Trucker wages rose 11% amid strong freight demand last year

Salaries for truck drivers rose at a double-digit rate last year, with companies planning high wages, bonuses and benefits to recruit workers in a market marked by difficult working conditions and high demand for freight.

The American Trucking Associations said in its annual salary survey that the average salaries of large truck drivers, from those working in commercial long-haul for-hire markets to employees of in-house fleets run by companies like walmart Inc.,

Sysco Corp.

and PepsiCo Inc., reached about $69,700 last year, up 11% from a year earlier.

The surge in earnings came as demand for freight transportation surged in the U.S. economy, with retailers rushing to replenish inventory that depleted at the start of the pandemic and manufacturers rushing to bring in parts and raw materials to restore production that had been slowed or reduced. .

Trucking companies and the transportation divisions of retail and manufacturing companies have struggled in the wake of surging demand to recruit enough workers to handle loads.

“The driver market got so tight in 2021 that fleets were pretty desperate to find good, responsible and safe drivers,” said Bob Costello, chief economist at ATA, an industry trade group.

Walmart, which operates one of the nation’s largest in-house truck fleets, said this spring it was raising starting salaries for its drivers up to $110,000 a year in a bid to keep its business running smoothly. Supply Chain.

The ATA said in its study that nearly all truckload carriers – operators that commit to moving a full trailer load for a single customer, as opposed to carriers that mix freight from multiple customers into a single truck – offered bonuses to drivers who managed to refer people to be hired by the company. The average referral bonus reached $1,150, up $150 from the previous survey.

Rising truck driver wages mean higher transportation costs for businesses as truckers seek to pass on their higher expenses, contributing to inflation in the U.S. economy that is at its highest level in four decades.

Old Dominion Freight Line, based in Thomasville, North Carolina Inc.,

one of the nation’s largest trucking companies, said in its quarterly earnings report last month that its spending on wages, salaries and benefits rose nearly 20% in the first half of this year compared to the period of the previous year.

More recently, there are signs that some of the pressure on trucking companies’ recruiting efforts has eased as demand for freight transportation has cooled. The highly watched Cass Freight Index, published by Cass Information Systems Inc.,

fell year-over-year in May and June, while truckers including Old Dominion and Yellow Corp.

reported a drop in the number of shipments.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, trucking companies hired about 73,000 workers in the 12 months to July, but the pace is slowing – the 3,500 jobs added last month accounted for about half the growth in mass salary in June.

“Driver recruitment and retention continues to be a challenge, but we are seeing sequential improvement in our ability to recruit drivers,” said Adam Miller, chief financial officer of Knight-Swift Transportation Holdings. Inc.,

the largest truckload carrier, said on a July 20 earnings conference call.

The trucking industry has long faced a shortage of drivers and high job turnover, but supply chain bottlenecks have underscored the need for new hires. Here’s how some companies are trying to get them behind the wheel. Photo: Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images

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Appeared in the August 11, 2022 print edition.


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