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Unjustly Underpaid: Why Paying Truckers By The Mile Needs To Stop


Unjustly Underpaid: Why Paying Truckers By The Mile Needs To Stop
by Steven Gursten


In 1938 the United States Government initiated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which granted almost every American a basic minimum hourly wage. Unbeknownst to truckers, the exclusion of the trucking industry from the FLSA would slowly erode the profession from the once profitable career it used to be.

Since 2012, the driver turnover rate has been stuck at 90% or higher while companies struggle to find and retain talent. Currently, the trucking industry is in need of almost 900,000 more drivers to keep up with demand, but companies are handcuffing themselves by retaining an antiquated payment model. Today’s truckers are being unjustly overworked and underpaid and it’s time for that to change.

Consider A Trucker’s Perspective

Imagine being confined to an office cubicle for hours on end without any compensation for your time. If office workers were forced to provide unpaid hours there would be an uproar (likely followed by a large FLSA lawsuit). Yet, truckers are expected to sit in their cabs (the equivalent of an office) without any pay if miles aren’t being driven.

A driver can spend over half of a day waiting out traffic, bad weather, or loading at a shipping dock, only to be provided miniscule pay for the distance they were able to travel. On some days, the pay is exceedingly harsh, considering a driver can expect to earn $0.28 to $0.40 per mile. What’s worse, companies are turning a blind eye. While they should be recognizing that these unpaid hours are on-duty hours, they are instead encouraging drivers to log their time spent at loading docks as sleeper or off-duty.

The trucking industry is one of the only industries in North America where workers are expected to put in time for free. Meanwhile, factory workers are still paid even when they’re idled by machine repairs and office workers receive pay even if there are no immediate tasks to perform.

Payment per mile is a broken system. In order for the trucking industry to progress, truckers need to be fairly compensated through hourly payment. As Adam Smith argued in the Wealth of Nations, workers don’t sell their labor to a company. Rather, workers sell their ability to provide labor when called upon. Truck drivers have a right to pay for sitting in the cab ready to drive even if external circumstances (traffic, weather, etc.) render them unable to.

Everyone Wins With Payment By The Hour

An hourly rate is advantageous for drivers, but drivers aren’t the only ones who benefit. A company is only as strong as the employees behind it. Thus, employee retention and health are important aspects in overall business success. Carriers that implement hourly pay will be able to employ and retain top talent, in addition to fostering better employee health.

Paying per mile encourages drivers to drive too long and skip breaks to make miles. Truck driver fatigue not only deteriorates health, but puts everyone on the road at risk for a truck accident.

For the sake of truckers and all other vehicle operators out on the road, we need to give drivers the ability to properly rest without having to worry about their earnings. Decades ago truckers were revered as ‘knights of the road’. It’s time we start paying our knights the wages they deserve.

About the Author:

Steven Gursten is the head of Michigan Auto Law, helping people seriously injured in car and truck accidents throughout the state. 

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By: Allen Smith

Allen Smith is a 37 year veteran who started at an early age in a household goods family moving business. He began driving straight trucks in 1977 and moved to the big rigs in 1982. His experience within the industry includes; owner operator, company driver, operations manager, and owner of a long distance HHG moving business, taking many of the long haul moves himself when needed. Allen Smith, a truck driver advocate who is driven by the desire to help others succeed within an industry where injustice, unrewarded sacrifice, and lack of respect and recognition exists. Allen and his wife Donna are hosts of Truth About Trucking ”Live” on Blog Talk Radio. Other websites include AskTheTrucker, TruckingSocialMedia, NorthAmericanTruckingALerts, TruthAboutTrucking, and many Social Media websites. In 2011 Allen and Donna hosted the first Truck Driver Social Media Convention, designed to create unity and solutions for the trucking industry. This is now being extended through the North American Trucking Alerts network as those within the industry join forces for the betterment of the industry. Allen strongly supports other industry advocates who are also stepping up to the plate to help those who share honesty, guidance and direction. He believes that all those involved in trucking need to be accountable for their part within the industry, including drivers, carriers, brokers, shippers, receivers, etc… The list of supporters and likeminded people grow daily, networking together and sharing thoughts and ideas for the betterment of trucking. He has coined the popular phrase "Raising the standards of the trucking industry"

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3 Responses to Unjustly Underpaid: Why Paying Truckers By The Mile Needs To Stop. - Post a Comment

  1. Richard Davis

    I don’t think it’s the being paid by the mile that encourages drivers to drive too long and skip breaks. I think it is the Government regulations and laws that do that. These ELDs will make it even worse. They will force drivers to take even less breaks and to drive faster, if possible. I think paying ” over-the-road ” drivers by the hour is unrealistic. Like, when do they start getting paid? With new regs. and laws, truck drivers are actually on-duty 24/7 365 days a year. As soon as you get your CDL, you lose some of your right’s. You can not do the same thing’s as other Americans can do, because you have a CDL, even if your home, away from the truck, not leaving in the truck for day’s. Some drivers are gone from home for weeks, months or some kinda live in their truck. How do you pay in those circumstances. Drivers should stay on the mileage pay but be paid for everything they do in between. Once your so-called clock starts { 14 hr. } you get paid. No-more giving anybody any free time. If these places want to take 2-3-6-8 hours to unload, then they pay. I’d say start at least $120.00 an hour to-the-truck, from minute 1.

  2. Richard Davis

    The Government is the biggest problem in trucking. You have a bunch of people in Washington that know nothing about trucks/drivers or the industry itself. They are out for the big and the rich, the one’s that put money in there pockets. There are a few with a little common-sense, but they seem to go to an extreme on things. They are against the Denham Amendment, because they don’t think drivers should be paid for anything but mileage, nothing else. Don’t think drivers being paid by the hour is the way to go, but we do need to be paid for everything we do. I think a minimum rate per mile should be added though. That would level the playing field, { if high enough } more than these ELDs they say will level the playing field. Not much leveling you can do with a 1 truck owner compared to a 1,000+ truck owner.

  3. Dwight

    In western Europe & the UK, when decades ago they went to analog tachographs (now digital, similar to ELD’s), they also banned pay by the mile. This is sensible: if you are going to limit productive hours, then pay MUST be by the hour. Leased / o/o’s benefit to as it drives rates up industry-wide to support the added cost, especially on lanes (ie. short-haul) where a larger proportion of total input time is non-driving. A ban on pay by the mile would make the ELD mandate substantially more just/fair…

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