Truckload carriers struggling to find and keep drivers are increasingly convinced driver pay needs to increase significantly, Transport Capital Partners said.
A growing number of carriers, 65 percent, said driver pay must rise above $60,000 a year. That’s up from 49 percent of the carriers surveyed the previous quarter.
About 45 percent said pay would have to rise to the $60,000 to $70,000 annual range. That would be a significant bump in compensation. Tractor-trailer drivers are paid about $39,500 annually on average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Unemployment “has particularly impacted the construction industry, a historical driver source, but drivers are still scarce,” said Lana Batts, TCP partner.
Shippers would be expected to foot some of that increased compensation. Rising labor costs are likely to be a prime factor in higher truckload rates in 2012.
The consulting firm’s latest survey found 70 percent of truckload carriers had “unseated” trucks in the fourth quarter, ranging from 1 to 10 percent of their fleets. About half of the truckload carriers said 1 to 5 percent of their trucks were idled in the quarter, but 18 percent said 6 to 10 percent of their tractors were unseated.
Carriers typically keep a percentage of their trucks unseated to maintain operational flexibility, but more than 5 percent would be considered a high number.
Since the recession, trucking executives have said driver pay would have to rise as truckload rates recovered. Although rates are rising, costs are climbing, too.
Truckload carriers are “aggressively” recruiting, said TCP partner and study leader Richard Mikes, with more carriers opening entry-level driver training programs.
Those efforts appear to be working. The number of carriers with more than 10 percent of their trucks unseated dropped from 8 percent to 1 percent in the quarter.