Passing Zone

Gauging Driver Pay by Salary Gains

Blog Commentary by David Cullen, Executive Editor

January 3, 2018

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Photo: Haldex
Photo: Haldex

While working on the cover story on driver pay for the upcoming January edition of Heavy Duty Trucking, I came across some research that can provide insight into what truck drivers might be expecting to reap on a percentage basis from all the pay hikes and bonuses that comprise their annual compensation.

While long-haul drivers are seldom if ever salaried employees, knowing what the U.S. average percentage rate of increase is for employees who are paid salaries may help fleet managers gauge the pay expectations of truck drivers-- not just right now, but year after year.

U.S. employers continue to report their average total salary increase budget is 3% (mean and median) – which is exactly the same as it has been for the past three years. That’s per the 2017 annual Salary Budget Survey released by nonprofit human resources association WorldatWork.

However, respondents to that most recent survey did allow they were planning for a slight increase in budgets for 2018 – moving them all the way up to a dizzying 3.1% level.

"With a tight job market and reported financial gains, we might expect to see more growth in salaries," points out Kerry Chou, WorldatWork senior practice leader. "In the United States in particular, there are other factors that might explain this plateau in growth, including the increased use of variable pay or non-cash based rewards, or an overall more conservative pay philosophy.”

The survey also found that U.S. base salary increases (e.g., general increase/Cost-of-Living Adjustment [COLA], merit increase) were awarded, on average, to 89% of employees in 2017.

Also, the percentage of organizations using variable pay increased by one percentage point for the third straight year to 85%. That number has been hovering around 80% for many years, according to WorldatWork and “an improving economy could result in these variable pay increases while the fixed costs remain controlled.”

As in recent years, the salary budget increases across the 50 states showed little variance. The 2017 increases ranged from 2.9 to 3.1%, with the median at 3%. But metropolitan areas showed more variance, ranging from 3.0 to 3.3%.

Not surprisingly, as Chou notes, the metropolitan areas that “show the highest percentages, such as the Pacific Northwest, Los Angeles, Dallas or Atlanta, tend to be in regions that are driven by high-tech or minimum wage increases."

Look for my piece on why how much fleets pay drivers be approached in a tactical manner in the January print edition and here on our website later this month. 

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Author Bio

David Cullen

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Executive Editor

Executive Editor David Cullen comments on the positive and negative factors impacting trucking – from the latest government regulations and policy initiatives coming out of Washington DC to the array of business and societal pressures that also determine what truck-fleet managers must do to ensure their operations keep on driving ahead.


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