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Driver shortage a good news/bad news story: Prime’s Low

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. -- Prime Inc., a 5,000-truck outfit based out of Springfield, Mo., has constructed a Millennium Building for its drivers that could be considered the envy of the industry.

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. — Prime Inc., a 5,000-truck outfit based out of Springfield, Mo., has constructed a Millennium Building for its drivers that could be considered the envy of the industry.

It includes: a cafeteria; aerobics equipment and gym with personal trainers; a weight room; a small movie theatre; a certified, subsidized day care; a day spa and hair salon; a doctor’s office; showers and hotel-style dorm rooms; and mailroom.

Prime’s president and founder Rob Low meets with drivers weekly to host an open mic-style drivers’ meeting, where any questions or concerns are addressed head on.

All that, and still Prime’s annual driver turnover sits at about 54%. Granted, 54%, by US standards, is well below the going rate. But still it’s a number that’s difficult to comprehend given the lengths to which Prime has gone in an attempt to accommodate and provide for its drivers.

Low spoke at the most recent Driving for Profit seminar in early November. The driver shortage was one of many issues covered during the seminar’s popular How They Did It section.

“The bad news is, we’re going to have a driver shortage and the good new is, we’re going to have a driver shortage,” Low said. “The driver shortage is the one constraint, in my opinion, that exists in the marketplace to keep that lid on capacity and prevent us from overexpanding. The folks aren’t out there in the numbers required to grow this industry to respond with adequate capacity to fill the needs of every shipper if we get a little more growth in the economy. I think we’re at the tipping point now. Business is not great, but it’s not horrible. If the economy gets back to the level it should be growing at, trucks are going to get tied up, rates are going to go up, drivers incomes are going to go up and to me, that’s a really good thing.”

Asked how high driver salaries will need to go before trucking is viewed as an attractive career, Low said it’s not all about the money.

“I think part of the solution is making the job better, making the lifestyle better, getting them home more, treating them with more respect,” Low said. “If they’re getting treated like second class citizens, even making $100,000 a year might not be enough to tolerate that.”

Low said the solution lies in employing more sophisticated routing techniques, getting drivers home more frequently and treating them with respect.

Prime’s investment in its 40,000 sq.-ft. Millennium Centre is one way the company has chosen to show it respects its professional drivers.

“Our idea is for the Millennium building to be a slice of the contemporary middle-class lifestyle,” Low said. “Our feelings are that drivers aspire to those same kinds of things that you and I would, and if you can provide them with that which they are largely deprived of while driving in many respects, you have a leg up on your competitors that maybe don’t value those things.”

Looking ahead, Low said an ability to recruit and retain professional drivers will be of monumental importance to carriers.

“Companies that can’t recruit and retain high quality, safe, productive drivers are not going to make it in this environment,” he said.

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16 Comments » for Driver shortage a good news/bad news story: Prime’s Low
  1. meslippery says:

    No a $100,000.00 would be better…

  2. Trainm says:

    Money, money, money eh Meslippery…

  3. d white says:

    Why do these big companys think bilding these so called state of the art buldings are good for us. It is just taking money that could be put in are pockets. Yes it looks good for their image but how often really is a driver going to use it. If they are at the termanal that means they are not working making money. My self I think they could of invested their time and money trying to get the drivers home in steasd of sitting on the road. Bottom line how much money could have been spent on drivers wages or benifits sounds like a lot of wasted money to me.

  4. Mike says:

    It’s no surprise that it’s a trucking executive that says money isn’t the biggest issue.

  5. 2nd Time Around says says:

    I’m a 54 year old retired paramedic. I spent 25 years running around with my hair on fire at 100 at a hour( that’s just a phrase). I’ve spent the last 3 years investigating this industry with the intent on becoming part of it. This executive is very much like a lot of government buracrats that I faught with for 25 years who loved to be interviewed and spoke like they knew what the rank & file ambulance officer wanted from their career. This guys full of crap!!!!!. Having a fancy gym and building doesn’t mean squat to an employee when he’s no where near the damn place. Truckers and farmers are treated like shit…..I’d have obtained my C.D.L. 2 years ago……….if I was interested in working in a “sweat shop industry”. Farmers and many military types work the kind of hours that truckers are forced to work in order to make a living. It’s way beyond insulting……..and these high paid, tie wearing fools love to yak as if they have their hands on the pulse of the average driver……give me a break!!!!!

  6. Rick says:

    With all due respect, the people running these companies truly don’t get it do they. There is absolutely no driver shortage in North America.

    And this guy is yet another of many who foolishly state “its not just about $$”. Really? Perhaps he’s absolutely right, there is a long, long list of reasons why trucking is a lousy job, and certainly not a career by any stretch of the imagination. But lets just start with the money, because it is the easiest to quantify. In fact it’s simple.

    Do the math ladies and gentlemen… assume a paltry $22/hr x 40 hrs = $880/wk, add in another 30 hrs (x time & 1/2 … the bare minimum overtime standard in every other industry) …that’s 30hrs x 22×1.5($33/hr) = another $990/wk… = $1870 per week is what a truckdriver working 70 hr/wk should be earning. Minimum!! That is $97,240 / yr. Plus nearly any other job would pay accomodation and some form of meal allowance for working out of town. Not trucking…! And don’t forget, other trade type jobs also provide medical, dental and insurance benefit plans plus employer paid pensions or RRSP’s. Again…not trucking! By the way, most trades pay a heck of a lot more than $22/hr.

    Can anyone give us one good reason that truckdriving would be a “good occupation”? Anyone? Name one positive feature that the job offers in today’s world. Maybe its the low pay,…or public hatred & disdain…, how about the electronic monitoring like a criminal…

    Headlines across the country scream of a shortgage of truck drivers. Yet there may be upwards of one hundred thousand fully licenced truckdrivers in Canada who are no longer working in the industry. Think about that…!!! There is a reason. Yet how does industry and governments respond…by bringing in offshore drivers. Does anyone in Canada know or even care that almost all truck drivers in Canada do not fall under any provincial labour standards, and therefore are not protected by the same standards that most Canadians take for granted. In the past few years governments have approved and increased the “legal” truck driver workweek to 70 HOURS!! Most drivers don’t get paid by the hour, its by the load, or the mile. No overtime, no pay for waiting, loading, chaining, etc, etc So almost all of that sitting gets counted as “off duty”, only to be made up for by actually drivng as much as possible in the other 70 Hrs of their week. The resulting pay for the job seldom equates to more than minimum wage, sometimes less than that, not to mention the responsibility, liability and disdain from society. Where have all the responsible, courteous truck drivers gone? Most are as far away from trucking as they can get. They’ve been replaced by transient or cheap labour only filling a seat until something better comes along. There is no shortage of qualified, reliable, courteous, responsible truck drivers in Canada. There is a severe shortage of truck driving jobs in Canada that offer drivers fair labour standards, pay and treatment that the rest of society would consider acceptable in most jobs.

    For many years, truck drivers and owner-operator associations have lobbied gov’t for better training, better licencing requirements, better working conditions (to even qualify under common labour standards) and to list ‘transport driver’ as a trade; with absolutely no success. In fact federal & provincial governement policies over the past 30 years have completely destroyed the financial stability of the road transport industry. Unions have all but completely given up on it. Drivers hve been villified and the regulations and penalties are almost all aimed squarely at them, not the carriers. Come up with any good reasons to become a truckdriver yet..?

    No one in society gives a damn about truck drivers. No one. They have absolutely no voice in society. None. Truck drivers are scorned, frowned upon, hated and blamed for nearly everything from congestion, noise, parking…

  7. Dave says:

    RICK, You are right on the money. MONEY$$$$$ is the shortage in the trucking industry. If the fat cats that own these company’s would wake up and share the wealth they would find that they would make more money in the long run with professional drivers that they retain that are safe and conscientious drivers. Their costs will decrease therefore making them more MONEY$$$$.
    Canadian and American Truckers MUST push the governments to enact legislation to move the industry to an HOURLY wage pay package that would be a advantage to the health and well being of every driver and an increase in the safety in the industry.Have a look at the industry in England and Europe.

  8. M Smith says:

    Kudos to Rick…well said.

  9. tony says:

    Great for prime to offer these benefits for there driver’s but that is like offering candy to a child. Good take home pay is the bottom line. Small companies are on way out most cannot compete with the big guys, like Alan Jackson sings the little man. The lifestyle and health style is terrible in this industry, but if you do not get the miles without eating and sleeping you do not get a pay. When you sit you are not getting a cent of pay, but you have to eat then your dispatcher expects you to run your cell phone bill up which you cannot afford to pay. The shippers and some companies treat you like *%*# recruiters will paint a beautiful picture because they get huge commissions for your ass if you get hired then it is all down hill. EOBR,S are great for driver’s rest times but at the end of the day when your hours end your pay stops someday,s you get no miles equals no pay. But you are on the road away from family and all. Taking disrespect and being treated like shit by dispatchers and receiving companies. The truth is if you are paid by the mile in this industry you live like an animal on the road and eat when you can afford it. and live like a pig for your hygiene because you need the miles to get paid. Tell this to potential new driver’s coming into this industry. Tony

  10. Mr. Driver says:

    The issue is about money. No driver should be making less than $25/hr or 0.60 a mile. And, who wants to work 60 or 70 hours a week. We want normal lives. Truck drivers are not stupid people. In fact you have to be quite skilled and tough to be a real truck driver. Who wants retarded schedules and no family life? Give the drivers the pay the deserve and your shortage is gone.

  11. John says:

    Lifestyle is money IF in 40 hours on the road we could make a decent wage we would but we need 70 hrs a week an illiegle amount of hours in most industry’s just to make it. Money buy’s lifestyle so if the money comes so do the drivers. simple to bad management cannot figuire it out. If every company paid 25% more tommorow and raised the rates acordingly it would not take long to make it work, instead most companies are looking to cut rates instead.

  12. Ivory says:

    35 years into this industry and I am not making much more now than I did back then, and many of these companies are still paying per mile rates as what they did back then.

    A trucking company executive, that for argument sake was making 100k back then is now making a 500k! The entire spectrum seems a bit out of balance!

    But I continually hear that they are deserving of those numbers in order for the company to retain TOP talent; we see where the TOP talent of Hostess is heading, with the CEO making $125k a MONTH; probably to the trucking industry.

    Stay tuned; I am writing a book in attempt to presuade those considering driving for a living to seriously reconsider, and I hope that it will be published in the early part of 2013.

  13. John H. says:

    Quote from article:

    “Asked how high driver salaries will need to go before trucking is viewed as an attractive career, Low said it

  14. Dutch van Noggeren says:

    I wish one large company would pay 60 cents/mile plus attractive benefits. The industry would see how foolish the term ‘driver shortage’ is. This company who offered 60 cents per mile would have more driver applicants than they could handle. Yes, it’s all about money and the large carriers don’t want that fact to see the light of day. Dutch

  15. Mike says:

    I do make $100,000 a year (after overhead). Do I go home every weekend?….No Do I go home 1 weekend a month?……No So figure out what your priorities are. If it’s money, then all you have to do is work. If it’s time off, that’s fine but don’t complain about your income if you decide not work. Oh by the way, I’m leased to Prime and have been for almost 14 years, never been a Company Driver, I’ve always leased and yes I do make that much after costs……..Mike

  16. John H. says:

    To Mike:

    You claim that you are making $100,000 a year after all costs as a single driver.

    This includes all costs of running your truck, plus all expenses being on the road. (meals, showers, etc).

    You say you are only home one weekend a month and on the road the rest of the time.

    Lets do some basic math based on three senerios:

    (A) You drive 14,000 miles a month. (168,000 yearly)
    (B) You drive 15,000 miles a month. (180,000 yearly).
    (C) You drive 16,000 miles a month. (192,000 yearly).

    Based on this you are claiming a clear and free profit after all expenses of the following:

    (A) 59.5 cents per mile.
    (B) 55.5 cents per mile.
    (C) 52.0 cents per mile.

    (Example for A: take 100,000 and divide 168,000 to get 59.5 cents).

    Considering the rate the carriers are paying these days a clear and free profit margin with these numbers is really amazing.

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