MARKHAM, Ont. – Company drivers and owner-operators working for the 2017 Best Fleets to Drive For are making less money year-over-year while driving more miles.
This is according to the results published this week during the 2017 Best Fleets to Drive For webinar put on by Jane Jazrawy and Mark Murrell of CarriersEdge.
The awards program recognizes for-hire fleets that provide exceptional workplace experiences for their drivers, and shares that information to showcase to others what successful carriers are doing to attract and keep drivers. The program itself is in its ninth year and is produced by CarriersEdge in partnership with the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA).
According to the numbers CarriersEdge gathered through hundreds of corporate questionnaires and interviews and thousands of driver surveys, on average in 2017 company drivers earned a salary of US$56,600 (down from $59,199, in 2016). Company drivers averaged 50.71 cents per mile, down from 2016 numbers at 53.82 cents.
Owner-operators also made a lot less. Results showed the average earnings for owner-operators in the program was $156,619 in 2017, down from $164,936 in 2016. As well, owner-operators are also driving more miles annually, said Jazrawy. In total, the results showed that owner-ops in the program are making 5.04% less revenue and driving 3.89% more miles.
“That’s a big year-over-year change,” Jazrawy noted. “And we don’t know if this is an overall trend, but within the Best Fleets in the program this is what we’ve seen.”
What some companies have done to combat this is having some sort of guaranteed pay, Murrell said.
“There’s been an increase in the number of companies that have started working with guaranteed pay,” Jazrawy said. “What’s interesting to note is, drivers would like more pay…but they are more interested in consistency of pay.”
This year numbers showed that nearly half of the fleets in the Top 20 (44%) had a full guaranteed pay program, where drivers make a minimum amount per pay period.
Second class citizens
Another encouraging trend noticed this year by CarriersEdge was the effort fleets are putting forward to create an enhanced and/or equal experience for their drivers so they don’t feel like the second class citizens of the company.
“We know that drivers often feel that way through our driver surveys,” Murrell said. “Which is sort of ridiculous because you have no company without them.”
Murrell said that though fleets are getting better at “grand gestures” towards their drivers, like hosting driver appreciation barbecues, many of them are unaware of subtle cues that happen through normal day-to-day operations that can undercut drivers.
“Some of those subtle cues that we see are…having driver windows, where they have to walk up to the window instead of walking into the building…having places where (drivers) can’t go where regular office staff can,” he said.
Murrell added that often, sales and office staff are automatically given a cell phone and company e-mail address when they are hired, but drivers don’t get these luxuries.
“We are finding that companies are recognizing these things now and drivers are getting things like e-mail addresses and business cards so they feel like they are part of the company,” he said.
Other things Murrell said Best Fleets are doing to make their drivers feel like part of the team is having an open concept terminal, making sure benefit packages for office staff and drivers are consistent and having a welcome sign at the terminal.
“We are also seeing fleets taking it one step further,” he said. “They look at it as drivers being the star athletes on the team who you want to take care of. Good examples of that are concierge services…driver pulls in and hands the keys to the maintenance concierge and then goes and hangs out in the lounge while someone else does the paperwork. We’re also seeing fleets offer drivers a service where someone runs errands for them while they are out on the road.”
Murrell’s favorite driver perk he’s seen through the program was a currency conversion program. He said one Canadian fleet interviewed this year offered its cross-border drivers a favorable US exchange rate that was “at par or close to par” since drivers pay more for things in the states than they would in Canada.
“Office staff saw that and they wanted in on that, and the answer was no,” he said. “It sends a nice message that the drivers are the stars and they get to participate in the program and the office staff don’t.”
Dress codes are something that stuck out during interviews this year as well, said Murrell.
“We didn’t expect to see anything change in this area,” he said. “It used to be that drivers would get a free shirt at orientation and then they could buy more stuff at the company store. But that’s really being supplemented now by companies just handing out a bunch of stuff on regular basis. So four or five shirts at orientation and hats, a voucher for safety boots, and a much more frequent renewal of these things…it’s a nice benefit for the driver.”
Another area that surprised Murrell and Jazrawy was the shift from focusing on driver comforts in terminal facilities to the truck.
“More fleets are recognizing that drivers are spending most of their time on the road and in the truck,” Murrell said. “More fleets are trying to make that truck experience really nice for their drivers. Things like upgraded seats, upgraded sleeper berths and more customization.”
Murrell said this year a number of fleets are bypassing the sleeper berths altogether and putting their drivers in hotel rooms overnight.
“It’s not an industry-wide trend, yet,” Murrell said. “But it is noteworthy because if a driver is getting that quality sleep, it’s a benefit to the driver.”
This year CarriersEdge had 140 fleet applications and had 69 finalists. You can see a list of this year’s Top 20 here.
The overall Best Large Fleet to Drive For and Best Small Fleet to Drive For will be announced next week in Nashville, Tenn. at the annual TCA convention.