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Overdrive Staff | August 05, 2011


Carriers up the ante for owner-operators

As driver pools tighten, carriers are offering signon bonuses as high as $10,000 to attract owner-operators.

Several carriers have hiked per-mile and fuel rates, posted bonuses and reduced truck-lease payments to compete for operators or persuade company drivers to convert to ownership.

FFE Transportation has restructured its Drive-To-Own truck lease program by reducing weekly payments and balloon amounts and extending manufacturer warranty programs. In January the carrier launched a driver academy to train applicants looking for a CDL.

All-owner-operator Roadrunner Transportation Services is offering up to a $10,000 bonus spread over five quarters to experienced operators, says Mark Pluff, director of linehaul development. He says the bonus varies depending on lanes where the company wants to add power.

“We’ve gotten good response from a much higher caliber contractor,” Pluff says.

In August, small all-owner-operator carrier Christenson Transport is increasing contractor pay from 88 cents a mile to 91 cents and adding 5 cents a mile for East Coast routes. The Springfield, Mo.-based carrier offers a $3,500 bonus that is paid by reducing truck lease payments by $75 a week, says Barry McGowen, vice president.

In February, Barr-Nunn Transportation increased its Pure Pay base rate for owner-operators 3 cents a mile to $1 a mile and 10 cents a mile to 80 cents empty, says Jeff Blank, director of recruiting. The carrier also offers a program that pays on length of haul.

“We’ve probably realized a 15 percent increase in our recruiting this year,” he says.

On June 1, Jacobson Companies of Des Moines, Iowa, increased new operator pay to 95 cents a mile from 93 cents, while also raising existing operator pay by 2 cents a mile. That followed a February increase in the carrier’s sign-on bonus for contractors to $2,500 from $1,000, says Joe Santone, a vice president.

“Over the last 45 days, our recruiting is up about 20 percent,” Santone said. Among other owner-operator pay developments at carriers:

• Schneider National last March increased van operator pay 5 cents to 95 cents a mile (92 cents plus 3 cents quarterly performance premium).

• At Transport America, all owner-operators on July 3 began receiving a 2 cent increase to 93 cents for all paid miles.

• In March, American Central Transport jumped its owner-operator pay to 98 cents for loaded miles and 90 cents for authorized empty miles.

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