With demand for long-haul driver teams outstripping supply, one of the country’s largest truckload carriers Feb. 12 launched a compensation plan to provide team drivers up to $50,000 in bonuses and four weeks of paid vacation every year.
U.S. Xpress said its new TeamMax Bonus plan boosts the pay of truck drivers willing to make long-haul routes with another team member. Such driver teams are increasingly in demand to help move the growing volume of expedited shipments that e-commerce retailers are demanding as Internet sales continue to grow.
The improved pay levels and benefits for U.S. Xpress team drivers should make them among the best paid in the industry and help U.S. Xpress boost its share of team driver hauls, company president Eric Fuller said Feb. 12.
“With the continued growth of e-commerce, more and more consumers expect their packages to arrive within 1-2 days, not in three or four days,” Fuller said. “This dynamic has completely changed how U.S. Xpress supports the shipping demands of our customers today, especially when it comes to major retailers like Amazon, Walmart and others who are driving the need for expedited freight services to record levels in the trucking industry.”
Nearly 400,000 people a year in the United States obtain commercial driver licenses (CDLs), but American Trucking Associations estimates there is still a shortage of at least 50,000 drivers due to high turnover, especially among long-haul team drivers most in demand today.
John Sommers II for Transport Topics
The nomadic life and long rides cause many drivers to leave the profession or give up on long-haul driving, especially with the U.S. jobless rate now near full employment rate with only about 4% of the workforce looking for jobs.
“As we get into an era of lower unemployment, we struggle to find viable candidates so we are looking at ways to bring more people into the industry, and as a company we are eager to have more people come to U.S. Xpress,” Fuller said. “I think this new program puts us at or near the top [for driver compensation)] and I don’t think there is a team program out there in the country that can beat this.”
Last year, other major trucking companies also boosted pay or benefits to attract more drivers. Covenant Transport of Chattanooga, Tenn., offered drivers a run home every other week and a guaranteed $100-per-day late pay. Forward Air of Greenville, Tenn., touts that two-driver team can travel 5,800 miles every week and gross up to $392,000 per year before expenses.
The Chattanooga- based U.S. Xpress has more than 7,000 drivers. The company currently generates about 15% of its revenues from driver teams that switch off drivers on long-haul shipments to allow a truck to stay on the road virtually around the clock.
Fuller said U.S. Xpress could probably double its share of driver teams on the road if it could get enough drivers.
Driver teams often spend as much as four weeks at a time out of the road. To compensate for the prolonged periods away from home, U.S. Xpress is offering four weeks of paid vacation a year under the TeamMax Bonus offer.
“It’s not just about raising pay, it’s also about trying to improve driver lifestyles,” Fuller said.
Drivers in U.S. Xpress’ TeamMAX program will have first priority for the newest trucks, get top priority at the service centers so they have minimal downtime, and can earn up to 82 cents per mile (CPM), which Fuller said is one of the industry’s best rates.
Mary Berman, who drives with her husband Larry for U.S. Xpress, said the couple got an $8,000 bonus when they signed on as team drivers “and now we found out we have another bonus package for this year — that’s really exciting.”
Compensation for the Bermans and other TeamMax drivers at U.S. Xpress are in the top 10% in the industry with annual pay levels of $87,500 a year or more per driver, according to the company. U.S. Xpress will pay eligible drivers 82 cents per mile, including a 22 cents per mile monthly mileage bonus, and a 5 cents per mile bonus when drivers are one the road away from home for 45 days or more in a row.