Today's pickup: We're raising trucker pay, so let's tell everybody

  Photo: Shutterstock

Photo: Shutterstock

Good day.

What’s notable about the announcement by Heartland Express late last week on its increase in pay is not that pay was increased; everybody is increasing trucker pay. What’s notable is that Heartland put it out as a press release. Looking over the press release archive on Heartland’s home page, press releases are few and far between, and as far as we can tell, press releases on pay increases were previously nonexistent. If we can offer some guidance for the next one—and given the state of the market, a “next one” for Heartland and for everybody seems inevitable—giving an indication of the size of the increase would be helpful. But we will assume that what went into effect over the weekend at Heartland must have been substantial enough to have generated a public announcement for a company that normally doesn’t put them out.

It also may have been viewed as necessary in order to get the word out; what good is a pay increase if no potential new hires know about it? And it is a tough market out there. What’s jolting is to read the many comments on FreightWaves’ Facebook page about not just the Heartland increase—which generated only a modest total—but other driver-related stories about pay or ELDs.

The negativity pours out like water over Niagara Falls, and it can be interpreted any way you want: even with a great market and higher compensation numbers, a lot of drivers are either unhappy or will always be unhappy; or that there is still such  unhappiness out there that it is going to take even more money to bring some degree of satisfaction. Or maybe it’s just the assumption that satisfied people might not comment on Facebook as much as dissatisfied ones. Whatever it is, there are interesting experiments going on now, both economically but also sociologically, as a class of workers that never had a lot of clout suddenly has it in spades.

Did you know?

The Cass Freight Index on SONAR is currently showing 1.31, up from 1.17 a year ago. The 12% increase is a reflection of strong volumes in the industry and the pricing strength is not a reflection of a declining number of trucks.  

Quotable:

“The net increase in the driver pool is not matching the exodus of the drivers. We’re going to have to create an environment [where] it is attractive to become a truck driver. And there’s a lot of competition out there.”

John Vesco, an executive vice president at Hub Group Inc., a large U.S. freight broker, at an industry conference last month.

In other news:

Weak market for oil tankers leading to large scrapping activity

When the market is weak, it makes more sense to scrap than to ship. (Wall Street Journal)

FMCSA grants another week for comments on exemption application

The Small Business in Transportation Coalition now has until July 16 for submissions for its request (Federal Register)

Toronto to test driverless vehicles for commuters

The limited experiment would take people to and from transit stations. (The Trucking Network)

Truck driver in hockey team crash facing charges

The accident killed 16 persons; the driver faces 29 charges. (AP)

The GPS is not always correct

A truck driver finds himself on the sandy shores after a machine instructed him to go there. (RT)

Final Thoughts:

FMCSA late last week posted the actual Federal Register notice of its decision, announced earlier in the week, to allow a pilot program for interstate drivers by 18-20 years olds with a military CDL. One question answered by the formal announcement: it applies to reservists and National Guardsmen, answering the question of how somebody in the 18-20 age range could have an opportunity to be in the military full-time and then get out to launch a driving career. Reservists and Guardsmen have part-time duties.

While the comments to federal proposals are available real-time, the announcement of the final rule does provide a summary of some of the comments. Who was against it, and why? Here’s an excerpt from the Federal Register notice: “Commenters generally opposing the pilot program made several arguments. The most frequent assertions were that drivers 18 to 20 years old are more likely to crash. This was based on the previous efforts to lower the CMV driving age.

There was also skepticism that drivers with military experience will yield useful data to determine if all 18-20-year-old drivers can safely operate CMVs. Those opposed to the pilot program included individuals plus representatives of the National Safety Council, Truck Safety Coalition (TSC), Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (AHAS), Parents Against Tired Truckers, and Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways. The safety groups provided data on 18 to 20-year-old drivers to document the safety history of this age group. “

Hammer down everyone!