Max Kvidera | October 01, 2011

In August Christenson Transportation hiked its per-mile pay and differentiated between driving on the East Coast and elsewhere. Now the all-owner-operator Springfield, Mo.-based carrier pays 96 cents a mile in the East and 91 cents elsewhere, up from a flat 88 cents before. For empty miles, a graduated pay scale begins at 50 percent of the loaded rate on the first 100 miles, another 25 percent on the second 100 miles and the rest of the rate on the next 100 miles, says Vice President Barry McGowen.

Schneider National this year increased its van contractors’ pay 5 cents a mile to 95 cents, with up to $1.65 a mile for short haul premiums.

Boyd Bros.’ recent 1 cent-a-mile increase to 95 cents was the fourth hike of the year.

Bonus money

One of the biggest bonuses is offered by all-owner-operator RoadRunner Transportation. It offers $10,000 to operators with at least one year of experience. “The competition is more aggressive in recruitment than it was a year ago when everyone was in the doldrums,” says Mark Pluff, director of linehaul development.

Some large fleets are introducing strong detention pay programs to ensure fair compensation for owner-operator time.

Panther Expedited extended its sign-on bonuses through August. The extra money ranged from $4,000 for a solo operator to $8,000 for a team with hazmat endorsements and Canadian access. Jeff Garra, manager of capacity development, says the bonus is paid over six months. A $500 fuel card is provided when the owner-operator completes orientation.

Christenson offers a $3,500 bonus, McGowen says, paid by reducing contractor lease payments.

Jacobson Companies raised its sign-on bonus to $2,500 from $1,000, paid over 90 days, while also lifting its mileage rate to 95 cents. “We’re talking with people whose miles have fallen off a bit,” says Joe Santone, vice president of carrier services. The company also introduced a program to attract contractors with their own authority, who will get Jacobson’s fuel optimization and fuel discount benefits.

Barr-Nunn offered a sign-on bonus of $1,500 through Aug. 26, and its Band Pay contractors receive a performance bonus of $800 or $975 every 30,000 miles.

Marten doesn’t believe in bonuses, Norlin says. “We would rather take that money and put it in their weekly settlement than use it as a gimmick.”

Detention payments

More carriers are compensating owner-operators for time lost at the docks. For several years, ACT has been paying contractors for wait time after two hours for most customers or four hours with some, says Kretsinger. The detention rate is $35 an hour, with a $350 maximum over 24 hours.

Beginning July 1, Marten made detention pay automatic, Norlin says. Before, the carrier charged customers but the contractor didn’t always receive it. Now contractors automatically get paid $20 an hour if they’re on time and have to wait more than two hours, even if the customer doesn’t pay Marten, he says. In cases where the shipper or receiver is known for delays, detention pay is $30 an hour.

Detention time is calculated as part of the revenue that is shared by contractors and Prime, Hancock says. The installation of electronic logs makes it easier to confront customers. “We’re putting the bill on the customer and making them pay,” he says.

Lease option

One traditional option for a carrier to boost its owner-operator ranks is through lease-purchase programs.

FFE Transportation Services is cutting lease rates up to 25 percent in its Drive to Own program. In January the carrier opened a new driver academy that covers driving skills, obtaining a CDL and career paths. An 18-day course is followed by a six-week driver training program. Drivers can enter the lease program within four months of finishing driver training. strives to maintain an open forum for reader opinions. Click here to read our comment policy.