Something Special in Your Stocking?

By Robert Lake
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For the first time in a long time, the Grinch is nowhere to be seen as we approach this Christmas holiday. In fact, many truck drivers can expect things to be very merry well into next year as fleets struggle to attract new drivers. If you are a good driver with a good record, you are No. 1 on most fleet owners’ Christmas wish list. Finally, you are where you need to be – in the driver’s seat.

What does this mean for you in the coming months? You are one hot commodity, and fleet executives are spending a lot of time and effort trying to figure out how to attract you to their company. Earlier this year, some of the major fleets bumped up their pay, and many of them are discussing further pay and benefit increases next year.

At a recent seminar on the capacity crisis in Atlanta, several key trucking executives said the industry needs to raise trucker wages substantially if the industry is to attract the number of new drivers needed to fill its trucks and meet current demand. Several, including the heads of Schneider National, J.B. Hunt, Crete Carriers and Covenant Transportation, said the annual salary for drivers needs to be at least $60,000 and probably $65,000 in order to turn the tide.

“Drivers are the key issue,” says Kirk Thompson, CEO of J.B. Hunt. “I don’t believe you can pat a driver on the head and put candy in the terminal and draw in drivers. Treating them well is only the price of admittance. Pay and home time – if you’re not paying drivers and getting them home on a frequent basis, you’re going to be out of business. Driver wages are inadequate to attract enough qualified drivers.”

Craig Harper, chief operating officer for J.B. Hunt, says the average driver’s pay now ranges from $35,000 to $42,000 a year. Drivers’ pay, he says, has to go up.

“I believe driver pay will increase probably close to 50 percent,” he says. “At the current pay rate, we’re not able to attract quality individuals out of other industries and maintain them in this industry. What we are seeing is a lot of trading of drivers between companies, but we aren’t successfully bringing in a new work force. We are going to have to see a dramatic change over time. Obviously, we can’t absorb this increase all in one quarter, but we are going to see that happen over time to be able to attract the drivers into the industry.”

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Keep on trucking safely and with a professional attitude, and you may find yourself with a nice raise next year.

And that’s no lump of coal!

Happy Holidays to you and your family from all of us at Truckers News.