Better pay, schedules help driver retention

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Drivers are not being paid enough and as older truckers hang up their keys, the new generation behind the wheel is looking for suitable schedules and companies must adapt.

Fleet officials were divided on the practice of sign-on bonuses paid to attract new talent, during a panel session on recruiting and retention best practices at Truckload Carriers Association’s Bridging Border Barriers in Brampton, Ont. on Wednesday.

From left. Ray Haight, Trevor Kurtz, Mark Seymour and Michael Zelek at TCA’s Bridging Border Barriers in Brampton, Ont. (Photo: John G. Smith)

Mark Seymour, president & CEO, Kriska Transportation Group Seymour said it is very unfair to people who work for you for a long time. “I don’t believe in it. There is no sustainability to sign-on bonuses, I don’t like them,” he said.

Trevor Kurtz, general manager, Brian Kurtz Trucking said, “It is a necessary evil.” Kurtz has people in the company who have been working for a long time and retirements are looming. Trying to get new people into the industry, the company has stretched out the sign-on bonus over a year.

Michael Zelek is someone who knows a lot about driver retention. The director of human resources for Wellington Group of Companies was named national recruiter of the year at the National Recruiting & Retention Symposium recently.

Secret sauce

What’s his secret sauce?  Being respectful and open with drivers, and salaries, Zeller said. Wellington has a 98% retention rate and went 18 months without losing a driver.

Moderator Ray Haight, TCA Profitability Program (TPP) retention coach said companies hire more drivers than they need, they just don’t keep them. “Success starts at the top, and successful companies drill it into their culture and they win,” he said.

Zelek said Wellington pays local drivers a guaranteed salary of $65,000 a year, based on working on average for about 50 hours a week. Drivers who stay in the truck overnight are paid between $75,000 and $80,000 a year, working about 50 hours a week.

Kriska’s Seymour says the pay should be a lot more. “We have never been in a better position than we are today to charge a lot more than what we do, so we can pay our people who do the work a lot more than we are doing. We can’t pay more if we don’t charge more,” he said. He said inflation is 6%, throwing a 2% or 3% of wage increase will not work.

Kurtz said rates at the top dictate what happens at the bottom.


Wellington has a wait list of drivers wanting to join the company, a good problem to have. Zelek says he has a 30% referral rate from his drivers.

Seymour said the ability to have your own people to be your recruiters is powerful. People work for people they don’t work for companies, he said. “If somebody applies to work for your company, it’s more likely to be long-term relationship. If they get seduced by the sign-on bonus it’s not going to be a long-term relationship,” he added.

Kurtz said if a driver is recommended by somebody it has the best results for longevity and they stick around longer. “If somebody recommends a guy, he becomes the go-to guy, a mentor.”

TCA’s Haight said a process is needed for this. “You need decals on your truck and business cards.”

Social media

Kurtz said to get young people into trucking the schedules must be right. “Some guys want to be home for their kid’s hockey game or spend a night out with their friends. It scares me that a lot of these kids want to work three days a week. We try to work with the schedules.”

Zelek said drivers getting smarter, collaborating, and getting more particular. They have a lot more preferences, want to be specific regions, and specific type of equipment whether it is van, flatbed, or reefer.

He said it is easy to get feedback with social media. “Drivers are talking more. If you get a bad reputation, it’s so hard to get rid of that reputation,” he said.

Seymour said the market will never fail but the ones who succeed in the market will be those that have people and retain them.

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Leo Barros is the associate editor of Today’s Trucking. He has been a journalist for more than two decades, holds a CDL and has worked as a longhaul truck driver. Reach him at

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    • Must be a Kriska driver 🙂
      Good on ya brother … you are 100% correct, and I hope they do put their money where there mouths are.

  • Why so I see so many injured truck drivers in homeless shelters
    Why do the companies that pay good wages by the hour with overtime have people lined up to work for them. You complain about a shortage but are bringing in E-logs without proper parking at shipping and receiving. Also Ont needs 2,200 more parking spots with electric plugs and bathrooms and showers.

  • Kriska has given us a pay raise back in aug $1 a hour for local drivers in mississauga we get paid the highest. $23 a hr then $34.50 after 9 hrs . Still not enough should be $27 at least a hr . They forced day shift to run corridor and get paid a mileage rate instead of hourly .I have been here since 2012 and never made more then $57.000. Kriska is a decent company but the work and money is not here

  • One local driver I know left a O T R company out of Saskatoon. He now drives tanker get $28. Base extra $1 at nights $43.00 on Sunday or after 12 hours per day or 50 hours per week got 3 weeks off and still making a $100,000. I live in a homeless shelter after getting in accident 5 years ago when I was hit from behind . Took 18 months and $20,000 to get my own truck back . I took the same company he used to work for to court for about $3000 owed in back wages while living in homeless I spent 7 000 on legal. Untill the industry cleans up the bad players including some members of the C T A. It is going to be hard to get new drivers with Evlogs and shipping and receiving not providing overnight parking.

  • These big companies need to set up schedules and switches so drivers can be home every second day at least with Elogs coming just needs to happen drivers should not be leaving their provinces you go to join Ontario switch them back to Winnipeg you go to Regina Saskatchewan switch and back to Winnipeg same goes with Alberta and BC switches need to be set up and proper places for Elogs to work and get paid by the hour starting at $30 an hour with Elogs thank you

    • The big problem is large trucking companies want e logs to push out small transport companies and owner ops with their own authority. I like your idea of hourly pay for any company that has a log with overtime make it only a requirement for those with 20 or more units including owner ops running under their authority.

  • Treat drivers fairly, with respect, across the board. Dock staff, dispatchers, supervisors, managers and your retention rates will rise.

    Pay a livable wage that is commensurate with locations. BC is much more expensive than Atlantic Canada and pay should reflect the differences.

    In a company driver model it will just take the C suite to decision the scales, with an Owner Operator model that is more challenging as the company cannot dictate to the O-O what they pay their drivers.

    A model that does not get much traction because the trucking industry seldom thinks out of the box, but equal salary across the year is a good retention model. The company can do the numbers but yes you lose in the slow months but gain during peak seasons. A steady income for a driver, 52 weeks a year is a great incentive to stay.

    It is discouraging to hear Mr. Seymore indicate I need to get more more money to pay more money. How about pay more money so you get more money?

  • Pay is the problem. Papa Johns is paying 27.50/Hr for G class….look it up. You really expect the younger generation to work 70hours…Donate free time at docks and be on the road for days…Have the risk of going to jail in an accident for only 55-60K….plus the taxman need to calm down a little bit too…make more take more is the real culprit here also.

  • Companies work so hard at recruiting drivers and yet work so hard at getting rid of them…. good drivers and bad ones too, there is always an idiot looking to make a name for themselves whether its in management or the safety department just to account for their jobs … makes them feel superior I guess ! If you stand by a river long enough you eventually see those odiots float down the river more than drivers do , so hang on tight to your present jobs if you like the freight your hauling !