U.S. fleets substantially hiking driver compensation

U.S fleets have hiked driver compensation substantially over the past two years, according to a new study from the American Trucking Associations (ATA).

While the survey of fleets with more than 135,000 company drivers and 20,000 independent contractors didn’t include Canadian members, the ATA noted pay increases were widespread and substantial.

“The data supports what industry sources have been saying for some time – the driver shortage has been great for drivers who saw their salaries rise last year,” said ATA chief economist Bob Costello. “Pay increases were broad-based across the industry, for example between salary increases and bonuses, the average truckload driver saw a wage increase of 10.9% last year.”

Compensation illustration
(Photo: iStock)

The median earnings for a U.S. truckload for-hire driver was $69,000 (all figures U.S.) in 2021, an 18% increase from the previous survey in 2019. More than 90% of surveyed fleets increased pay in 2021, with the average increase being 10.9%. Meanwhile, 96% of fleets offered referral bonuses for new drivers, and 54% paid sign-on bonuses.

The median wage for LTL drivers was $73,000, while private fleets paid drivers a median wage of $85,000.

Non-drayage owner-operators earned median gross revenues of $235,000. In a follow-up conference call with media, Costello said data was collected late last year and into January and February of this year, with nearly 60% of responding fleets reporting they planned further pay increases in 2022.

“I think that is indeed the case and is happening,” said Costello.

The figures included compensation and bonuses, but not benefits. “Drivers get good benefits, including retirement plans, health insurance, paid time off,” Costello said. “This occupation is a path to the middle class and there’s not a lot of that left anymore.”

The survey found 80% of drivers are still paid by the mile, while 20% are paid hourly or by salary. Costello said pay by the mile was as high as 95% a decade ago.

For the first time, the survey asked about compensation for Final Mile delivery drivers, who made about $65,000 – or $5,000 less than an over-the-road for-hire driver. But Costello noted those are more labor-intensive jobs, including handling and in some cases setting up deliveries.

“A lot of those over-the-road for-hire drivers do not touch freight,” he pointed out.

Driver turnover remains in the 70-75% range despite higher pay, but Costello said it’s mostly churn within the industry. Sign-on bonuses were typically in the range of $1,500 to $5,000, with some extraordinary bonuses that were much higher on offer at some fleets.

Fleets were asked if some drivers chose to drive less while earning the same income when their pay was increased and that was a “resounding yes,” Costello said. “I’ve heard that from years from fleets, and it’s gotten even more so. You have an occupation where people are making in the high 60s, low 70s on average and you give them a pay raise and a lot of those folks want to be home more often. Now it gives them an opportunity to do that and make the same amount of money.”

The full report can be purchased here.

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James Menzies is editor of Today's Trucking. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 20 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at james@newcom.ca or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.

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  • Cost of living is up 12 percent so wages need to go up the 12 percent plus another 10 percent when Elogs becomes required in Canada. U S truck drivers wages are 20 to 30 percent higher than in ont Canada