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Driver pay jumps 15% in five years, but persistent shortages dog carriers

by Mary Rooney | May 01, 2018
Source: Logistics Management 
There has never been a more profitable time to be a truck driver—or a tougher time to be trying to hire one. By most accounts, the industry is about 50,000 qualified drivers short of what demand could handle.

“Finding qualified drivers is one of the top areas of focus,” Darren Hawkins, who assumed the role of president and COO of YRC Worldwide on Jan. 1, told Logistics Management.

For more than a decade, unionized carriers such as YRC and ABF Freight had a surplus of drivers, often several hundred or more on layoff status because of the soft economy of the past.

That is no longer the case as less-than-truckload (LTL) carriers are joining their truckload brethren in the search for qualified, compliant drivers to replace those retiring or leaving the industry.

Hawkins said LTL carriers “all have recruiting departments, driving schools, and we try to transition dock workers into drivers.” But he said the shortage of human power is preventing nearly all trucking companies from expanding capacity.

A recent American Trucking Associations survey of more than 100,000 drivers shows driver pay has climbed as rising demand for freight transportation services has increased competition for increasingly scarce drivers.

According to this most recent study, the median salary for a truckload driver working a national, irregular route was more than $53,000 – a $7,000 increase from ATA’s last survey, which covered annual pay for 2013, or an increase of 15%.

In a sign of desperation, the trucking lobby has revived an oft-killed proposal to allow 18-to-21-year-olds to drive an 80,000-pound rig across state lines. Proponents say the younger drivers could help ease the shortage. But in an election year, safety advocates and the railroad lobby can be counted on to oppose this measure in spades.

For now, fleets are resigned to just paying more. In addition to rising pay, Costello said fleets were offering generous signing bonuses – as much as $10,000 if they stay one year with a company--and benefit packages to attract and keep drivers.

Read more from Logistics Management.

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