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USA Truck, MCO Transport, Millis Transfer latest to bump driver pay

$104,000 for dedicated drivers in certain markets

Driver recruitment and retention remains key for carriers (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

Difficulty finding drivers remains high, as does overall truckload demand. Early retirements, diminished driver school enrollments and compliance with the Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse are just a few of the hurdles facing fleets, which are struggling to keep equipment running.

More carriers recently announced pay increases in efforts to retain the drivers they have and hire the ones they need.  

Van Buren, Arkansas-based USA Truck (NASDAQ: USAK) announced Monday dedicated drivers would earn an annual salary of $104,000 in certain markets.

“There is a direct correlation of competitive pay to attract and retain team members with service and profitability. Our team is focused on providing capacity solutions to our customers by bringing top drivers into our organization,” said Tim Guin, EVP and chief commercial officer, in the press release.

In May, USA Truck raised pay by 10 cents per mile for new drivers, which also lifted pay for its tenured drivers as their packages are based off the new driver rate.

The company has made several changes to its driver pay package in 2021, including simplifying the pay structure to eliminate bonuses, which it said were complicated and delayed payment to drivers. Other changes have included lower health care premiums, adding paid holidays and improving paid time off.

USA Truck has also been working to increase home time for drivers by providing more daily shuttle runs as well as dedicated and local jobs.

Chart: (SONAR: OTRI.USA). A lack of available capacity has carriers rejecting nearly one out of every four loads tendered under contract. To learn more about FreightWaves SONAR, click here.

Wilmington, North Carolina-based MCO Transport announced Friday it increased driver pay by as much as 10% across all of its units in May. Drivers will now earn at least $50,000 during their first year, with the company’s best operators making nearly $100,000 under the new program. Hourly and regional drivers in local positions will earn as much as 47 cents per mile along with weekly home time.

The pay increase was the second for the carrier in the last six months, “a result of the severe labor shortage in the trucking industry paired with record demand for freight services,” the statement read.

The company primarily provides container drayage and shipment of truckload and specialized commodities along with warehousing services out of its three terminals in the Southeast.

MCO also announced it has reduced the time it takes to reach its top pay scale from 12 years to five.

“One of our core values is long-term relationships,” said Laurie King, MCO VP. “We want our newest members to really see the benefit of a future with us and retire with MCO.”

Millis Transfer, which was acquired by Heartland Express (NASDAQ: HTLD) in 2019, announced Monday a pay increase of 5 cents per mile for new and existing drivers. The raise is structured as a 2-cents-per-mile increase to base pay with 3 cents per mile being applied to a weekly mileage performance bonus.

The Black River Falls, Wisconsin-based carrier, which operates a 700-truck dry van fleet east of the Mississippi River, said starting pay for new drivers with one year of experience is 49 cents per mile.

“The goal of this pay increase is to reward our drivers for their longevity with Millis and pay for their performance,” said Dave Millis, president.

The company also increased pay for driver trainees at its driving school. Candidates can now earn 44 cents per mile for time on the road with a trainer. They will also receive a 1-cent increase in per-mile pay for each quarter with the company during their first year of employment.

 “We are the only company that offers a rate that high for trainees or first-year drivers,” Millis added. 

Click for more FreightWaves articles by Todd Maiden.

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  1. Michael Mitchell

    I’m sorry but I don’t think anyone who leaves their home and runs over the road should be paid less than 100k. Even that is low. Truck drivers are the most under paid people compared to any other industry. Especially for the responsibility they have. Even these bumps which should have happened years ago are not enough.

  2. Tcs53

    .44,.47,.49 cents per mile hahaha.I wouldn’t even get out of bed for that. That’s chump change and they know it. MCO claims $100,000 for it’s best “operators”. What does that mean ? Owner Operators? USA Truck $104,000 for dedicated drivers in certain markets. Yeah right! Well maybe they can afford a dental plan then.

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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.