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May 22, 2018 2:15 PM, EDT
Two More Trucking Companies Raise Driver Pay
Ozark Motor Lines (Ozark Motor Lines)

Editor's note: The raises below for Ozark Motor Lines reflect an update to the story that was originally published.

Two more trucking companies have joined a growing list of operators that are increasing compensation to retain their current drivers and attract new recruits.

Memphis, Tenn.-based Ozark Motor Lines said it is improving per-mile pay for its company drivers, effective June 1. The company’s new starting rate for line haul drivers with less than one year of experience is 43 cents per mile, while drivers with five years or more experience will receive up to 48 cents per mile. The top scale for experienced drivers is now 50 cents per mile.

Line haul team drivers start between 24 and 27 cents per mile. Depending on their experience, regional drivers will start between 40 to 48 cents per mile.

In addition to traditional benefits, the company gives new drivers a signing bonus and has a flexible home time program that gives drivers 48 hours of time off after being on the road for 10 days. The company is also introducing a new per diem package where the first 14.5 cents are not taxed. 

“At Ozark, we’re committed to bringing drivers the best when it comes to their compensation packages,” Ozark’s Vice President of Human Resources and Safety Patrick Landreth said.

Beginning June 1, Arlington, Wash.-based Smokey Point Distributing, a division of Daseke Inc., will introduce a guaranteed annual salary of $65,000 to qualified solo over-the-road drivers with flatbed experience. The company said the annual salary provides a consistent income regardless of the number of loaded miles an over-the-road driver makes each week. Drivers will also be able to earn additional compensation and bonuses.

“Our company is taking ownership of our operational efficiency in good times and in bad. Our drivers will no longer be financially affected by a temporary lack of sales, delays due to weather or equipment maintenance requirements or delays in loading and unloading,” said CEO Dan Wirkkala. “Our new annual salary pay program will mean more stable incomes so they won’t have to put off paying their rent, mortgage or car payment until their next paychecks.”

The moves by Ozark and Smokey Point are the latest indication that carriers of all sizes are willing to boost compensation as a way of addressing the trucking industry’s driver shortage.

Earlier this month, the quarterly Trends in Truckload Recruitment and Retention survey from background screening service provider Driver iQ found that 72% of recruiters believe driver pay will increase in the second quarter, while 28% said it will remain the same. No one in the survey expected salaries to decline, a reversal from the fourth quarter of 2017, when 40% of recruiters said they anticipated driver compensation would drop.

In the first quarter of 2018, 60% of the carriers in the survey said they have raised their cents-per-mile pay, while more than 50% have implemented performance bonuses and about 11% are implementing a guaranteed weekly wage. Fewer than 10% said they had not raised compensation levels.

Nussbaum Transportation

Nussbaum Transportation is offering an ESOP. (TT file photo)

When it comes to the overall compensation for drivers, the survey found that more than 80% of carriers believe that an annual wage of $75,000 would attract prospects and impact driver turnover.

One company, Hudson, Ill.-based Nussbaum Transportation, last month announced it was giving its employees a 35% ownership stake in the company, through an employee stock ownership plan, known as ESOP. The company also is offering bonuses and other incentive programs including letting family members, or a driver’s dog, go on trips.

Transport Topics Reporter Burney Simpson contributed to this story.