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Better staffed than sorry: How wage research can help retain drivers

TORONTO, Ont. - There are few things more frustrating than watching drivers trained on your dime jump to the competition, taking your training investment with them....

TORONTO, Ont. – There are few things more frustrating than watching drivers trained on your dime jump to the competition, taking your training investment with them.

But being well informed about the factors making them jump could help prevent this from happening.

Wage research data, for example, can help you keep track of whether you’re paying your drivers enough, says Stephen Harrington, director of special projects for Cerno Research.

“The best use of this information is to prove that your employees are paid well,” Harrington says. “And you can use this information to your advantage.

“By communicating it to your employees and showing them that there is an impartial process to establishing a wage benchmark for their position, you can reduce turnover within your company.”

Employees want to be treated fairly and feel they are being compensated appropriately for the work they do. Even simply monitoring this part of the operation and taking the time to discuss it with employees shows a level of concern and interest in their well being, Harrington says.

One of the worst enemies for a company is a rumour-based employment marketplace, Harrington adds.

“Truckers especially have to deal with rumours,” he says. “On the CB waves or at truck stops, drivers hear through the grapevine that they should be getting more money. And they also hear about the companies that are pulling more out of their pockets.”

Turnover likely costs the Canadian trucking industry hundreds of millions of dollars each year, says Harrington.

“The rule of thumb is to double the annual salary of the employee in question and that will be the cost of losing that employee. But in my opinion I think it can actually be higher in some cases,” he says.

Sometimes a manager doesn’t realize how important a worker is until that worker has left the company, Harrington points out. And that’s when the manager assigned to turnover has to drop what he or she is doing and make the hiring task a priority.

Disruption or turnover affects the rest of the company employees emotionally and, according to Harrington, many employees begin to wonder when it’s their time to leave. That doesn’t make for a sound working environment, he says.

“Every company is going to experience turnover. However, we need to have controlled turnover and get rid of unmanaged turnover,” Harrington says.

Getting rid of rumour in the marketplace and unmanaged turnover can be achieved by neutralizing it with wage research data and communication, he says.

The numbers

Cerno Research releases an annual report of Canadian trucking wage data every March.

For example, the average hourly wage for maintenance mechanics in 2004 was $19.70 with a high of $23.92 and a low of $9.00.

This was based on the data supplied by 44 companies, representing 104 trailer maintenance mechanics.

“We’ve seen an upwards twist on wages for trailer maintenance mechanics because there is a need for them in the industry. You have to keep your eye on that ball or else you could lose them,” Harrington says.

The average wage for a highway dispatcher was $46,084 with a high of $66,434 and a low of $23,400, according to 68 responding companies representing 270 highway dispatchers.

The local dispatcher average wage was $42,522 with a high of $60,000 and a low of $27,497. Sixty-seven companies contributed to that part of the survey, representing 119 local dispatchers.

“These are third-party figures in black and white that indicate what the benchmarks are and show employees where they fit on the spectrum,” Harrington says.

Common sense dictates a manager will have trouble keeping employees who are earning wages in the lower percentiles when they could be earning wages in the top end of the spectrum.

The best part about the data is that a manager still has total control over it, he adds.

“Make sure it is showing you the picture you want to show about your company, and if it isn’t then it is better to know than not know,” Harrington says.

Cerno Research reports reflect both small and large trucking companies, break down the data into categories by distance, type of equipment and company driver or owner/operator and they also include job description summaries.

Although Cerno’s wage report reflects the current situation and not the ideal, the companies with the high-end percentiles provide balance and are the leaders in the industry, Harrington says.

For information about Cerno’s wage data, other Cerno report details or to contribute to the wage data collection, visit or call Stephen Harrington at (416) 703-3461.

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