Is $69,000 a year enough to drive a truck?

Recent data from the American Trucking Associations shows that the average truck driver made more than $69,000 in 2021, including salary and bonuses, an 18% increase from 2019.

At the same time, driver compensation – ie, the lack thereof – ranked the #1 problem among company drivers and the #3 problem among all drivers, according to the latest annual survey published by American Transportation Research in October. Institute that works closely with ATA.

Drivers also ranked stopping/decelerating at customer facilities as one of their top concerns. The U.S. Department of Transportation estimated in 2018 that the time lost waiting for pickup and drop-off of freight costs commercial truck drivers more than $1 billion in annual wages.

Many of these drivers believe that the best way to address both issues is for the government to step in and require trucking companies to pay their drivers for overtime.

classification company driver Owner/Operator/Independent Contractor
1 Driver Compensation gas price
2 truck parking truck parking
3 3 Customer detention/delay Driver Compensation
Priority issues ordered by driver. Source: ATRI survey “Critical Issues in the Trucking Industry” October 2022

“The big ones get away with cheap labor because they don’t want to pay overtime. The big haulers get away with detaining the drivers because nobody is charging them. The big truckers don’t charge truckers because they don’t want to lose freight,” Lewie Pugh, executive vice president of the Owner-Operator Independent Trucking Association, told FreightWaves.

“We’ve spent years figuring out how to get people’s attention to it and because trucking is so diverse – what you haul can take 15 minutes, what I can haul can take four hours – we have decided that the easiest way would be to remove an exemption from the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to allow truckers to be paid overtime. Right now they work 70 hours a week or more.”

OOIDA is a leading supporter of the Truckers Guaranteed Overtime Act, a bill introduced in the House of Representatives in April and the Senate in September that would repeal the FLSA trucker waiver that bars drivers from overtime protection companies. Pugh estimates that around 10-15% of OOIDA members are company drivers.

“If this law were passed, major truckers could put pressure on shippers and receivers to load their drivers who are on duty at the loading dock,” Pugh said. “And an increase in driver salaries will increase tariffs, which will be detrimental to the economy, allowing smaller owners and operators to increase their tariffs as well.”

An external logistics manager also sees advantages in giving truckers overtime. “While that wouldn’t help us directly, we do care about the drivers we use and anything that positively impacts them would impact us,” said Dimitre Kirilov, president of consumer services at Montway Auto Transport. a Chicago-based 3PL, across from FreightWaves. . “Transport affects everything: we all pay the bill at the end of the day.”

The OOIDA and other supporters of the legislation appear to have strong support from the Biden administration. The lifting of the FLSA waiver for the transportation sector was highlighted in the US Department of Transportation’s Supply Chain Vulnerability Report released in February.

DOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg himself said driver hiring shouldn’t become a “leaky bucket” as new drivers leave the company because of the wage differential with other industries. “Rather, we make sure that working conditions and pay reflect the fact that these jobs are absolutely necessary,” he said.

And the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration recently commissioned a study with the Transportation Research Council, as required by the Infrastructure Act passed last year, to examine how different methods of paying drivers — including hourly wages — affect the safety and retention of drivers affect drivers.

But passing the law will be an uphill battle. ATA is actively opposing the bills, arguing, among other things, that requiring overtime would force the industry to revise decades-old pay models, but “is unlikely to result in a net change in overall trucker pay,” the group says.

Instead, “the threat of wage and hourly lawsuits inevitably forces employers to manage driver workloads with a focus on liability limitation and economic disadvantage rather than safety, efficiency and service levels for freight transport customers,” says ATA. “This change would limit truck capacity across the country, driving up freight costs, slowing the movement of goods and jeopardizing road safety.”

Jim Mullen, who served as deputy administrator at the FMCSA during the Trump administration, acknowledged that paying drivers remains an issue, but getting rid of the FLSA is not the way forward.

“There are some segments of the industry where drivers are being exploited and that needs to be rectified,” Mullen, now head of his own consulting firm, Mullen Consulting LLC, told FreightWaves. It’s been a problem for some time and one would hope that the market will eventually correct it.”

“But as far as removing the FLSA exemption for interstate transport, that’s a good concept in theory. In practice, for both drivers and hauliers, this would mean quite a big change in the way they see the workforce.”

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