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Forecast: Operator pay rising

| August 16, 2011

Over the next 12 months, owner-operator pay will rise 4 to 6 cents a mile and company driver pay 3 to 5 cents a mile as carriers compete for a diminished supply of quality candidates, predicted pay specialist Gordon Klemp Aug. 15 at an online seminar.

The lower end of those ranges will occur even if the national economy continues in the doldrums, while the higher numbers will be achieved if manufacturing improves, says Klemp, president of National Transportation Institute.

The webinar was produced by Overdrive and Truckers News magazines and sponsored by Freightliner Trucks. An archived version can be downloaded free here.

Klemp said sign-on bonuses, which have re-emerged in the past couple years, will continue. He also forecast increased use of productivity pay programs.

Based on a second-quarter survey of 350 carriers, Klemp offered the following observations:

  • Quality of available driver candidates is “marginal at best”;
  • Driver demand and supply is out of balance.
  • Wages have moved up in the last year and should go higher.

Factors such as the underground economy, part-time jobs and regulatory hurdles such as Compliance Safety Accountability and potential hours of service changes are reducing the pool of qualified drivers. Klemp says he’s found innovative pay programs emerge in the last six to nine months and all revolve around five key components: regionalization, equipment utilization, fuel, customer service and safety. “We’ve seen a number of programs that carriers think are working really well,” he says. “All of those put money in the carriers’ pockets so they’ve got dollars to spend on the driver side.”

In the last 12 months, 48 percent more carriers have begun offering regional pay packages to meet demands for higher pay in some markets, Klemp says. The spread now averages 11 cents a mile.

Klemp says one carrier he monitors offered no regional pay differences in 1995. Today that carrier offers 17 different regional pay packages for owner-operators based on type of hauling and road time and seven packages for drivers.

Higher compensation also accrues to drivers willing to forego home time and stay on the road longer in time increments that range from six days up to 45 days and longer.

Teams will continue to attract higher bonuses, with several carriers offering $6,000, Klemp says. In the last year, the top bonus hit $10,000.

In response to a question, Klemp says more carriers are offering percentage-of-revenue packages, and many companies are allowing contractors to switch between per-mile and percentage.

In surveying hauling types, Klemp says dry van driver pay has risen to 36.3 cents a mile in the second quarter for three years’ experience from 31.9 cents in 2000. Owner-operators compensation ranges from 94 cents to $1.02 a mile, while gross revenue exceeds $153,000.

Flatbed pay has increased to 37.1 cents a mile this year from 31.6 cents in 2000. Owner-operator gross revenue tops $159,000.

For refrigerated, driver pay has advanced to 34.6 cents a mile from 30.4 cents in 2000. Owner-operator gross revenue is also above $159,000, although slightly less than flatbed operators.

  • Tony Calvert

    That’s not much of a raise for a person trying to furnish a truch pay repairs and make a living. It’s already way too cheap!!
    And if they are so worried about getting good drivers why are they standing by letting the driver get run over by every damn politician in the system.
    I was just turned down for a good job because I refused a sleep study and to buy a cpap machine with a card in it. I alread have done the sleep study and I have two cpap machines. One in the truck and one at home. This job was a job at home every day and wouldn’t sleep in the truck anyway. So why the card?? The machine would always be at my home anyway. And on top of that it NOTa law!! It is proposed legislation!! I’ve checked OOIDA legal dept and two attorney friends at home. I feel like I’ve been discriminated against!!
    I’ve drove since 1970 and have a total of 17 consecutive yrs of safe driving and no tickets nothing on my police record. Buti was told they thought they would find a BETTER DRIVER for the job.
    I passed a pulmonary test – cholesterol screening-no issues with blood pressure -no diabetes problems-nothing except the FACT that I have a 20 inch neck size and am considered overweight. Hell when your 12 lbs at birth what’s overweight?? I’m 6’1and hit the scales at 290 lbs and have for all my adult life. I take no medications at all and out work most 25 yr olds any day.
    But when I see some slob waddle up to the buffet and his legs are black and blue from no circulation and watch him eat 3-4 plates of unhealthy slop-I just can’t help but wonder why I got turned down.
    I’m seriously looking at having an attorney try to contest this-not that I want the job anymore but to try to stop this abuse. If you guys and gals think this don’t effect you-your crazy. Look around the truckstop next time you stop.
    The law says Dr’s discretion-and I take great offense at a Dr that’s working at an urgent treatment center to pay off his loans take my livelihood from me. Hell he didn’t even speak good English!!
    Yes I’m angry and I’m tired of being treated like crap.
    Tony Calvert

  • Todd Dills

    Thanks for thoughts, Tony. Another driver made similar comments on the extent of the forecast pay raise here to me on Facebook. And re: the sleep apnea issue, you might want to check out my June story in Truckers News about the growing issue out there — sounds like you’ve learned pretty well all of it from hard experience, though. Here’s a link if you haven’t seen that story:

  • Tony Calvert

    Thanks I’ll read that. If we are do concerned over public safety shouldn’t the police officer that’s supposed to be alert and on his best at all times use this machine too! I mean we should minutes his sleep to make sure he’s properly rested right?
    What about that Dr.? Shouldn’t he be at his best? Let’s pull his card too and make sure he’s rested and alert!
    While were invading on people’s rights here let’s check those policiticans?? They should be properly rested when making laws governing our country instead of collecting PAC money and selling votes to the highest bidder! Let’s pull they’re cards too.

  • Tony Calvert

    Pardon my writing ! I hate spell check!

  • Tony Calvert

    Excuse me once more please. This was supposed to be a response to truck pay going up.

    Most of the guys/gals out in these trucks be an owner/operator or on some lease purchase scam-and I use that mildly trust me! But my point isthey can’t tell you what the fixed cost is of owning a truck nor tell you what the operating cost is much less combine the two to see that they can not operate a truck for a buck a mile plus some ridiculous fuel surcharge dictated to them.
    I sat down with a guy at home and showed him on paper that he was working for .13 cents per mile after expenses! This is a business! Not some road cowboy show!
    Come on guys why do you think all these carriers want the lease purchase and owner operators onboard?? Stop and think about what they’re company guys make plus a benefit package and workers comp add the cost of fuel and the cost of a truck. You guys work for free!!
    Add it up-use your head!! This ain’t brain science! It’s common math. Quit bitching at that counter and do something to help yourself!
    Tony Calvert strives to maintain an open forum for reader opinions. Click here to read our comment policy.