Dollars that is…  In an industry that has long faced a driver shortage, fleets are starting to get the message.  They need to pay more, and they need to treat their drivers with respect.  Plus, they need to get drivers home more often. Happily, the trend is positive and that should help bring in new drivers to trucking.

Driving pay up has been the result of a lot more freight that needs to be delivered than drivers on the road. That means there is plenty of work available…and competition for drivers.

Proof is in the pudding though. Have you seen what Walmart announced? The company just took matters into its own hands and will now pay first-year drivers an average of $87,500 a year with 21 days of vacation. Walmart isn’t ‘beating around the bush,’ they’re serious about adding drivers and are willing to pay drivers accordingly.

Could other fleets follow the footsteps of Walmart? It’s possible. While Walmart is the first we know of to pay that large of a starting wage, many fleets are adjusting their pay packages, benefits and overall work place environment. They’re doing what they can to make drivers want to be with the company.

And, take a look at what Smokey Point Distributing, based out of Arlington, Wash. is doing. They’ve restructured their driver pay so that drivers are guaranteed a salary between $65,000 and $76,000. And, there are bonuses on top of that. An annual salary, as opposed to a pay-per-mile pay system gives drivers a stable paycheck, eliminating fluctuating paychecks. The best part of the SPD program is that drivers that accrue 9,900 miles a month or more add to their personal ‘bonus bank,’ or year-end bonus.  According to the company, some drivers have racked up 30,000 miles of bonus miles, which is equivalent to a $26,000 bonus.

Thought about planning for the future? Some fleets like Central Oregon Truck Company, for example, a Best Fleets to Drive For company, has a 401k plan set up, with up to 4 percent employer match. Pretty neat.

Driver pay and benefits may be the big attracting piece to new drivers, but something that is flying under the radar, that can make a subtle impact in driver retention, is the importance of company culture. A growing number of fleets are making a point to show their appreciation of drivers through inclusivity. More companies are reaching out to drivers and see how they can best accommodate their schedules, personal needs, and make an effort to integrate office staff and drivers. These companies are treating their drivers like they’re apart of the company family, rather an outside entity. When drivers feel welcomed and important, a good working relationship is built.

Why can truck driving be a great option besides a pretty good income? Depending on a driver’s set up and obligations, the trucking industry can provide a quick way to save money. Some drivers – more and more husband/wife teams — don’t have a home base – they literally live in their truck. No mortgage or house rental expense!  It can be long term (empty nesters seeing the country), or it can be those just starting out – saving up for a down payment on a house. A driver can save a lot of money in just a few months living rent-free.

Another big appeal?  A long-haul driver gets to see some of the most extraordinary scenery North America has to offer. Not many people outside of the trucking industry can say they have seen the majority of the continental U.S. and provinces in Canada. The people you meet, the new foods you can try and different cultures you take in is all part of the trucking experience. You’re literally getting paid to see places most people will never see in lifetime. There’s something to be said about that.

So, we’re encouraged! Fleets are stepping up and doing what they need to do to attract drivers to our industry. Trucking is a great industry and its arms are wide open to welcome new members.  Come on in!