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More carriers up ante on driver pay

Higher per-mile rates, simplified pay plans and more home pay all part of the lure

Pay increases not slowing (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

Load opportunities are abundant but drivers remain in short supply, prompting a few more carriers to announce pay enhancements.

Frozen Food Express, the nation’s largest temperature-controlled less-than-truckload carrier, announced its biggest pay increase in company history. Team drivers can now earn a starting salary of $95,000 per year and drivers with experience can earn up to $150,000 annually, or $300,000 per team.

The carrier raised its starting pay rate to a range of 72 cents to $1 per mile, depending on experience, from a range of 60 cents to 80 cents per mile, effective Monday.

FFE is also paying new team drivers a $10,000 sign-on bonus, $20,000 per team. Drivers will receive a paid salary while they are off duty and during home time. Teams will also get a new late-model tractor to operate every year in addition to a full benefits package.

Obstacles attracting driver talent have been high with most fleets unable to seat additional equipment and cash in on the freight boom. Capacity is very tight as there are more than 200,000 fewer drivers than a year ago. COVID concerns have led to early retirements, driver schools are operating at restricted capacity and increased Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse compliance has forced some operators out of the business.  

Transportation and warehousing provider WEL Companies recently announced its second pay increase of the year. Effective May 2, all company drivers received a 4 cent-per-mile increase on dispatched miles. Including the increase earlier in 2021, total pay has risen by 7 cents per mile.

The De Pere, Wisconsin-based carrier also increased dedicated driver pay, adding $10 to daily minimum rates. The company has also rolled out a guaranteed pay model and increased holiday and vacation pay this year. The pay hikes are part of WEL Companies’ plan to add 75 units to its more than 500-truck fleet in 2021.

USA Truck (NASDAQ: USAK) announced Friday it has simplified its driver pay structure after receiving feedback from drivers that the old plan was too confusing. The new program allows drivers to earn a higher per-mile rate without qualifiers and a complicated bonus structure.

The Van Buren, Arkansas-based carrier has also lowered health care premiums and increased paid time off and per diems in 2021.

“We are delighted for the opportunity to continue to improve our culture at USA Truck. We have listened to the feedback from our drivers and are responding to that feedback. Our new simplified pay package is a significant improvement to the lives of our drivers,” said Blair Ewell, SVP of truckload.

Click for more FreightWaves articles by Todd Maiden.


  1. Dani

    Just got off the phone with FFE. Was offered .60 cpm with no points on license, no issues on record, 6 years with one job and nothing on DAC. This type of misinformation serves no one. FW should do better job vetting this type of info. Its hurting drivers and other carriers.

  2. Buck

    I’m a company driver with 5+ yrs experience. I currently do flatbed work. I currently get paid 30% of the rate con. And yes I do get to see the rate con. My boss keeps everything transparent. Unlike most companies. I know exactly what I’ll make for every load I haul. By my choice, I work 21 days and off 9(in a row) to be with my family. Other companies won’t let you do that Large companies have to many hands in the cookie jar, driving the drivers pay down. Support the small businesses and o/o’s. That’s where the pride of the industry is at. Just my opinion. And we currently have some openings.

  3. Donald Starr

    More false hiring propaganda.
    The Mexican Teamster drivers at the LA/ LB ports won’t jump for this.
    And they do got it bad here in LA harbor.

  4. Mike

    I called FFE, it is .60 for drivers, on line haul, terminal to terminal, even less for regional drivers. Not enough to make me want to get out of bed. Seems someone is spreading false information…

    1. Jacob

      Thats not true I m ffe line haul driver only 50 cent and less miles because we do only terminal to terminal plus 75 dollar for layover sometime they even pay for it

  5. Stephen Webster

    The spread in pay between Canadian and U S truck drivers is getting to be huge. Many U S companies are now paying reefer truck drivers 60 cents per mile plus $22.00 U S for dock time. Many flatbed companies 60 cents U S per mile plus $25.00 to $27.00 U S per dock time. Walmart is paying $27.00 to $30.00 U S and only paying $24.00 to $27.00 cd. The Fed gov and the Ont gov needs to look at truck driver pay and overtime and the insurance coverage for smaller businesses before anyone is approved to come into Canada as truck driver unless from French or English language countries like the U K new Zealand the U S or Australia or France.

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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.