Wednesday, April 27, 2016
Feb, 2016 Trucking in Australia shares a lot in common with the U.S. Like us, they favor conventional tractors over the cab-overs common to Europe and most other global markets. Like their American counterparts, they depend on trucks to haul the vast majority of their freight, and trucks haul that freight long distances. But one thing we will no longer have in common with Australian trucking is pay-by-the mile (or in their case, kilometer).
An unusual tripartite group of government regulators, fleet operators and driver union representatives in Australia have devised a plan to replace pay-by-the-mile with hourly wages for long-haul and food services drivers. Calling them “safety rates,” a bipartisan group of legislators have adopted the tribunal’s proposal, which will take effect in April. And apparently that’s just the first step. An Australian senator speaking at the annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board reported the panel is currently working to extend hourly pay for drivers to drayage, waste and fuel tanker fleets.
The motivation for this change is right there in its name—safety. The head of the country’s transport workers union—and a member of the panel—claims that driving a truck in Australia is the most dangerous job in the country, 11 times more likely to result in a fatal accident than any other industrial job. He argues that pay-by-the-mile creates incentives for drivers to engage in unsafe practices like continuing to drive while fatigued and using drugs to overcome that fatigue in order to make up for paying miles lost to congestion or loading delays. Paying drivers hourly wages removes those incentives. What he says about safety makes sense to me, and now we’ll get some real-world experience to see that it really does have a positive effect. But here in the U.S., I believe the potential impact would go much farther.
It’s the truckload portion of the industry that relies almost exclusively on pay-by-the-mile, and I don’t think it’s any coincidence that it’s truckload carriers that are struggling the most with the current shortage of reliable drivers. Perceived fairness in wages is one of the most important elements in job satisfaction. How fair does it seem to a driver when they’re the ones penalized by a shipper’s loading delay, or by congestion or bad weather? How fair does it seem when all the financial pressure is on the driver to make up for those delays?
Of course the immediate objection is that moving to hourly pay for drivers would cost too much. But what is it costing fleets in unseated trucks and liability exposure not to make that switch?
Yes, it will raise driver wages, but fleets shouldn’t be the only ones to bear that cost. The shipping community needs to understand the real cost of its inefficiencies, costs that it now ignores because they are shifted onto the driver. It’s too early to know if Australian carriers will see any improvement there, but one of the TRB speakers said loading delays were reduced from seven hours to 23 minutes when one port made the switch to hourly pay for drivers. That seems like an extreme example, but any substantial improvement in supply chain productivity would benefit all—drivers, fleets and shippers alike.
Pay-by-the-mile isn’t going to go away overnight in this country, but I believe hourly pay for drivers is inevitable. Safety, access to labor and basic fairness make it so. Now is the time for carriers to figure out how they can make that transition without undue disruption to their businesses.
Saturday, April 23, 2016
|Photo: Saia LTL Freight|
“I’m not willing to get out at this point. It kind of gets in your blood, the trucking industry does,” Saia LTL driver Leah Evans tells Fleet Owner
Feb, 2016 Leah Evans had always dreamed of becoming a high school band director – until she started driving trucks.
Evans – now a driver for Saia LTL Freight in Charlotte, NC – got her CDL about 20 years ago with her now ex-husband. The two got into the industry as team drivers in 1996 for an OTR carrier. She had gone to school to study music, but ended up working as a customer service representative in air freight before she started driving.
Years later, she got a job as a temp with Clark Brothers Transfer and was hired fulltime in 2000. In 2004, Saia acquired Clark Brothers. Three years later, Evans and her ex split, and she eventually remarried in 2008. She’s been with Saia for more than 16 years, and is no longer interested in pursuing that dream of a high school band director.
“I stuck with it because I liked it; it’s what I learned how to do,” Evans said about truck driving. “I’m not willing to get out at this point. It kind of gets in your blood, the trucking industry does.”
“Being in the LTL industry, I’m home every night,” Evans added. “I’m in and out of the truck constantly, so I’m not sitting all the time. I get to meet with customers all the time – that’s the part of the job I absolutely love.”
When Evans, now in her early 40s, started out as a truck driver in 1996, she said a lot of drivers weren’t really receptive to the idea of young women entering the industry. Twenty years ago, she explained, a lot of the middle-aged male drivers were used to their wives being at home taking care of the kids. So, when Evans branched off into the industry on her own, she said it was difficult for them to accept her.
But things have changed. Now, Evans is a driver trainer with Saia, and she said it has been a great company to work for.
“They’ve had their downs, and I’ve stuck with them,” Evans told Fleet Owner. “But they’ve been on the up, and I’ve been able to do a lot more and get a lot more from Saia than I would have with Clark Brothers.”
Based on 2014 data from the U.S. Dept. of Labor, women make up 57% of the labor force. In the transportation sector, they represent a much smaller portion of the population.
Women comprise 5.8% of the 3.4 million driver/sales workers and truck drivers in the U.S. They are just 0.3% of the 323,000 bus, truck mechanics and diesel engine specialists in the workforce, and make up only 0.5% of the 211,000 heavy vehicle and mobile equipment technicians in the country.
According to Ellen Voie, president and CEO of the Women in Trucking (WIT) advocacy group, workforce diversity brings value to the bottom line.
“We’re beginning to see that in trucking; how the needs and values of women are changing things,” Voie told Fleet Owner. “Truck cabs are being designed to fit women drivers better … There’s also more focus on truck stop safety and harassment – the industry is starting to get it now. Harassment has always been an issue, but we’re working on it more. The key thing is to work on the industry’s image among the non-trucking public. We still have a long way to go with that.”
Though Evans doesn’t deal with harassment or hasn’t since she first began on her own, she and her husband, who also drives for Saia, face other challenges as working parents. But she feels the company is a good fit for them.
Evans explained that Saia is known for having some of the best health benefits and driver incentives around. When Evans trains incoming drivers, she asks what drew them to Saia, and right off the bat, trainees say “the benefits.”
Evans also said Saia holds job fairs and offers sign-on bonuses in some of its terminals. But one of the leading benefits Saia offers is after 10 years of service, employee health benefits are completely covered by the company.
“As a mother [of five] whose youngest child is six, that’s a lot of free health insurance,” Evans said, adding that her husband is a 12-year veteran with the company. “And that’s a good incentive to stay with the company.”
Challenges in the industry
Though Evans believes she’s got it pretty great, others in the industry may not be as fortunate. Evans explained that no matter which carrier drivers work for, it is always difficult to raise a family as a truck driver. And daycare and the need for extended hours is a big issue for many in the industry.
“The industry is what it is,” Evans said. “It’s long hours and there’s no set start time and stop time. I could tell you that the challenge I face and a lot of men and women face is having children and being there for your children. That’s just the nature of the beast. Thinking I can be off at 5 every day – it’s not going to happen.”
Evans and her husband have worked out a schedule to pick up their youngest child from daycare. As LTL drivers, Evans said she is fortunate that she and her husband are paid so well and that they make it home to their kids every night. But that’s not the case for a lot of OTR drivers.
According to Evans, OTR drivers don’t get paid as well, and she believes they don’t have the access that they need to gyms and healthier food options. As an OTR team driver, Evans said she was 40 lbs. heavier than she is now, mainly because her schedule consisted of eating, driving, sleeping, driving, eating – repeat.
The first summer that she started working in the LTL business, Evans said she dropped 30 lbs. in the first three months just from getting up and moving more.
“I see it all the time – OTR drivers are overweight because of the lack of moving and getting out of the driver’s seat to take a walk,” she explained.
Evans thinks the industry could set up gyms for them along their routes or near truck stops, so they’re not just walking around truck stops for exercise. She also believes the industry as a whole could attract and retain OTR drivers with better pay and benefits.
Voie told Fleet Owner that another challenge in the industry is driver safety and security both in and outside of the cab. WIT is pushing for the design of truck cab security systems that alerts a driver if someone attempts to break into the cab while the driver is sleeping, she said. “That protects both men and women,” she added.
Regardless of the challenges that she has faced, Evans loves her job and remains passionate and proud as she describes the industry as a whole. She becomes particularly energetic when she mentions her family and the Saia Sisterhood, an organized group of female drivers at the company.
And even though she never became a high school band director, Evans is still using her musical talents as the choir director at her church.
Wednesday, April 20, 2016
Saturday, April 16, 2016
Article thanks to Larry Kahaner and fleetowner.com. Dave makes some very good points, but every driver has to start somewhere. I started trucking in the early 1980's by going through a truck driving school. I then started knocking on doors for a couple months until I found a man with a company that would give me a chance. I took that opportunity, worked for very poor wages for a year until I had enough experience that a much better company hired me. The smart drivers can figure it out and improve their situations. Since that first couple years gaining safe driving experience, I've managed to make good money over the past 35 years in the industry. I think the biggest danger for newer drivers is their getting frustrated and jumping into buying a truck, then going broke in a few years due to bad business practices. There are good companies out there that will pay a fair wage and provide good benefits. To get the good jobs, you have to put the time in and build a great resume with safe driving history. Links provided:
May, 2015 Dave MacMillan is an owner-operator based in Parry Sound, Ontario who has spent most of his 40-year driving career hauling produce from California. Currently, he drives a lumber truck locally and is paid by the hour. When the lumber hauling season is over he will study the rates and decide if he wants to put his truck back on the road or leave the business altogether. He explains why the industry has trouble attracting and keeping drivers. His wife Catherine MacMillan runs the website www.smart-trucking.com.
"The driver shortage is bad, and it will continue to get worse," says MacMillan. "You can't attract young people to this industry anymore. When I was a kid all I ever wanted to do was drive a truck. Now, you look at this industry and you think, 'Geeze, I may stay away from home almost all year long, in and out, and only make $30,000. Or, I can go into construction, be home every night, and make $50,000.' It's not much of a choice."
He rejects the industry's notion, however, that being home at night or on weekends will solve most of the shortage problem. He notes that some fisherman, for example, are willing to be away from home for long stretches of time because the high pay makes the hardship worthwhile. The same goes for military contractors working overseas in dangerous places or salespeople who are on the road most of the time. "Look at the guys who go crab fishing in the Bering Sea. It's for the money. If you get paid enough money then it's worth it. I was quite content to be out driving weeks at a time because at the end of a few weeks I was grossing $20,000," he says. "Back in the mid-80s, I would do two trips to California and make $20,000 [before expenses]. It was good pay at the time, certainly enough to make me do it year-in, year-out, and it wasn't that long ago."
MacMillan adds that the pay issue is not always about how much money someone makes but the consistency of income. "Being at home matters, of course, but the big problem is not knowing what your paycheck is going to be. When I ran California I knew what my load going out would pay and I knew what my load coming back would pay. I knew what my fuel would be well as my other expenses. It was a lot easier to budget. But there are guys now that cross their fingers and hope that the people with the computers will send them on a long trip so they make money. It's a crap shoot."
How do you attract and keep professional drivers? "I think the only way is to pay drivers by the hour, because there's so much time lost in transportation that paying by the mile just doesn't cut it. You spend so much time in traffic or sitting at shippers and receivers who abuse your time as a driver. Big carriers continue to pay by the mile, and they get what they pay for. At the end of the day, many of the really good drivers leave the industry because they're not making enough money. This trickles down and you end up with guys that really shouldn't even be on the road."
He also cites the rise of undercutting and commodization for some of the ills that plague the industry. MacMillan used to concentrate on niche markets because the money was good. Now, he says, many of these markets have dried up. "What happens with niche markets is that sooner or later some load broker will come along and say, 'We could do that for half the cost.' They would sell the shipper on saving money and that would be the end of that niche. I couldn't even tell you how many times that's happened to me. You'll even get big carriers undercutting each other, then try to make up for hauling the cheap freight by trimming the drivers' paychecks…the burden for profit is shifted to the driver."
He says that this shift has produced unsafe drivers. It used to be: 'Get it there and get it there safely. Just do the best job you can.' Now it's more of a 'just get it there, and we don't care what you have to go through to do it, and we'll only pay you this.' It's a different industry now.' What's sad is that there are really good carriers out there, but they're often restrained by what other carriers do. You'll see a good carrier, doing the right things, then some fool will come in, slash his rate in half, and the good carrier is forced to respond to it."
MacMillan appreciates the financial sacrifices that a large, public company would have to do in order pay drivers by the hour. "The CEOs of publicly-traded trucking companies answer to shareholders and shareholders look at profit and loss. Big carriers realize that to pay their drivers by the hour would take a huge chunk of their profit out. If they try to sell that to their shareholders, they will look for a new CEO."
MacMillan concludes: "I don't want to sound too harsh here, but it's kind of embarrassing to a lot of us [long-time professional drivers] to see the guys that drive trucks now. We hate to be painted with the same brush, but we are, and you can understand why the public does that. An awful lot of the guys who did this as a profession have left. It's a shame, because it's a good job, really. If you could get paid for what you did, it would be a great job."
Wednesday, April 13, 2016
1. Driving trucks is more like a lifestyle choice than a regular job. This is not the kind of job where you'll be home for dinner every night. You stay out, driving shipments back and forth, for weeks at a time, and then you get a couple days off back home. It's impossible to have a real life because you're always on the road. Even on the days off, when you want to spend time with your family or your friends, you have to sleep and do your laundry and go to the grocery store to get snacks for the road and then, before you know it, you leave again. It's a very harsh lifestyle.
2. Don't stress out about finding a job. There's a huge shortage of truck drivers, so getting hired is basically as easy as getting your commercial driver's license. It's a 10-week program to get the certification, and by the time mine was over, I had a job lined up with a company. Some companies will even pre-hire you and pay for your training, which makes it really easy to break into the industry.
3. The starting pay isn't great, but you can move up the pay scale pretty quickly.When I first started driving, I was making 27 cents for every mile that I drove, which equated to around $35,000 a year — so, not great. But by the time I quit three years later, I was making $55,000 a year. Pay raises are regular, and your rate goes up if you hit goals each quarter, like making on-time deliveries, driving without accidents, staying under the speed limit, and having more years of experience under your belt.
4. The job can be super lonely, but you can also choose to drive with a partner. I drove by myself for the first 10 months, which was fine but a little lonely. Later, I convinced my boyfriend to get his commercial driver's license and join me in the truck, and we started to team truck drive. This is pretty common, especially for women truck drivers, who feel more comfortable having someone with them. When I was driving, my boyfriend would sleep, and vice versa. We could cover a lot more ground that way, because we each drove half the distance to the drop-off destination and didn't have to stop. Teams are paid for the total miles they drive together (you split the pay down the middle) so you can make a lot more money this way.
5. Everyone is shocked to see a woman driving a truck, and they'll let you know it.Women only make up about 5 percent of the truck driving industry, according to the American Trucking Association. But that doesn't make it any less sexist when people act like a fish is riding a bicycle when they see a woman behind the wheel! I had to get used to people constantly gawking at me or going out of their way to tell me they'd never seen a woman driving a long haul before. You have to develop a thick skin and shrug it off.
6. You should learn to like audiobooks if you don't already. Radio is the no. 1 thing truck drivers listen to, but it's tricky, since you're constantly passing through new airwaves and can't listen to the same radio station for very long. I listened to audiobooks all day long — series are the best, like Harry Potter or Stephen King novels — because it made the day go by a lot faster.
7. The truck becomes your home. You sleep in your truck, you eat in your truck, you spend every minute in your truck. The trucks have sleeper berths behind the cab, with bunk beds and cabinets and a few shelves, and that basically becomes your home for weeks at a time. When my boyfriend and I started team driving together, we decided to buy a new memory foam mattress for our truck, because the mattresses that come in the trucks are like summer camp cots. We bought a crockpot to cook food on the go, and we had a really nice set-up. It's not glamorous, but you make it your own. The one thing you don't do in your truck is go to the bathroom and shower, which you get to do at special areas of rest stops and at "service plazas." You learn to get by on a shower a few times a week (or less) and hold your bladder for as long as possible, because every minute you're stopped at a rest stop is lost income. Some truck drivers even wear diapers to avoid stopping at bathrooms — not kidding.
8. Forget about working out or eating well. You're sitting all day driving, then you're sleeping. That's your life for as long as it takes to get home. Forget exercising; you're barely standing up throughout the day. The only way to make money is if your truck is moving, and as long as your truck is moving, you're on your butt. You're also eating like crap, since your only options on the road are fast food and the non-perishables you can bring in your truck, so you're living off a diet of hamburgers and canned vegetables.
9. You're constantly traveling, but you don't get to be a tourist. In a day, you could easily clock 600 miles; in a week, you could span more than 3,000 miles, or double if you're team driving. That's an insane swath of the United States to cover — and yet, you won't experience anything you can't see from the highway. Sure, you're passing through lots of cool places, but you're on the clock and you can't just park your truck somewhere and go sightseeing.
10. Sexual harassment is extremely common. It's awful and it's gross, but it's too common to ignore. Once, I was driving in Chicago, and I noticed a pick-up truck in the lane next to me matching my speed. Sometimes people rubberneck just to catch a glimpse of the rare woman in the driver's seat — sexism, remember? — but this was different. I finally made eye contact with the guy and he was exposing himself to me, staring directly at me, while driving. I've been catcalled by regular drivers on the road and from other truck drivers; even the customers I delivered to made overtly sexual comments toward me. Other women have reported sexual assault during training and while on the road, which is an uncomfortable reality for any woman in this industry.
11. The job is very dangerous. Each year, trucks account for thousands of fatalities and even more non-fatal crashes. Truckers get tired, bored, and rushed to make specific delivery windows, which can lead to reckless driving. Even if you're a perfect driver, it's challenging to operate a vehicle this big. It's normal to stop during really bad weather, like a blizzard, but any amount of wind, rain, or snow can make it scary to drive. Fortunately, trucking companies typically have good insurance policies for their drivers to protect against accidents.
12. Most truck drivers don't stick around for long. Truck driving has a notoriously high turnover rate: 84 percent of drivers quit in 2015, which is shockingly the lowest turnover rate in years. People either get sick of the lifestyle or realize they've capped out of the pay scale, and move onto something else. As for me, I always saw truck driving as a temporary job. I wanted to pay off my student loans and save up some money to go back to school, and once I accomplished those things, there wasn't much keeping me there. It's a rough life, and it can really wear you down. But for a few years, it was a means to an end.
13. Even with all of the downsides, there are some beautiful moments. If you Google "best things about being a truck driver," you're not going to find much. But for the right person, there's a lot to appreciate: You get to be in charge of your own schedule and how you spend your time in the truck. You can save a lot of money, since your living expenses are minimal while you're on the road. And the views from the driver's seat beat any office window.
Lindsay Slazakowski was a long-haul truck driver for three years.
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