Driver pay continues to increase at levels above the inflation rate, according to The National Survey of Driver Wages – and it’s about time, says David Goodson, president of SignPost Inc., which published the quarterly survey.

“I think the driver shortage is the only thing that is going to get driver wages up to the level they need to be,” Goodson says. “When I got into the business in 1980, some drivers were getting 25 cents per mile. When I started doing the survey 15 years later, drivers were still getting 25 cents per mile. If it had kept up with inflation, we would see driver wages at 40 to 45 cents per mile.”
Compared to 1997, driver wages in 1998 rose an average of 4.7% for drivers with three years of experience, Goodson says. Refrigerated drivers’ wages rose 3.7%, dry van 4.3%, and flatbed 8% among the more than 400 carriers tracked in the survey. In the last two quarters alone, Goodson says, 45% of the carriers surveyed made major changes.
“We’ve been tracking this data for the last three years, and we’ve seen a pretty consistent upward increase in wage rates of between 4% to 5% a year,” Goodson says. “I think you’re going to see this continue through next year and into the foreseeable future. I don’t think this is going to stop until basic wage rates are well into the 30 cents a mile range.”
SignPost’s Motor Carrier Wage Index, based on input from 64 of the country’s biggest truckload carriers, sets the average starting pay for experienced (3 years or more) drivers at 29.2 cents a mile, up 7.1% from early 1997. Dry van carriers averaged 29.6 cents, up 7.1%. Refrigerated carriers averaged 28.3 cents, up 7.3%. Flatbed carriers averaged 29.7%, up 10.1% from two years ago.
More information about the survey can be found at