Costs keep going up while rates lag behind

by James Menzies

SHERWOOD PARK, Alta. – It’s not easy getting a Canadian over-the-road trucker to go on the record about pay rates. Most would be out of a job if their employers read what they really thought about their pay, because the general consensus is “the rates stink!”

While many of the costs of doing business have skyrocketed in recent years for the average owner/operator – fuel and insurance costs to name but a couple – pay has, for the most part, remained stagnant.

That’s largely because fleets are dealing with the same cost increases as owner/operators, but on a larger scale. That makes it hard to offer a raise in such a volatile industry. However with the term “driver shortage” continuing to be one of the latest buzzwords among fleet managers, the problem is not going to go away if rates aren’t increased.

Bob Heidrick, a Sherwood Park, Alta. owner/op running Western Canada for Kindersley Transport, has worked for a few trucking companies before finding one that was willing to pay him a fair wage.

“As far as I can say, out of the four different companies I’ve worked for, these guys are the best (payers) I’ve found,” says Heidrick.

He usually pulls general freight behind his International Eagle, and he says the upkeep of his truck gets more and more expensive. It’s essential the pay rates reflect that cost increase so O/Os can stay afloat when times are tough.

“Our operating costs are going up every year and our wages aren’t following,” he says, while breaking for dinner with his wife Barb on their way to Winnipeg. “It just keeps getting a little tougher and a little tougher.”

Realizing that fleets are facing the same financial challenges in today’s business environment as their drivers, Heidrick says sometimes it’s just nice to know an employer cares about its drivers financial concerns.

“Kindersley seems to be a bit more caring than the other ones I’ve been with,” says Heidrick. “Other fleets don’t even care, but these guys will at least listen. Whether or not anything is accomplished, at least you get them to listen.”

And occasionally that listening pays off resulting in a fair raise, as Heidrick recently found out when awarded a handsome pay increase.

“The last go-around when they gave us a raise it was four cents per mile across the board, so you can’t really kick at that,” says Heidrick. “It’s made a difference, there’s no doubt about it.”

Fleets that can find a way to reward their drivers and O/Os with a rate increase now and again reap the rewards of stability within their workforce, as Heidrick can attest to. He says he has no plans of leaving Kindersley and would like to return the favor by providing them with many years of productivity, proving that employee loyalty is one of the benefits of paying decent rates. n

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