2014 US Trucking News – Trucker Shortage Blamed on Low Salary Issue
In 2006, the US trucking industry as a whole employed 3.4 million drivers. A major problem for the long-haul trucking industry is that a large percentage of these drivers are aging, and are also expected to retire. Very few new hires are expected in the near future, resulting in a driver shortage. Currently, within the long-haul sector, there is an estimated shortage of 20,000 drivers. That shortage is expected to increase to 111,000 by 2014. Trucking, especially the long-haul sector, is also facing an image crisis due to the long working hours, long periods of time away from home, the dangerous nature of the work, the relatively low pay (compared to hours worked), and mentality that drivers should be last, which is widespread all over the entire industry.
Employee turnover within the long-haul trucking industry reaches an extremely high level. In the fourth quarter of 2005, turnover within the largest carriers in the industry reached a record of 136%, meaning a carrier that employed 100 drivers would lose an average of 136 drivers each year.
Truck drivers are paid according to many different methods. These include hourly salary, and a number of methods which can be broadly defined as piece work. Piece work methods may include both a base rate, and additional pay. Base rates either compensate drivers by the mile, or by the load.
A company driver who makes a number of less than truckload (LTL) deliveries via box truck or conventional tractor-trailer may be paid an hourly wage and/or a certain amount per mile, and/or per stop, also known as drop, or dock bump, and/or per piece delivered, unloaded, or tailgated (moved to the rear of the trailer).
The main advantage of being paid by the mile may be that a driver is rewarded according to measurable accomplishment. The main disadvantage is that what a driver may accomplish is not so directly related to the effort, and perhaps especially, the time required for completion.
Mileage calculations are different from carrier to carrier. Hub miles, or odometer miles pay the driver for every mile. Calculations are usually restricted to no more than 3-5% above the estimates of mileage by the carrier before red flags appear, depending on the generosity of the carrier, or how it rates the mileage estimation capabilities of the used software.
Many of the largest long-haul trucking companies in the US pay their drivers according to short miles. Short miles are the absolute shortest distance between two or more zip codes, literally a straight line drawn across the map. These short miles rarely reflect the actual miles that must be driven in order to pickup and deliver freight, but the drivers’ earnings will be based on this calculation.
Short miles are, on average, about ten percent less than actual miles, but in some cases, the difference can be as large as 50%. An extreme example would be a load that picked up in Brownsville Texas, and delivered in Miami, Florida, as though the truck could drive across the Gulf of Mexico. Another example would be a load that picked up in Buffalo New York and delivered in Green Bay Wisconsin, not giving any consideration that three of America’s Great Lakes lie between that load’s origin and destination.
Mountains and canyons would also become great obstacles when truck drivers are required to drive several truck legal routes, because the most direct route cannot accommodate heavy truck traffic. Some trucking companies have tried to alleviate some of these discrepancies by paying their drivers according to practical miles. This is where dispatch gives them a certain route to follow and will pay them for those. This is done in effort of compensating drivers for the actual work done. These routes will largely follow the Interstate Highway system, but will sometimes require the driver to use state and US highways, as well as toll roads. Trucking companies adapt this method in order to attract and keep experienced truck drivers.
Getting paid by percentage is the preferred way of business among veteran drivers and owner-operators. Typical percentage among owner-operators pulling flatbed trailers is between 85-90 percent of line haul being paid to the driver. Additionally, the driver may also receive 100% of fuel surcharges and fees for extra pickups or drops or for tarping loads. It creates strong incentives for drivers agreeing to pull especially difficult loads. These loads may include pieces that are especially heavy or large, pieces that require tarping, pieces that are being shipped or received along treacherous routes far from the interstates. It also discourages drivers and owner-operators from agreeing to move cheap freight. Percentage of load is the simplest way of calculating what a driver and his truck will earn.
Truck drivers are expected to drive up to 14 hours straight each day, receiving roughly 10 hours off prior to the beginning of the next shift. Legislation regulating the amount of driving a trucker performs over the course of a day and week does exist, but these rules are often bent and broken.
Truckers rarely enjoy more than a day of work off a week. The chance of dying on the job is also extremely high, with deaths of truckers in auto accidents accounting for 12% of all work-related deaths in the United States.
All this comes with a measly average annual salary of just under $38,000. A trucker can easily work 4400 hours a year, coming to an hourly wage of $8.70. The typical over-the-road truck driver can also expect to get paid on average .35 cents per mile, and run about 2500-3000 miles per week. The miles that a truck driver can expect to run are often limited, not by the driver, but by load availability. Even the most ambitious driver can expect to legally max out 3500 miles per week, and this is only possible with long hauls that offer few and short load and unload times.
The average over-the-road truck driver can earn $875-$1050 gross per week. To make this kind of money, a truck driver would be away from home for most of the month with only two to four days spent at home. This leaves a truck driver alone in his truck or at truck stops for the majority of his downtime and 34-hour restarts.