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Driver recruitment wars: Cowan to pay $20,000 sign-on bonus

More than 50% of bonus to be paid in first 6 months

Cowan ups ante to new drivers (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

The ante for new drivers has been upped. Cowan Systems plans to pay sign-on bonuses as high as $20,000 to regional drivers willing to join the company.

The nearly 100-year-old Baltimore-based carrier said the incentive program is set up to guarantee at least a $15,000 bonus to all new driver hires. Cowan will pay $17,500 to drivers with either one year of experience with their current employer or a hazmat endorsement. Drivers with both will receive the $20,000 payout. 

The enhanced pay is eligible to qualified CDL-A drivers who join Cowan by Oct. 1.

“New drivers to Cowan Systems will get more than half of their payout amount within the first six months. This isn’t a sign-on bonus that pays you tiny sums for years,” said Steve Wells, COO. “Professional truck drivers who join us now will get their full payout in less than 18 months.”

The industry’s battle for qualified drivers is often being described as once-in-a-career.

Freight demand remains at historic highs on the back of a strong consumer and as retailers continue to restock their shelves. Attractive employment opportunities in other industries and lasting concerns over COVID have resulted in drivers going elsewhere. While driver schools are ramping enrollment efforts following a year of limited activity, the fix seems like it is still a long way off.

“Once a driver is scheduled for an orientation, we provide the driver in writing the Regional Road Incentive amount, how they qualified for it and a clear payment schedule,” Heather Fenner, VP of human resources, stated.

Cowan is a full-service transportation and logistics company, specializing in dedicated TL, intermodal, warehousing and brokerage services, with a fleet of more than 2,000 tractors and 6,000 trailers.

Click for more FreightWaves articles by Todd Maiden.


  1. Stephen Webster

    We need to have set minimum pay and standard of care for sick and injured truck drivers 2 years ago. In my opinion this shortage is the result of poor medical care and drivers being pushed with E -logs. Give drivers overtime after 10 hours per day and 50 hours per week and do away with fines for late delivery when a truck driver get hurt or needs medical care. I have trench foot and need to soak my foot 3 times per day for a minimum of 20 minutes because lack of medical care as a homeless person who also a truck driver.

    1. Tommy

      So the little thing called COVID had nothing to do with it?

      Because you think this is important for the industry doesn’t make it the reason for the driver shortage.

      Combine Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse, increased retirements, almost not new CDL’s being issued in over 9-months, and we are still at less than 60% of training capacity vs pre-Covid.

      Sorry, hate to bring reality into you little pay fantasy world.

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Todd Maiden

Based in Richmond, VA, Todd is the finance editor at FreightWaves. Prior to joining FreightWaves, he covered the TLs, LTLs, railroads and brokers for RBC Capital Markets and BB&T Capital Markets. Todd began his career in banking and finance before moving over to transportation equity research where he provided stock recommendations for publicly traded transportation companies.