US truck driver solo offer of $80k underscores persistent scarcity

Transport America has joined the legion of trucking companies raising driver pay — to $80,000-a-year for a solo driver and $170,000 for a team — as the US driver shortage coupled with peak season demand for cargo transportation challenges sector.

The company’s solo salary — outlined in a release announcing the hike, offers remuneration for a solo driver that is above the $75,000 a year that trucking executives have admitted would need to be breached to end the “shortage.” The salary hike, which took effect Sunday, is the company’s second this year.

It puts the Transport America pay level above the average trucker driver’s salary of $50,000 to $60,000. A truck driver earning $80,000 a year would be making slightly less than the $84,000 median wages of a statistician or a mathematician, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

The BLS, mean or average wave for a tractor-trailer driver last year was $44,500, a 2.1 percent increase from 2016 and a 10.2 percent increase from 2012. That figure, however, includes wages for more than for-hire freight truck drivers.

The size of the Transport America hike, and the fact that it is the company’s second this year, reflect the trucking industry’s frenzied efforts to hire and keep truck drivers with hikes, benefit increases, bonuses and other inducements.

The strong economy, the December introduction of the electronic logging device(ELD) mandate, and the aging of the driver population and lack of interest among younger workers in the occupation, have combined to create a dearth of drivers just as they are needed most. That has made drivers a hot commodity.

Transport America — pay-for-performance system

Transport America, a subsidiary of TFI International Inc., said the company’s “pay-for-performance structure recognizes drivers for their hard work and overall performance, making it possible for them to more rapidly achieve the top pay rates and additional performance bonuses.”

The Eagan, Minnesota-based company, with 2016 revenue of $351 million, was ranked 36th in the JOC Top 50 Truckload Carriers in 2017. The company provides truckload transportation and logistics services throughout the US, Mexico, and Canada.

“We continue to have the utmost respect for our drivers and their dedication to keeping America moving, and we are excited to again be increasing their pay,” said Paul Simmons, Transport America President.

Trucking companies aren’t just competing against other trucking companies for new employees, however, they are competing against construction firms, the oil and gas drilling industries, as well as warehouses, and fulfillment centers, that are hunting for workers, and often attract the younger demographic.

Truck driver pay and benefits increased for the fifth straight year in 2017, according to the American Transportation Research Institute.

The JOC For-Hire Trucking Employment Index hit a reading of 102.5 in August, indicating US trucking employment is about 2.5 percent above its pre-recession peak level in the fourth quarter of 2006 and early 2007. Despite that overall gain, the American Trucking Associations estimates for-hire carriers face a shortage of 50,000 truck drivers in 2018.

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