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Driver Shortages Force Carriers To Revise Salary Caps

Driver Shortage

The latest quarterly report from Transport Capital Partners, based on a survey of CEOs and other executives at truckload carriers, finds a strong majority of those executives believes average driver wages must rise substantially to retain an acceptable level within the industry and to attract more new drivers into the pool.How much? More than $60,000 per year salary. And it’s a popular idea among strategic analysts at carrier fleets. Sixty five percent of them agree with this conclusion. That’s up from 49 percent of the carriers surveyed the previous quarter.

This can be interpreted as a sign that carriers are now fully immersed in the problem of qualified driver hiring and retention. Truckload carriers struggling to find and keep drivers are increasingly convinced driver pay needs to increase significantly, Transport Capital Partners said. Unemployment has particularly impacted the construction industry, a historical driver source, but drivers are still scarce, said Lana Batts, TCP partner.

Shippers would be expected to foot some of that increased compensation. Rising labor costs are likely to be a prime factor in higher truckload rates in 2012. About 45 percent said pay would have to rise to the $60,000 to $70,000 annual range. That would be a significant bump in compensation. Tractor-trailer drivers are paid about $39,500 annually on average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The consulting firm’s latest survey found 70 percent of truckload carriers had unseated trucks in the fourth quarter, ranging from 1 to 10 percent of their fleets. About half of the truckload carriers said 1 to 5 percent of their trucks were idled in the quarter, but 18 percent said 6 to 10 percent of their tractors were unseated.

Since the recession, trucking executives have said driver pay would have to rise as truckload rates recovered. Although rates are rising, costs are climbing, too. Taking the cue, truckload carriers are aggressively recruiting, said TCP partner and study leader Richard Mikes, with more carriers opening entry-level driver training programs. The good news you can take away? Those efforts appear to be working. The number of carriers with more than 10% of their trucks unseated dropped from 8% to 1% in the quarter.