Trucks are responsible for carrying 72% of goods throughout the US, yet the industry has not bounced back from the pandemic driver shortage. The COVID-19 pandemic emphasized problems drivers face in their careers, such as the aging working population, unpaid long hours, and high turnover rates. Is there still a trucker shortage in 2022? According to University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee economist James Peoples, the shortage problem was there before COVID but COVID made matters worse.

Sufficient pay is reported as the best way to address the high turnover and driver shortage. A WorkHound survey in 2020 reported that pay is the most critical factor in keeping drivers happy. So how are drivers compensated since the pandemic? Trucking companies tend to keep wages low to hire more workers, but driver pay has increased even before the shortage. Thus, how much do professional drivers make? In 2019, American Truck Association reported the average pay of a long-haul driver (including bonuses) increased to $6,000 compared to 2017. Thus it is possible for trucking companies to compensate their drivers fairly and still save on costs incurred from a high turnover or sudden shortage.

Driver Compensation and Benefits in the New Normal

Top priority among all types of truck drivers

Stay Index data from the second half of 2020 reports that sufficient pay is the top factor in driver retention for both men and women. The index analyzes pain points, driver dissatisfaction, and other factors that influence a driver’s commitment to the job. Compensation is also the number one critical issue in the industry for both independent contractors and owner-operators, according to the American Transportation Research Institute. Pay is a primary reason for getting any job. Fleet carriers need to address this issue if they are paying drivers low wages or rates below the average top driver pay.

Proper compensation addresses the industry risks

Truck driving is a dangerous industry that needs to address the risks with proper compensation. Trucking is listed among the top 10 most dangerous jobs because of diesel exhaust exposure, shift changes, roadway dangers, and excessive noise. The extended hours sitting and driving (up to 70 hours a week on the road), plus the lack of consistent sleep put drivers at higher health risk for obesity, diabetes, heart attacks, high blood pressure, and cancer.

The long-term dangers of the industry and higher risk of chronic diseases force them to work at the expense of their overall well-being. The per hour or per mile pay structure is insignificant compared to the long-term consequences on their health. Above average truck driver compensation helps motivate your staff to work through these difficult conditions. Higher pay and good health benefits also provides them the resources to address the risks that arise from their work.

Driver retention and satisfaction’s importance increased during the pandemic

The importance of having to retain truck drivers and satisfaction increased during the pandemic as more drivers stayed home while the freight demand went up. The lower number of available drivers for higher demand aggravated the driver shortage. But what do transportation jobs pay? Even before the pandemic shortage, the numbers show that drivers who stayed on the job in 2018 were 6% higher compared to the average salary of those who left. While the numbers may seem costly, the wage difference would cost your company less than $3,600 to replace a driver. This is a conservative estimate as there are other top driver pay costs to consider like a driver bonus program, recruitment, training, and testing fees. The increase in wage on current staff becomes an investment that saves you more money in the long-run. It’s a big driver retention bonus for your overall operational costs.

Balance fair compensation with work-life balance

A guaranteed transport service salary alone cannot retain truck drivers and reduce turnover. The impact of driver shortages was most felt on long-haul routes because drivers realized how much time was taken away from their families. Thus, work-life balance among women and personal life among men became a top driver retention factor. This factor balances the other critical retention factor of fair pay for the amount of work among women and for their level of experience among men.

Fleet carrier companies should note that women make up 2% to 10% of the current truck driving workforce. Addressing their needs for fair pay and work-life balance helps solve the driver shortage and high turnover rates.

Fair and increased driver compensation not only keeps your drivers but also encourages a culture that your staff will want to work in. You can complete the fleet company’s beneficial offerings of higher pay and benefits with a system that rewards drivers for their positive behavior. Netradyne’s GreenZone® is the first and only driver score system built on positive driving. Drivers benefit from being rewarded for their efforts. Talk to Netradyne today and find out how you can incorporate this into your fleet.

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