Truck Driver Pay

“If a driver is willing to work really hard he can make a lot of money here”. Blah, blah, blah…. If I only had a dollar for every time I heard a hiring manager say that. What they’re really saying is “we’ve set up our pay structure so that we only have to pay you if we run out of excuses not to”. And that’s the way every experienced driver interprets that statement.

I have been involved in truck driver recruiting for twenty plus years and have seen every type of compensation structure that you can imagine. Some are straight forward and allow the driver to clearly understand what he will be paid. Others equate to plain old trickery, and require that the driver use a formula to calculate how much his check should be. The rest of the compensation structures fall somewhere in between straight forward and trickery.

In an effort to ensure greater productivity many carriers design compensation structures that closely coincide with the individual tasks and sub tasks that the driver must complete. Also known as “Performance Based Compensation” (PBC), this type of pay structure breaks down the driver’s work into a series of smaller pieces that each account for a small part of the driver’s pay.

I once worked with a truck driver recruiter that had over twenty line items that made up the driver’s compensation. Some of the things they paid drivers for included stops, drops, pieces, delays, miles, turns (trips), percentage, over-nights, safety, longevity and customer satisfaction. There pay included several more items. While their drivers did actually make great money most drivers who were looking for a new opportunity didn’t trust this structure enough to give it a try.

PBC structures are typically indented to motivate the truck driver to carry out his duties as quickly and efficiently as possible, while minimizing compensation when performance standards are not met. However you should be aware that this type of pay structure could be hurting your effort to attract drivers, even if the driver really can make good money. In reality PBC’s do more to discourage drivers from considering a particular job than any other factor. Because the driver can’t truly determine how much he/she will actually make it is difficult to trust in the job or the company. Truck drivers generally believe that carriers who use complex pay structures are trying to cheat them out of a fair wage, or at a minimum, they will have to work much harder at this job in order to make reasonable money than any other job.

For carriers who prefer to use PBC pay structures we always recommend that they communicate expected compensation using terms that any driver can understand. The simplest way to do this is to take the average annual or weekly salary of the company’s current driver population and create a standard pay range, from conservative to aggressive. Let drivers know that they are guaranteed to earn somewhere within that range based on performance, and talk less about the actual formula. After all, a driver is not at all interested in your formula or what you call his pay. He/she only cares how much he can reasonably expect to make, and he wants that information in a language that he can understand. A good test for your pay structure is; if a driver who is considering your job can’t go home and easily convey to his/her significant other how much he will make on this new job, in a way that can be easily understood, you will not sell him on that job.

So if you’re using any sort of complex PBC to pay your drivers, you might find it worthwhile to use hard averages when trying to attract new drivers. Annual, weekly, or even daily pay is universal and can be easily understood by anyone.

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