Mo' Money

Several major carriers rang in the New Year with per-mile and accessorial raises that could mean thousands of dollars this year for some drivers.

Fleets like Schneider National, Swift Transportation, Melton Truck Lines, American Central Transport, Maverick Transportation, CFI and Heartland Express have made announcements or have indicated that drivers will be paid more this year. Raises range from as much as 6 cents
a mile to new bonuses and pay for stoppage and detainment, commonly referred to as accessorial pay.

Fleets cite two reasons for the wage increases: the new hours-of-service rule and demand for drivers. Schneider National, which announced raises for company drivers and owner-operators Nov. 21, says its raises – which could amount to as much as $3,500 a year for some owner-operators – are based on retention and recruitment.

“We’re seeing a surge in the demand for drivers today,” says Schneider spokesman Mike Norder. “That demand is starting to outstrip available drivers. We’re positioning ourselves to retain the very best drivers.”

The big fleet raised pay rates for solo owner-operators two pennies to 86 cents a mile; company drivers got a boost of one to two cents per mile including improved stoppage and detention pay while team drivers and owner-operators faired even better.

Other fleets say the loss drivers could experience in productivity due to changes in the hours-of-service rule must be dealt with. “This is an industry-wide challenge,” says Russell Gerdin, founder, president and CEO of Heartland Express, which gave all mileage-based drivers a three-cent per mile raise. A top solo driver will now earn 43 cents a mile where an owner-operator will earn 88 cents; raises will be staggered across the first quarter of 2004. “The driver cannot bear the brunt of this from a financial and a production standpoint,” Gerdin says.

Swift Transportation announced Nov. 26 it would begin paying drivers for stops and detention. “With the new rules we will pay our drivers for the detention and the extra stop pay – which we think will amount to $60 a week or $3,000 a year,” says CEO Jerry Moyes.

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Joplin, Mo.-based CFI announced Dec. 1 the company will raise top driver pay 6 cents per mile. A solo driver will be able to earn up to 45 cents per mile, a team up to 53 cents per mile and owner-operators up to 98 cents per mile.

The increase includes a 3-cent per mile across the board increase for all CFI drivers with one-year experience and owner-operators. Up to 4 cents per mile can be earned through the new safety bonus program. The new pay plan also incorporates increases in additional driver pay items including stopoffs, hourly, loading and unloading and a special Canadian border crossing payment. “This unprecedented pay increase is one way CFI intends to insure that our drivers are financially protected from the impact of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s new hours-of-service regulations,” says CFI Chairman and CEO Glenn F. Brown.

Maverick Transportation will raise its driver pay to 36 cents a mile for over-the-road drivers and 35 cents a mile for regional drivers. For some, it will mean as much as a four-cent-per-mile increase in pay. “Our goal is to offer the best driver compensation plan in the flatbed business,” says Stephen Selig, Maverick president and COO. Some drivers will also be able to earn an 8-cent-per-mile per diem pay, and the company will continue to offer quarterly fuel bonuses, tarp pay, detention pay and referral bonuses. The raises will go into effect Jan. 4, coinciding with the start of the new hours rule.

Carriers fear drivers will be unable to drive the same miles under the new rule, because any time spent fueling, eating or waiting at a shipper or consignee counts toward the maximum hours a driver can work. Fleets say they will attempt to recoup the new wages from shippers through detainment and stoppage charges but admit it may be hard to get cooperation.

“Our shippers are trying to deal with the issues in a fair manner