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Covenant joins in move to higher driver pay rates

Photo: JimAllen/FreightWaves

Add Covenant to the list of trucking companies publicly announcing pay increases.

The truckload carrier said Wednesday that it was raising pay rates as part of its “commitment to make Covenant drivers the best paid in the industry” and that the increase was the largest in the 34 years Covenant has been in business.

Among the key points of the increased pay:

— The base linehaul team driver pay rate will rise by an average of 9 cents per mile “across all driver types.”

— The top rate will go to drivers who have more than a year of experience. The example cited by Covenant is a driver with that experience and a HAZMAT endorsement who will see his or her base rate go to 66 cents per mile from 50 cents per mile at present.

— Student drivers will get four increases in their first 12 months with Covenant. The maximum pay they will reach after a year will be 66 cents, which Covenant said should translate into weekly checks of $1,500 to $1,800.

A spokesman for Covenant said the increases are for company expedited drivers. Covenant does not have a sign-on bonus, he added.

It’s difficult to make an apples-to-apples comparison for all the wage increases announced in the past few months. But here are highlights of some of them:

Heartland’s rate increase could be as high as 12.2%. New hires start at as much as 56 cents per mile, and those with 10 years of experience get 60 cents per mile.

— Reefer company KLLM Transport raised “earnings potential” by more than 9%. Company drivers, as opposed to independent owner-operators, had that potential increase by 8%.

— Schneider, one of the first big trucking companies to announce a pay increase, was fairly nonspecific in its announcement. But it did say that drivers with a year or more experience would earn 4 cents per mile more when launching their career with Schneider, while inexperienced drivers were getting 2 cents more.

In its announcement of the pay increase, Sam Hough, Covenant’s executive vice president of Expedited Operations, said the company’s customers were aware of the market for drivers. “There’s no doubt they are tracking the driver shortage and are feeling the capacity crunch,” he said in the statement. “They’ve told us time and time again they will stand behind any initiative to secure drivers and, ultimately, capacity.”

While the monthly employment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not break out driver pay per se, it does break out hourly average wages for the NAICS truck transportation sector. In October, the most recent monthly data available, that hourly rate cracked $27 an hour for the first time. Its year-on-year gain of $1.36 is the biggest in at least 10 years.

That figure is for all employees. But the figure for nonsupervisory employees, which would include drivers, was $25.16. That was up $1.54 from a year earlier.

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John Kingston

John has an almost 40-year career covering commodities, most of the time at S&P Global Platts. He created the Dated Brent benchmark, now the world’s most important crude oil marker. He was Director of Oil, Director of News, the editor in chief of Platts Oilgram News and the “talking head” for Platts on numerous media outlets, including CNBC, Fox Business and Canada’s BNN. He covered metals before joining Platts and then spent a year running Platts’ metals business as well. He was awarded the International Association of Energy Economics Award for Excellence in Written Journalism in 2015. In 2010, he won two Corporate Achievement Awards from McGraw-Hill, an extremely rare accomplishment, one for steering coverage of the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster and the other for the launch of a public affairs television show, Platts Energy Week.