About 18% of the more than 400 fleets participating in the latest quarterly survey raised driver pay in the second quarter. The average increase was 5.2%. Analysts said this was the first time in a year they had seen an average increase over 5%.
"This validates reports from various recruiting managers that the supply of drivers is tightening," they noted.
The biggest increases came from flatbed and refrigerated carriers. Prominent carriers such as C.R. England, Daymark, Deaton, Eck Miller and Stevens raised starting base pay for experienced drivers by over 2 cents a mile. The average increase among flatbed fleets that announced raises was 5.8%. Among reefer haulers it was 5.2%. Among dry van fleets it was 4.6%.
"Fuel cost increases may be gathering all the headlines, but the real threat to the health of the truckload industry is rapidly increasing driver compensation costs," says David Goodson, president of SignPost Inc., which conducts the survey. Carriers can pass on higher fuel prices through surcharges, he notes, but rate hikes to help pay driver wage increases must be "arduously negotiated" with shippers.
Average pay for experienced drivers among the country's largest truckload carriers is 29.7 cents a mile, according to SignPost's Major Motor Carrier Index. The average a year ago was 28.6%. Dry van carriers in the Index are starting experienced drivers at an average 29.9 cents per mile. The average is 30.2 cents for flatbed carriers and 28.8 cents for refrigerated carriers.
Another indication of an increasingly competitive driver market is that the average experience required by dry van and reefer carriers had dropped to 11 months. "As fleets lower the requirement to under a year, they are in a better position to attract newly trained student drivers," analysts explained. "Fleets with a big investment in training need to ensure that their pay scales for newly trained drivers are high enough to keep them once they get six months of experience."
Additional information about SignPost and The National Survey of Driver Wages is available at http://www.thenationalsurvey.com.