Higher driver compensation packages, quicker access to health insurance among trends among nation’s top fleets

 Central Oregon Truck Company is one of the 20 finalists in the Best Fleets to Drive For contest. Data from the 99 nominated fleets shows that more of them offered driver pay guarantees in 2017 than in 2016.

Central Oregon Truck Company is one of the 20 finalists in the Best Fleets to Drive For contest. Data from the 99 nominated fleets shows that more of them offered driver pay guarantees in 2017 than in 2016.

Whether there is a driver shortage or not has become a hot discussion of late, but regardless of which side of the argument you fall on, most will agree that driver compensation is crucial to hanging on to the drivers you currently have.

With tight capacity, higher rates, and tax cuts, many fleets have been boosting pay rates. In fact, driver pay rates have been on the rise for several years now. According to Glassdoor, truck drivers in February made an average of $53,932 per year, a 4.4% year-over-year increase.

While pay has been inching up, something else has been increasing, according to Mark Murrell, co-founder of CarriersEdge and creator of the Best Fleets to Drive For program: more fleets are offering guaranteed pay programs. Those programs may be minimum miles or pay, but both create a base pay level that drivers can expect.

Murrell said that in 2016, 17% of the fleets nominated for the Best Fleets to Drive For offered some sort of “full guarantee” for compensation, but in this year’s survey, 30% of fleets offer a full guarantee and another 43% offer a partial guarantee.

Murrell said that to his recollection, 4 years ago fewer than 5 fleets in the program offered guaranteed pay and because long-haul drivers are typically paid by the mile, it put pressure on drivers to cover as many miles as possible and penalized them in some case.

“It effectively is a base salary,” he told FreightWaves. “They’ll never make less than this … and it covers things out of a driver’s control, such as delays and equipment issues” that used to cut into pay.

Dispatchers and freight managers have often been cited by drivers as reasons for holding down pay because of inefficient routing and scheduling. “What it’s really doing is putting more pressure on the areas that should be having the pressure,” Murrell noted.

The latest data shows that the average median guaranteed pay is now $1,000 a week. “A very small percentage of drivers every week make this, the majority make more,” Murrell noted. “[But] it provides some breathing room.”

Murrell added that in 2016, the effective compensation rate for drivers in the fleet survey was 50.71 cents per mile. That increased last year to 54.32 cents per mile.

Launched in 2008, the Best Fleets to Drive For program honors the top fleets in North America for drivers. A driver must nominate a fleet and once nominated, CarriersEdge researches the fleet. Murrell said 99 fleets were nominated this year with 58 fleets making the cut to advance. CarriersEdge surveys the fleets and digs into operations to cut the list to the final 20. Two overall winners will be announced at the Truckload Carriers Association conference later this month.

The surveys and information collected is used to generate detailed trends on a number of issues that matter to drivers, compensation is one of those. Murrell says a detailed data report will be released at TCA, but he shared some of the compensation information with FreightWaves ahead of the formal release.

In addition to salary information, CarriersEdge is focused on overall compensation packages, which include things like health care and profit-sharing programs. Murrell said this year’s survey didn’t show much change in the types of health coverage or premiums paid by fleets, but there has been a significant change, nonetheless.

“It used to be 3 months up to 6 months before people got insurance,” he said, “now we are seeing more drivers getting on [health plans] in 30 days. Fleets are seeing that if they can bring them on in 30 days…it makes it easier to attract more experienced, seasoned drivers.”

More fleets are also offering profit-sharing or 401K programs, Murrell said. In the survey, 13% of fleets now offer plans to drivers. Most of those plans are based on a percentage of revenue, but some offer stock option plans.

Murrell said that the surveys provide a great opportunity to collect data that CarriersEdge then offers back to the industry to help improve operations. The Best Fleets to Drive For contest is produced in partnership with TCA.

Here are the 2018 Top 20 Best Fleets to Drive For finalists:

  • American Central Transport, Inc., Kansas City, MO
  • Bison Transport, Winnipeg, MB
  • Boyle Transportation, Billerica, MA
  • Central Oregon Truck Company, Inc., Redmond, OR
  • Challenger Motor Freight, Inc., Cambridge, ON
  • Erb Group, New Hamburg, ON
  • Fremont Contract Carriers, Inc., Fremont, NE
  • FTC Transportation, Inc., Oklahoma City, OK
  • Garner Trucking, Inc., Findlay, OH
  • Grand Island Express, Inc., Grand Island, NE
  • Halvor Lines, Inc., Superior, WI
  • Maverick Transportation, LLC, North Little Rock, AR
  • Motor Carrier Service, LLC, Northwood, OH
  • Nussbaum Transportation, Hudson, IL
  • Prime Inc., Springfield, MO
  • Smokey Point Distributing, Arlington, WA
  • Thomas E. Keller Trucking, Defiance, OH
  • TLD Logistics Services, Inc., Knoxville, TN
  • TransPro Freight Systems, Ltd., Milton, ON
  • Veriha Trucking, Inc., Marinette, WI

Three companies, Bison Transport, Central Oregon Truck Company, and TransPro Freight Systems, have achieved the milestone of five consecutive years on the Best Fleets list.

The highest scoring fleets will be split into small and large fleet categories, from which two overall winners will be selected. The awards are sponsored by EpicVue of Salt Lake City, UT, and Northbridge Insurance of Toronto, ON.

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