Tom Weakly of the OOIDA Foundation recently delivered an urgent message to a committee tasked with determining how driver pay affects retention and overall safety performance. He pointed out how popular mileage-based pay costs driver money and puts them and others at risk. In his message, he spotlighted potential hazards posed by these compensation models, insisting that they are detrimental to road safety.
“Compensation that pays by the mile is a killer,” Weakley said. “Compensation that pays by the mile will get you violations. Compensation that pays you by the mile is a problem that needs to be adjusted and worked with.”
On Wednesday, Jan. 18, the National Academies of Sciences’ Transportation Research Board brought together experts from government agencies and industry stakeholders to discuss a pressing issue for truckers: pay structure combined with rigid hours-of-service regulations. Representatives from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and Department of Labor presented in earlier sessions before attendees heard specific insights on this matter during talks by representatives such as those present representing OOIDA Foundation. Ultimately, all parties reached an agreement that significant changes are needed if these hardworking drivers are going to receive fair compensation while adhering to current rules & regulations.
“Truck drivers want to know if they have enough money to make their house payment,” Weakley said. “And if I don’t, what’s stopping me from doing that? Most of the rules and regulations aimed at improving safety for drivers are to cut back on the miles or the amount of time they have to run those miles. You expect them to abide by that when they have a house payment, a car payment, kids who need dental work and who want to participate in sports.”
Although truck drivers are the backbone of transportation in America, most are paid by the mile instead of by the hour, leaving a lot of unpaid working hours on the table such as time spent fueling, inspecting a load, or waiting to be loaded or unloaded. In addition, the Fair Labor Standards Act exempts carriers from having to pay their drivers overtime.
Weakley informed the committee that the standard in trucking is for shippers and receivers to have two hours to load or unload a truck. Meanwhile, a truck driver is likely donating that time.
“How many of you go to work for two hours before they start paying you?” Weakley asked the committee.
He also provided an example of a Louisiana carrier who was running legal but was having a lot of crashes. Weakley said the company decided to change its pay structure and began paying by the hour instead of by the mile.
“He wanted to create a job that was sustainable and that allowed a driver to have a family life,” Weakley said.
The company’s turnover rate dropped from 75% to 17%, and safety improved.
As part of the 2021 infrastructure law, the driver compensation study was mandated by Congress.
FMCSA was directed to task the Transportation Research Board with conducting a study on the effects of various methods of driver compensation on safety and driver retention, including hourly pay, payment for detention time and other pay methods used in the industry.
The committee conducted a closed session on Thursday, Jan. 19.
“This is a critical study to determine the kind of work environment that will help drivers stay in the industry … This is about driver retention. This is about safety,” FMCSA Administrator Robin Hutcheson said.