELD is easy to work with and offer a better manageable way to plan your driving day.
    So if for any reason the driver has to wait say 10 hours to get loaded at a shipper like it happen often with perishable than the so call 25 dollars per hour would be paid regardless moving or not and the 14 hour clock would be going and when loaded one hour left to drive for the on duty not driving gig I know transport companies do not agree with this portion of the regulation and actually try to push driver to put themself off duty while waiting to get loaded there would be hot discussion than and perhaps a pink sleep from the employer for not following their suggestion.
    Being on salary has it’s good point and also put the driver under the gun by ( you do what I say or else).

  • While a Salary sounds good, and may make an initial splash and boost recruiting efforts, I am not convinced it would work long term as an enticement for the “Cream of the Crop” drivers. Piece work appeals to best in class drivers because they out work and out perform their counter parts, and will want the opportunity to continue to do so. One of the amazing things about the trucking industry is that there are so many different types of driving jobs with varying complexity and physical demands, that broad variety makes “Standardized” compensation difficult, and lends itself to a Hourly + Premium wage scale, or piece work – By The Mile etc.
    If you go to a salary base will you find the “Cream of the Crop” drivers you are looking for or will you end up with “Yesterdays Bagels”?

  • Derek-60 years in trucking from Line-Driver through Management, and believe a hourly salary in line with other trades is the answer. A true “Professional” driver in the arena of 8 to 10,000 miles a month should be earning $100 to 150,00 a month. The Government and Corporate should have classed “LINE-DRIVER” as a certfied trade long ago! – Thankyou.

  • Hourly is they way in my opinion . Companies can monitor productivity and everyone feels they are getting what they pay for . Bonus for good track record and efficiency . By the mile is out the window I’m my opinion . Paid by the mile on an industry that is highly regulated by time makes no sense .

    • Dennis- Mileage is a form of cheap labour and the Trucking industry regulated by Corporate and Government, continue to play this monetary game over the past 50 years. Particularily “owner-operators ” who have no protection and rely on Brokers who are dishonest.

  • Very well,then! Salary it is. Let’s take stock. My social life is totally sacrificed,my personal health is at risk from being subject to eating restaurant food from the choke and puke roadside truck stops all week(or longer) and my body will suffer the effects from sitting on my can at the wheel most of the time. The option of working in a physically demanding job in the industry,like the direct store food delivery sector,is no longer an option for me. I spent approx. 10 years doing that already in my career and the knees and elbows are spent as a result. My price-$100,000/year.sign me up!