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April 26, 2022 7:49 PM, EDT

Walmart’s Driver Pay Boost Goes Beyond Miles Driven

A Walmart truck driver pulls away from a distribution centerA Walmart truck driver pulls away from a distribution center. (Walmart Inc.)

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Walmart Inc. made a big splash recently with the news that it was boosting its overall pay package for first-year drivers to as much as $110,000 a year.

But Fernando Cortes, the senior vice president of Walmart Transportation, told Transport Topics that its new compensation package for drivers of all experience levels covers more than just pay per mile.

“We wanted to reinforce that we offer one of the best driving jobs in the industry, so we increased pay for most aspects of the job,” Cortes said. “This includes increasing per-mile pay by about 10% compared to what it was before. We also increased pay for wait time and for activities like live loads and unloads. Altogether, we think these increases will help us continue to attract the best of the best.”

The Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer first announced it was raising pay for its private fleet drivers April 7. Factors such as location and tenure also figure into a driver’s pay.

Fernando Cortes

Cortes

“Our goal with raising pay was to acknowledge the incredible work of the approximately 12,000 truck drivers in our private fleet,” Cortes said. “We also want to ensure we remain one of the best driving jobs in the industry.”

American Trucking Associations estimates that the industry is short about 80,000 truckers. Trucking companies nationwide have been using compensation as well as other incentives to compete for a limited pool of available drivers amid heightened freight demand. Walmart hired nearly 4,500 truck drivers last year. That was more than any other year in its six-decade history.

“It’s definitely a competitive environment,” Cortes said.

The investments in pay also build upon multiple recent driver bonuses and improved schedules that give drivers more time at home. The changes mean regional drivers can be home more often, for a minimum of two nights per week and up to three nights in a row. The retailer also added new local driving jobs in select areas that allow drivers to be home after every shift.

“Walmart is one of the safest fleets in the industry,” Cortes said. “We offer our drivers quarterly safety bonuses and a safety incentive and recognition programs. From a scheduling standpoint, we offer predictable home time. Walmart operates on a weekly schedule, so drivers know when they will be home and on the road.”

Cortes added drivers get access to company benefits on their first day. They can earn as much as 21 days of paid time off in their first year. Drivers also have access to benefits like medical coverage, a 401(k) with a 6% company match, an associate stock purchase plan and access to a free college degree. The Live Better U program was set up by the company to cover the cost of tuition and books for employees.

The Walmart Private Fleet Development Program was announced alongside the driver pay raise. The program aims to create a pipeline of talent of Walmart employees into the private fleet, similar to training schools that many for-hire companies run.

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“We’re proud to offer more opportunity than anywhere else,” Cortes said. “It’s part of our DNA to promote from within and develop the next generation of Walmart leaders. Customer demand has driven extensive growth across our business, and this is just one way we are working to meet that demand while also investing in new career pathways for associates to build great careers at Walmart.”

The program is open to company associates and will help them earn their truck driving certifications for free. The program is taught by experienced company drivers and was added to the existing roster of academic and training programs.

“They’re learning from the best of the best and then they’re stepping into these driving jobs where we’re continuing to invest in wages, scheduling, equipment and everything else that comes with being a Walmart associate,” Cortes said. “Providing our current associates with this life-changing new opportunity was a no-brainer for us.”

Walmart Inc. ranks No. 3 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest private carriers in North America.