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.