Hourly pay best way to deal with wait times

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“Remember that time I went to deliver at XYZ Company and it only took 20 minutes, and they were happy to see me?”

That is a real-life occurrence, but quite rare. Almost as rare as appointment times meaning something.

Waiting to load or unload is a source of stress for drivers, particularly van or reefer drivers.

It comes down to communication, or rather a lack of communication. What is promised to the customer rarely filters through to the driver. If you think this isn’t an issue, you’re the problem.

I’m not saying that misleading drivers is deliberate or intentional. From the time a contract is negotiated until the truck bumps the dock, there has been plenty of talk and paperwork generated.

Picture of a truck at a loading dock
(Photo: iStock)

I believe that most fleets try to get the right information to the driver, but that’s only as reliable as the person inputting the information. It is maddening how many times I have had to call for the correct load number. Some customers call it one thing, another call it something else, and the trucking company has its own system that may be different again.

Should be a simple fix, right? Not so fast there, Speedy. You see, some office people think drivers don’t need certain info.

The next issue is there may be several numbers on the contract/load offer sheet. A number may be missed or entered incorrectly.

How does this affect waiting time? Now you’re getting delayed and pushed back because you and your company are labeled as idiots for not knowing the right number.

Verifying appointment times

And would you believe there are companies who won’t allow the driver to verify appointment times with the customer? Often, a driver is told to be at XYZ Company at a certain time. The office person assumes the driver will be late so they deliberately give the driver an appointment time that’s a couple hours early.

This does two things. Normally there is a two-hour grace period given to customers. The driver will not get any extra pay until that has elapsed. The catch is that it will not start until the real appointment time. If the driver is lucky, they’ll get out in two hours. What is more likely is that the customer won’t look at them until the actual appointment time. Then, both the customer and driver are unhappy.

I don’t know how to say this nicely but, sales and shipping seem to be in different countries. They also seem to deliberately speak different languages.

I used to go to one place where the receiver would start swearing at me. He didn’t think they needed any more product. I offered to leave if they would sign my bills. I’m still not sure if he reveled in trying to upset drivers, but I got great service when he saw it wasn’t working with me.

I have waited as long as 24 hours to get out of a customer’s yard. One place was notoriously bad. Literally twice as many trucks to load as they could handle. It ran two shifts and the second shift worked lots of overtime trying to get the drivers out.

The art of avoiding pay

I’ve heard the argument: Why do you care? You’ll get paid for waiting. Sure. There are many things a driver must do to get that money. Trucking companies have made it an art. The process is too complicated. Why do you think there is so much resistance to paying drivers by the hour?

My last, and sorest point regarding waiting time is load brokers. There are a few good ones but they are few and far between. Shippers don’t seem to care who hauls their freight. Brokers are masters at miscommunication.

Good luck getting waiting time paid by certain brokers. They may get paid, but it’ll never get to the driver.

Why we have so many brokers is beyond me. There are load boards. Every shipper has a computer in their office. It is that simple. Ban brokers from using load boards. If you agree to haul a load, it’s going on your truck. A third party serves no good purpose.

Direct communication between the customer and trucking company may not solve all the issues, but at least it would remove the worm from the apple.

The best way forward would be to pay drivers by the hour. Start the clock at pre-trip, end it at post-trip, and subtract the mandated rest periods. When drivers are waiting for the next load, they get paid until their 13 or 14 hours is up. I bet that’ll solve the retention issue as well.

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David Henry is a longhaul driver, Bell Let's Talk representative and creator/cohost of the Crazy Canuck Truckin podcast. His passion is mental health and presenting a better image for trucking to the public.

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  • Well said a fair wage with hourly overtime pay drivers alowed to take a unpaid 15 min break every 4 hours. A plan to provide for sick and injured drivers proper medical care and supplies and proper food and tempary housing should be part of any trusted employer program
    Also safe parking with adrivers room and safe bathrooms are needed. In ont and alberta bring a program to train and insure new truck drivers for the first 2 yrs with 1cent / km to help farrmers train new drivers under 20 yrs of age . If we bring a tiered fair wage based on experiance driver turnover who drop to 25% . Also any trucking company bringing foreign drivers should have put $10.000 cd /driver brought in to fund a new driver insurance and training program. I vol with a non profit and do not see the gov or the industry want put $ or effort to fix these problems
    I stead just using foreign ( students) drivers a cheaper labour source.