The ongoing supply chain disruption combined with a severe labor shortage of truck drivers has the industry making moves with ne trucking programs to get more individuals behind the wheel.
The industry needs 80,000 truckers to help alleviate supply chain pressures and, in part, is offering the opportunity for individuals to make up to six-figure salaries in just a few years as drivers. This is an attractive proposal for many, including those with four-year college degrees in other fields who see a bright financial future in trucking.
In fact, one major trucking firm, KLLM, in early 2022 boosted its pay by 33% for over-the-road truckers and trainees coming out of its academy. According to the company, under the new pay structure, KLLM-trained drivers earn about $70,000 with no cost to trainees for the education it provides. Before the pay boost, new drivers were making about $48,000.
In 2021, freight carrier Averitt Express increased pay for all regional truckload dry van and flatbed drivers, with additional raises based on hazmat certifications for some drivers. Drivers make between $62,000 and nearly $75,000 per year. Other carriers made similar moves as well in order to attract new drivers and sweeten the pot for current drivers.
Trucking companies are also offering hiring bonuses in addition to pay hikes to individuals with their commercial driver’s license (CDL). Some companies have offered signing bonuses of $10,000 to $20,000.
The Need for Drivers Now and Down the Road
In addition to the efforts being made by private trucking companies to attract more drivers, the Biden administration last year announced a plan to recruit and train a new generation of truck drivers to help alleviate supply chain bottlenecks exacerbated by COVID-19. The Truck Action Plan includes providing resources and funding to help states expedite the CDL process, a 90-day challenge to expand a registered apprenticeship program, and outreach to veterans as recruitment for new drivers. While the trucking industry likes some of what’s in the plan, it also voiced the need for a program to address driver retention.
Some in the industry say one other solution to the labor shortage is to make trucking more attractive to women, including creating safer and more welcoming environments for female drivers at truck stops. According to American Trucking Associations, women make up just 7% of the driver workforce.
A highly competitive market has the trucking industry putting the pedal to the metal to hire and retain new drivers.