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Buttigieg prioritizing truck driver pay

Compensation should reflect ‘essential’ worker status, DOT secretary says

Driver pay has been a favorite topic of DOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

If anything positive has come out of the supply chain crisis, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg wants truckers to know it is a renewed appreciation for them — and that they should be compensated accordingly.

“Industry estimates that there’s a gap of about 80,000 truck drivers right now relative to what we need,” Buttigieg said in a keynote address Wednesday at the Transportation Research Board (TRB) annual meeting in Washington, citing data from the American Trucking Associations.

“But at the same time my department estimates that 300,000 people leave that field every year. So we have to make sure that not only are we recruiting people into the field but that it’s not a leaky bucket. Rather, we make sure that the working conditions and the compensation reflect the fact that those jobs are absolutely essential.”

Buttigieg made the same pledge earlier in the week while visiting the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Watch: “How much should truckers be paid?”

Buttigieg at the Los Angeles/Long Beach port complex on Tuesday

To back up his statements, DOT announced on Thursday it is rolling out a slate of initiatives aimed at strengthening the trucking industry’s labor force, including two studies analyzing truck driver pay and unpaid detention time. Some of the programs were required as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that President Joe Biden signed into law in November, and were highlighted in the Trucking Action Plan that Biden unveiled in December.

“Making sure truck drivers are paid and treated fairly is the right thing to do, and it will help with both recruiting new drivers and keeping experienced drivers on the job,” Buttigieg reiterated on Thursday.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is partnering with TRB to conduct the pay study, which will look at how being paid by the load or per mile rather than hourly affects safety.

“The study will also review the amount of time a truck driver spends away from home, driving and detained to determine true working hours, and then determine true hourly wages,” according to DOT.

For the detention time study, FMCSA will for the first time use ELD data “to provide a more detailed understanding of wait times for drivers across jurisdictions and industry sectors,” DOT noted, with data aggregated and made anonymous to protect driver privacy. The study will also look at how detention time affects the likelihood of crashes and hours-of-service violations.

Among the other initiatives now underway at DOT are a Women of Trucking Advisory Board and a Truck Leasing Task Force.

Women nominated to the advisory board will help inform the administration on efforts to increase the number of women in trucking by reporting on current challenges facing female drivers and those interested in becoming drivers. These include barriers to entry, on-the-job safety risks and advancement opportunities.

The leasing task force is being formed jointly by FMCSA, the Department of Labor and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). It will review and report on:

  • Common truck leasing arrangements, with a specific focus on inequitable terms and transparency.
  • Truck leasing arrangements for ports that involve a requirement for trucks to convert to zero emissions.
  • Loans and other arrangements between incoming driver trainees and training schools and/or trucking companies to understand the extent to which these result in outsize and unanticipated debt for incoming drivers.
  • Potential predatory leasing arrangements in the trucking industry.

Click for more FreightWaves articles by John Gallagher.


  1. Freight Zippy

    This clown is so far over his head it’s funny. He was off the job for 90 days and no one noticed. So the go to solution is more $$$ for drivers. Never will happen
    This has a easy fix, carriers needs to not deliver to customers who delay you. It’s happening slowly.

    As soon a Bezos finds out this moron is going to hurt his profits due to long delays at Amazon warehouses the Washington Post will kill this quickly.

    The solution is for industry to fix this and not move the loads.

    if we relay on the government, the problem will get worse.

    In 1980 Carter told us how great deregulation was going to be for drivers??? How did that work out?

  2. Wisconsin

    Neither Biden nor Buttigieg care about the American trucker or solving any sort of “problem”. Their standard MO is to 1) announce a study, 2) pit the worker against the boss and 3) milk the whole thing out for maximum political gain. Recommendations or solutions? Zero.

    Interesting history on the truck exemption from the Fair Labor Standards Act; in 1935 the truckers were exempted from overtime because they might SEEK to work too many hours. It’s safe to say things are much different now, 87 years later. Remove the exemption.

  3. Ingrid

    It’s appalling and disappointing how neglected the US domestic economy and social issues have been for multiple decades. (Regardless of administration) I’ve been following freight news for work and all of these logistics problems have existed long before I joined the company. Specifically to the Trucking benefit and pay issue, there have been so many analyst, Associations and Group publications that have released extensive publications about these problems and recommendations for years.

    The fact that the government and regulatory bodies are so slow to react and, IF they do, they spend so much time meeting and listening to larger companies and lobbies absolutely hurts the middle and small companies. It is no surprise the economy is the way it is when policy makers limit their scope and policy designs to pander to the larger corporations. Collectively, these players have been directly responsible for wiping out the middle class and small businesses.

  4. GM

    Tracking driver’s dwell times are at the heart of many of the challenges within the trucking industry. Driver’s have the most to gain by leveraging location data in a new and improved ecosystem. The challenge in and around the ports is that the trucks used in drayage operations are mostly exempt from having ELD’s because they travel within a 150 air mile radius and start and stop their day at the same location. ELD’s are absolutely the best way to track the movement of the trucks/drivers. There has just been a lot of hesitation with many drivers who are concerned with someone tracking their location. There needs to be a win for the driver in exchange for the data collected.

    1. Freeman

      And exactly what did the Trump administration do besides lip service? Absolutely nothing. This is why people keep electing these right wing corporations above everything that started with Reagan..because people are ignorant. Just talk about God, guns and the guys and you’re happy. Atleast the bill is actually trying to address what people have complained about for years but you’d rather be broke and uninformed as long as you can prop up people that don’t give two sh*t’s about you.

  5. cb

    ….and how much will these studies cost? Hasn’t the FMCSA done enough scheduling and labor studies on the American Driver? How much more data can there be to collect?

    1. Sandy Williams

      Absolutely correct! Read the article, it is just a bunch of “boards” looking into things! nothing will happen good for the truckers! Lip service!

  6. Charles

    ⚠️ REGULATE SHIPPERS AND RECEIVERS … and our pay will go up as a result !! ⚠️ I’m sure the spineless government won’t do though .. as they are on their knees servicing the lobbyist industry 💦🤡💦🤡💦

    1. Lillie Condon

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John Gallagher

Based in Washington, D.C., John specializes in regulation and legislation affecting all sectors of freight transportation. He has covered rail, trucking and maritime issues since 1993 for a variety of publications based in the U.S. and the U.K. John began business reporting in 1993 at Broadcasting & Cable Magazine. He graduated from Florida State University majoring in English and business.