Earnings up, miles down for ‘Best Fleets’ company drivers in 2016

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. — Company drivers working for the Top 20 Best Fleets to Drive For last year earned more money on fewer miles.

The Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) awards program, which is administered by Mark Murrell and Jane Jazrawy of CarriersEdge, celebrates the best workplaces and HR practices in trucking. It also provides a snapshot of what the most successful fleets are doing to attract and retain drivers.

Last year, company drivers working for the Top 20 Best Fleets averaged income of $59,199, up from $56,330 in 2015. That marked about a 5% increase in pay while they saw their miles decrease 1.61% to 109,989 on average. (Administrators did not differentiate between the US and Canadian currencies, but plan to do so in future years). The average pay for these drivers was 53.82 cents per mile, a 5.8% increase year-over-year, on the heels of a similar increase in 2015, meaning earnings among Best Fleets drivers have gone up nearly 12% over the past two years.

It was a different story entirely for owner/operators, who saw their gross income decrease in 2016 from $192,135 to $164,936. That marks a 14.16% decrease in revenue while their miles increased 1.16%. Owner/operators averaged about $1.50 per mile in 2016. CarriersEdge president Mark Murrell, when speaking at a Driving for Profit seminar yesterday, said the decrease in owner/operator earnings bears watching, but it may simply represent a normalization after a large spike in 2015; owner/ops still earned more last year than in 2014.

One trend that continues to emerge among Best Fleets winners is the move towards guaranteed pay, whether it be the assurance of a certain number of miles each month or a minimum weekly base pay. Murrell said 20% of the Best Fleets now offers some form of guaranteed pay.

“That’s an interesting shift for us and I think it’s going to grow a lot more from there, because drivers are getting fed up with inconsistencies in pay,” Murrell said.

Fleets are also doing better at paying for delays. Murrell said more fleets are now paying drivers for delays starting with the first hour. He also noted a shift towards experienced-based compensation, where a driver with 20 years’ experience will receive more per mile than a rookie.

“More and more fleets are waking up to that and making adjustments accordingly and they’re starting to bring drivers in a higher pay rate if they have more verifiable experience,” Murrell said.

Fleets that place among the Top 20 in the Best Fleets to Drive For program tend to have strong communication with drivers. But this goes beyond having an “open door policy,” explained Jazrawy.

“Communication is the number one indicator of whether your workplace is effective or not effective, because everything we do in our companies is about communication,” she explained. While virtually every fleet claims to have an open door policy, Jazrawy said that’s not enough, as it still places the onus on drivers to raise concerns and many are reticent to do so. More effective communications strategies actively seek input from drivers, she noted.

“An open door policy as part of a communications strategy is fine, but don’t rely on it,” she urged.

The Best Fleets winners solicit feedback in a variety of ways, including through surveys, town hall meetings, driver meetings, driver advisory boards and conference calls. It’s important to act on concerns raised by drivers, Jazrawy noted.

One of the biggest complaints from drivers centers around fairness in compensation and dispatch. FTC Transportation, the 2016 Best Overall Fleet to Drive For in the small fleet division, addresses this by examining its drivers’ earnings over a 10-week rolling average.

“Having that manual oversight and watching the 10-week rolling average makes sure nobody has too many bad weeks in a row,” Murrell said.

Some fleets are going to great lengths to offer drivers a unique experience. Central Oregon Truck Company has a concierge service that greets drivers when they return from a trip.

“The driver gets out of their truck and they’re met by a concierge who cleans their truck and gets them a coffee,” explained Jazrawy.

More fleets are also building custom apps to improve communication and connectivity among drivers. Grand Island Express has an app that allows drivers to rate their load and shipper, moments after delivery.

This year, program administrators sorted through 592 pages of driver comments and found what drivers want from their employers hasn’t changed much in recent years. They continue to rank access to good facilities, showers, microwaves and Internet among their priorities. Other requests include truck washes, RSP/401 (k) savings plans and sleeping quarters at terminals. Drivers also expressed a desire to be informed on how their company is performing relative to others. They also like good equipment, flexibility, home time and safety programs. Nominations for the 2017 Best Fleets to Drive For program open up in September. For more information, visit www.BestFleetsToDriveFor.com.

James Menzies is editor of Today's Trucking. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 18 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at james@newcom.ca or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.

Have your say

We won't publish or share your data