Don’t raise truck driver pay quite yet

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The American Trucking Associations (ATA) estimates that 48,000 driving positions are now open and 89,000 new drivers will need to be brought into the industry every year to keep up with growth and to replace drivers who will be retiring. Many carriers are looking to driver pay as a solution.

Will across-the-board pay increases solve the truck driver shortage? The laws of economics say so, but drivers make more than most blue-collar workers already. As for attracting new entrants to the industry, what other trades offer a chance to earn more than $40,000 a year after a few weeks of training?

Once drivers gain experience their careers can become very lucrative. The median salary for a private fleet van driver, for instance, is $73,000 according to a 2014 ATA study.

Most, if not all, carriers increased driver pay in 2015. Fleet owners and executives will likely consider more increases in 2016, and sooner rather than later. That decision may depend largely on what competitors do, not what will actually work best for their companies.

Two carriers may offer the same driver pay but have vastly different results in recruiting and retention. Drivers for the more successful company are probably more satisfied with their earnings, their home time and other benefits compared to their peers.

In other professions, research shows that workers who are not satisfied with their pay are not always more likely to turnover. It is natural for humans to be unsatisfied with their income at any level, and other factors can weigh equally into a decision to change jobs. Pay increases, therefore, do not necessarily move the needle for recruiting and retention.

In the trucking industry, Stay Metrics research repeatedly shows that approximately 20 percent of drivers, industry-wide, do not feel their families are well supported financially by their paychecks. This 20 percent is not necessarily looking to change jobs or leave the industry, however.

Stay Metrics research also has found that the reasons why drivers stay and leave are unique to each company. In-depth satisfaction surveys and other research tools identify these reasons by comparing driver responses to peer group indexes.

The peer group indexes are used to run custom models for clients to determine which areas are predictive of driver turnover in each company. The predictive information can be used to implement recruiting and retention practices, and countermeasures, that are tailored specifically to individual needs.

Rather than increase driver pay to keep up with trends in the market, carriers can use scientific research to identify the areas of strength and weakness in their organizations for recruiting and retaining drivers. A pay increase may ultimately be necessary, but going down that road will be even more effective once that other, less expensive options are exercised first.

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