Regular review key to setting pay, driver recruitment, expert says

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Carriers must be mindful of the total package when deciding how much truck drivers should be paid. This includes pay, home time, labor-intensive tasks like hand-bombing freight or tarping loads, benefits, predictability of trips, and a work-life balance.

Ultimately, do drivers value their jobs? That is the question carriers and recruiters need to ask themselves, said Rob Hatchett, president, Fleet Intel, during a Truckload Carriers Association webinar.

A carrier that offers a better overall package does not need to pay as much, the driver recruitment expert said.

truck driver pay
Several factors come into play when drivers determine if they value their jobs. (Screen capture: TCA)

Hatchett encourages carriers to review driver pay packages every six months, giving everyone involved a chance to compare fleet offerings to competitive packages in the market, rather than waiting for something to go wrong.

In a trucking company, there are many departments and opinions involved, and people should not come in with a “I’ve got it right attitude,” he said.

Recruiters will certainly have an opinion on what driver pay should be, and tend to seek as much as possible to get people in the door. The safety team would like to pay the good drivers more, pushing for safety bonuses to reward truckers who are safe and perform their jobs well.

Picture of truck driver giving a thumbs up
(Photo: iStock)

The sales folks will argue that recruiting can’t have all the money because the freight being hauled must be priced correctly, else business will be lost. The operations department may oversee retention and want to incentivize drivers who stay with the company for a long time. And the C-suite will be eyeing profitability.

Communication is important and everyone involved must come together to make a good decision, without feeling one group has won and another has lost the discussion, he said.

As the market is constantly evolving, conversations need to keep up.

10-cent leap

Hatchett said the approach used by carriers in the past two years can be placed in three categories – the 10-cent leap, the two-cent shuffle, and the “hold firm”.

In the 10-cent leap, carriers offered big raises because they believed rates were going up and there was a driver shortage. They hoped to reap the benefit of recruiting and retaining drivers.

Then there were those who did the two-cent shuffle, bumping up pay by a couple of cents three or four times in two years.

The hold firm group wasn’t willing to bite off more than it could chew and did not raise pay.

Hatchett noted that driver recruiting trends follow rates, and rates have been dropping over the past couple of months. There is also a good pipeline of drivers in the system because many licence holders who had stepped away from the industry are making their way back.

Don’t overreact

Hatchett said the supply and demand of drivers will help carriers understand what needs to be done with pay, and cautions against overreacting because of an uncertain market.

It’s why he recommends asking questions about bonuses and guaranteed pay alike, and having conversations about driver pay on a regular basis.

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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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