Baylor Trucking is raising its professional driver wages by 7% starting in August, and is making plans for National Truck Driver Appreciation Week September 9-15, when it will host the Wall That Heals at its Milan, Indiana, headquarters.
“We are raising pay because we want to retain and attract professional drivers,” Cari Baylor, the third-generation company owner, told HDT in an interview.
Baylor was founded in 1945 by World War II veteran Chester Baylor. Today, the business has about 200 trucks in its fleet, with new Peterbilt UltraLoft sleeper trucks arriving soon.
“Our drivers are a different breed,” Cari Baylor explained. “We want to make sure that [we employ] people who share the same values: love of country and taking care of the community and taking care of the family. It’s faith and family first here for sure. We want [to hire] people that share that [attitude]. We can’t be all things to all people, but we’re going to reward, attract and pay for professionals that embrace our culture and the things we stand for.”
Baylor is going to be paying teams 60 cents per mile, guaranteeing 5,000 miles per week or $1500 per week for each driver, with two full days off every week. “We want to make sure that even though they’re working hard … that they get to balance that quality of life and family time.”
Experienced drivers in its over-the-road fleet will now earn 53 cents a mile, and they average 2,650 to 3,000 miles a week, Baylor said, noting that they’re not like some fleets that advertise high per-mile rates but drivers may only get 1,800 miles a week.
“We’re not going to do gimmicks, we’re not going to do asterisks. That’s not who we are. We’ve never had a sign-on bonus and we’re never going to have one. We want you to come here because you believe in us and believe in what we’re doing here, and you trust us to treat you right.”
The problem with sign-on bonuses, she said, is that drivers are likely to simply jump to another company with a bigger carrot. In addition, she said, “They do sign on bonuses to get new drivers, but what about the guys behind the wheel day in and day out?”
And while the company doesn’t have official minimum weekly pay or salary, it does work to make sure drivers don’t get stuck with a meager paycheck through no fault of their own, whether that be breakdowns, shipper delays, or family health issues. Each week, someone from its driver advocacy group sits down with payroll and makes sure that if, for instance, a driver whose son was seriously injured in a car accident wasn’t able to get his miles, that he would still get a living wage during that time period.
“We are always thinking about innovation and beta testing new products and concepts,” Baylor said. “However, we are also staying true to the company principles that have kept us successful for 73 years.”
For instance, Baylor is on its third or fourth generation of Bendix active safety systems, including forward-facing cameras. “I know a lot of drivers don’t like it…. if that doesn’t fit you, don’t come here Because we’re going to operate the safest truck we can to protect you and all those around you.”
She also said she refused to raise maximum truck speeds, as some fleets have done either to recruit drivers or compensate for lost productivity under the electronic logging device mandate.
“I get so much heat about raising truck speed because some of the mega fleets are doing it,” she explained. “But that isn't in alignment with who we are, and what has kept us striving and driving throughout so many economical cycles.”
However, Baylor is beta testing a new technology that will adjust the amount of power/speed a driver has based on the speed limits in the area as determined by GPS technology.
“If we hold true to being safe, legal, and on time, we have a team culture that aligns us to be our best. My dad always said, ‘We cannot be all things to all people,’ and that is how we approach our customers and drivers. We select customers and drivers that share our guiding principles.”
The Wall That Heals is a three-quarter scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., that travels around the country with the help of donated transportation from Truckload Carriers Association members such as Baylor. It will be hosted at Baylor Sept. 5-9 as part of its National Truck Driver Appreciation Week activities.
NTDAW activities at Baylor will also include giveaways of three trips anywhere in the world, goodie bags for each driver with at least $100 in fun merchandise and truck-care and safety items; and honors for longtime drivers.
In addition, Baylor is trying to top its previous years shooting a driver appreciation video. Last year’s video featured a full-blown, wedding-type party. “They said I wouldn’t be able to top it, but I’m doing my best,” Baylor said, explaining that this year’s video will focus on a patriotic theme, with red-white-and-blue colors and The Wall That Heals.
Veterans are key at Baylor. Cari’s father and grandfather were both veterans, and some 40% of Baylor’s drivers currently are veterans. The company offers them a higher pay rate and specially decorated trucks, which Baylor encourages them to take to local schools and show off in local parades and Veteran’s Day activities.
“When I talked to the film crew and they asked me why I put so much money into driver appreciation, I told them, when I look back at all the cherished moments of my life, there’s a truck driver in every one. Whether it’s my father, grandfather, or our Baylor trucking professional drivers. We’re just trying to take care of our own.”
Note: This story has been corrected to note that team drivers are gauaranteed 5,000 miles per week or $1,500 per week for each driver, not 1500 miles as originally written. We apologize for the error.