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Driver Productivity Increases as Wages Plummet


Driver Productivity Increases as Wages Plummet


Transportation Veteran Jerry Fritts of American Overland Freight

Transportation Veteran Jerry Fritts of American Overland Freight


The contemporary economic theory that “enhancing ones’ productivity, enhances ones’ value”, is the path to ones’ enhanced prosperity.

Evidently, todays’ truckload driver is the exception to the rule. The study by Cass Information Systems in 1999 for the ATA, shows the average truckload driver earned about $41,600. Bob Costello, VP
& Economist for the ATA revealed that last year, the average truckload driver earned about $39,000.
That is a 5% drop in actual dollar bills since 1999 (Not adjusted for inflation). By the way, in 1980 an LTL
driver earned about $28,000 per year and a truckload driver earned about $2,000 less. Year 2000 the LTL driver is at $72,000 and in 2015 the truckload drivers’ pay fell to $39,000.

But the real human resource catastrophe in the truckload sector is revealed when the productivity numbers are considered over the 35 years since the inception of a lie””regulation.

  •  1980 drivers pull 45′ long, 96″ wide trailers
  • 2015 drivers pull 53′ long 102.3″ wide trailers
  •  A 15% increase in volume in just length, not considering the 6%
    gain in width with full loads.
  •  1980 maximum national gross weight limit: 73,280 Ibs.*  2015 maximum national gross weight limit: 80,000 Ibs.
  • 8% increase in productivity per load

*   1980 –  Driver was only allowed to log 10 Hr driving before taking
his required 8 hr break.

*   2000 –  Driver now has 11 Hr driving before break.

  •  A 10% increase of productivity per shift

*   1980– Driver maintained his 70 hr 8 day log recap which only
allowed him a legal maximum of 70 Hr over 8 days “On Duty” time
to work.

*   2000- Driver now has the 34Hr restart rule. This rule now allows a
driver approximately 84 Hr of legal “On Duty” time to work in the
same 8 days.

  •  17% increase in productive work hours per week.

1980 a majority of the nations’ drivers work under a national
Teamster contract requiring all work/time performed on the job
be compensated. The maximum hours a driver could work was 70
hrs in 8 days.   Also, these employers required all this time to be
legally logged as “On Duty Driving” or “On Duty Not Driving” as
required by CFR 395.  Violations for falsifying logs-TERMINATION

Driver Pay

$38,618 annually in 1980. When adjusted to 2015 dollars = over $111,000

2015 Truckload drivers paid only miles run. A study in 1998 by
Martin Labbe Assoc commissioned by the Truckload Carriers Assoc. reveals truckload drivers spend about 40 Hrs. per week waiting loading and unloading.
Logging Hours- Todays’ trucking management calls this “resting in the truck time”, therefore, “Off Duty”.
The safety and driver health tragedy is that this 40 Hrs is now in addition to the 84 hrs of legal “On Duty” time.  Not only that, but the truckload driver donates (ie. NOT PAID) this 40 Hrs and more, because there are other “On duty Not Driving Chores/Time” that at the direction of truckload management a driver also logs “Off
Duty“, “Sleeper Berth” to the economy.


  •   Now we have proven that in 2015, using the truckload industries
    own numbers, that todays’ drivers are working at the direction of
    their employers 44% more hours per week in 1980.

1980Again national speed limit 55 mph. Can only log 50 mph average.

2015 – Variety of speed limits anywhere from 55mph to 80 mph.
Think California is only remaining 55 mph state. Oregon soon
going to 65.  Just a guess, but just watching truck traffic, I believe
we could assume about a 65 mph log average.  I often log avg 65
mph, but I do employ the higher horsepower equipment to
comfortably achieve this average. Fuel mileage is offset by higher
per hour revenue. Safety, as always, when conditions permit. (I
have over 5 million miles safe driving in 50 yrs). This 65 mph avg
of course does not include the large truckload carriers that often
employ minimally experienced drivers.

Another 23% increase in per log hour productivity.
Let’ s analyze this value.

  • 1980 – Old 50 mph avg X 70 log hrs per week = 3,500
    miles per week of capital utilization.
  • 2015 – New 65 mph avg X 84
    log hrs per week = 5,460 miles of capital utilization.

No not done yet! Truck Driver Productivity still increasing for Lower wages

  • 1980 – Running 250 hp engines obtaining 3 mpg fuel mileage.
  • 2015 – Running 500+ HP engines obtaining 7 mpg fuel mileage

 A 233% increased fuel efficiency!

If the answer to increasing ones’ prosperity is to be more productive then Americas truck drivers are more than earning their way! But where is the prosperity for the productivity?

Unless! The human resources that are manning todays trucks are_
 nothing more than human collateral in a commodity market!

Then this increase in productivity is really an increase in the availability of human capacity relative to demand!

” If this is true, and I believe it is then there is no honest respect for the human resource, much less the professional recognition because in a commodity driven business, the so called professional driver has no more value than a bale of hay!”

Jerry Fritts
50 year Safe Driver
Cordova, Tn


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By: Jerry Fritts

Jerry Fritts is a third generation owner/operator with over 40 years of freight experience and over four million miles of safe driving. He has hauled general commodities, fragile, high value, hazardous materials (including explosives), and classified cargo throughout the United States and Canada; including - The Yukon Territories and Alaska. He's earned numerous other recognitions for claims free service, safety, customer service, revenue production, and professional attitude.Jerry has been published in op-ed article of Transport Topics August 15, 2011, “No Longer A Penny Business”, concerning more effective carrier / supply chain communications for a different perspective in understanding carrier operating costs. Jerry has the distinct honor of being one of the first to receive the Citizen Driver Award initiated by TravelCenters of America in 2014. The Jerry Fritts West Memphis Stopping Center has been named in his honor of this award.

View all posts by Jerry Fritts →

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8 Responses to Driver Productivity Increases as Wages Plummet. - Post a Comment

  1. Robert Reed

    Jerry ,
    I find that most all carriers have no interest in driver retention.
    I have driven since 1973 n have a Clean MVR/CSA record . I recently quit an employer in N D who charged me for QUITTING . . He withheld his Escrow from my labor checks also , Says it was for truck abandonment . After this reached a cap $1000 . he held same , paying me no interest. for over a year, and reporting same to I R S as my taxed earnings. this carriers operate on many prestigious accts. Del Monte n also runs to Canada . IE
    N D labor refused to ACT. Comments ? R

    • Allen Smith

      Did you go to an attorney about this? If not we strongly recommend Paul Taylor over at Truckers Justice Center.

    • Patty Cakes

      Is your ‘ Ex-Employer ‘ still able to walk …. perhaps you have yet to have that conversation with him.

      As for the actual ‘ Topic ‘ of wage regression, I have this crude statement to add to the conversation

      ……. ‘ Even a Hooker has sense enough to raise the price of her ass, you don’t get a $ 2.00 hum anymore ‘

      About time some of you $ 1.00 per mile nitwits took a lesson from the street women, they’re blatantly obvious, smarter than you.

      Simply amazes me that someone would allow a employer to ABUSE them like that … just amazes me !

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