View from the Edge

2018 Best Fleets to Drive For: Compensation Trends

Best Fleets to Drive For is the only annual program dedicated to uncovering the best workplaces in the North American trucking industry. Produced by CarriersEdge, in partnership with Truckload Carriers Association, the program evaluates more than 100 nominated fleets and collects thousands of driver surveys each year. The resulting data provides a clear picture of what's working at fleets of all sizes.

The annual Best Fleets to Drive For survey and contest evaluates fleets across a range of performance criteria, identifying the companies having the most success with their drivers. The evaluation process is difficult, requiring data to be collected from all departments and surveys from a healthy number of drivers, all in a short timeframe at the busiest time of year. As a result, more than half of each year's nominated fleets don't make it through to the finals. Those that do demonstrate that they've got a strong team and the ability to communicate and collaborate effectively. Fleets that make it further - being named a Best Fleet to Drive For - have really figured out the recipe for success.

Scoring for the 10th anniversary edition of the program wrapped up in early January and this year's data shows an industry continuing to find creative ways to make life better for drivers. Here are some of the trends that emerged this year, specifically related to compensation.

Driver and Owner-Op Pay

Driver pay is always a popular subject, and it's an area that has seen some interesting developments over the past few years. In the Best Fleets program, participants provide the average annual miles and average income (for company drivers) or gross revenue (for owner-operators). Those numbers are then used to calculate the total pay per mile that drivers receive. Instead of trying to compare different pay packages across fleets to determine how much drivers might earn, this method distills those variables to their essence - what drivers actually make in a year after all the bonuses are factored in, and what the average is per mile driven.

This year's average for company drivers was 54.32 cents/mile. Last year, the average was 50.71 cents/mile, representing an increase of 7.11% year over year. That increase continues the trend of the past 4 years, with company driver pay steadily increasing every year.

For owner-operators, however, the story is somewhat different. The average rate for owner-operators this year was $1.39/mile, only very slightly above last year's average of $1.386/mile. Owner-op pay has fluctuated substantially over the past 4 years, reaching a high of $1.763/mile in 2015 then dropping to the levels seen recently.

This year also marks the first time in Best Fleets history that the Top 20 fleets have average pay higher than their peers. While the Top 20 typically have average pay slightly below that of all finalists, this year company driver pay is actually 1.8% above. Owner-Op pay among the Top 20 continues to lag the finalists slightly (1.3%) but is closer than it has been in recent years.

Pay Stability

In addition to the average income, consistency and predictability are also important, and this year's Best Fleets have invested effort in improving both.

Guaranteed pay was referenced in a previous article discussing the preliminary results, but the final numbers show a clear increase in the number of fleets providing some sort of pay cushion for drivers. While last year's program saw 50% of the participants providing some kind of pay guarantee, this year that number has jumped to 73%. The number of fleets providing a full guarantee (comparable to a base salary in many ways) has also jumped - from 17% last year to 30% now. The amounts being guaranteed vary from fleet to fleet, depending on the region and type of work, but the average is $1003.60 per week with a median rate of $1000.

A new area being evaluated in the program this year is payroll accuracy and error prevention. Drivers have long expressed frustration over inaccurate settlements and lengthy resolution processes, so fleets that work to minimize errors see those efforts rewarded in driver satisfaction and longevity. This year's Best Fleets take a direct approach to avoiding problems, with separate review and audit processes to catch any mistakes early on. The most proactive, however, have added a layer of transparency that allows drivers to see the settlement details directly through a scorecard, so they're clear on how their compensation is calculated well before it arrives. That not only allows for any mistakes to be caught and rectified quickly, it also makes the connection between performance and compensation more clear for drivers, eliminating a common source of misunderststanding.

While compensation is an important part of the total work experience for drivers, it's certainly not the only thing that matters. Future editions of View from the Edge will look at the trends in benefits, HR strategy, safety, and performance management.

The 2018 Top 20 Best Fleets to Drive For will be announced on January 30, 2018.

View from the Edge is a bi-monthly review of best practices in risk management, driver development, and technology for the trucking industry, produced by CarriersEdge.

CarriersEdge provides interactive online driver training for the North American trucking industry. A comprehensive library of safety and compliance courses is supplemented with extensive content creation and customization options, full featured survey tools, detailed management reports, and the industry's first dedicated mobile app for driver training.

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