We all know the truck trucking industry is always going through changes. These are all brought on by the changing industries and government rules and regulations. One of the most significant reforms and the one that has brought the most upheaval to the industry lately is the ELD mandate. Our government with their infinite wisdom implemented a regulation that lumped all our sectors under one set of rules and with the ELDs are trying to enforce it to the letter.
For an industry such as the trucking industry to be regulated by one set of rules is just about impossible. We can see how this has all worked out lately with the number of request for exemptions from livestock haulers and all the other specialty haulers that cannot operate according to these regulations. At least manage and make a profit.
Could it be time to start thinking about a different pay system for the industry? Drivers are limited to the hours they can work, but paid by the mile. To me, this does not make sense.
Hourly vs. Salary Pay
Recently I posted a question at a Facebook group of truckers and asked the drivers, would it be better to be paid by the mile, by the hour, or a monthly salary. I can say I received an array of answers, some of which I wouldn’t want to write about here, but in the end, the overwhelming consensus was to be paid by the hour. There were some great arguments against hourly pay. I can understand if you drive for a good company that pays their drivers fairly and ads in hourly wage when down a driver would want to keep things the same.
How did pay per mile start? It began in the 1930s when the United States was coming out of the Great Depression. Farms were generating a lot of product, and the country required a lot of trucks to transport these goods to purchasers who were getting their businesses back in order. There was no refrigeration in those days so truckers drove as much and as quickly as they could before the food spoiled. There also was insufficient regulation and drivers drove as many hours as they could, some pushing themselves to fatigue before pulling over to the side of the road and after a short nap, continuing. Truckers were paid by the mile, but they were okay with it because they made more money than if they had been paid a minimum wage which came along in 1938 as a component of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal.
The Fair Labor Standards Act, also known as the Minimum Wage Law, came about in 1938 and it demanded that employees, with few exceptions, would be assured a minimum salary per hour. Truck drivers were excluded from the minimum wage law, and they all preferred it that way because they could drive as many miles as they wanted and make much more money. In the 1930s, there were not very many cars on the road, so the truckers had the roads to themselves. FDR supported this because there was a hungry nation to feed and he wanted as many trucks working as possible. The trucking companies were happy because they were only required to pay a driver when the driver was driving.
After years of debate and argument, the Electronic Logging Device rules were mandated to begin in early 2018. As we all know by now these hold drivers to account for their hours without being able to falsify logbooks as they had done in the past. In other words, drivers are to drive and work according to the hours of service rules without alterations.
I think more than anything it has made companies, shippers, and receivers more aware of all the time a driver worked. Employers realized the extra time a driver put in; time spent sitting on docks, in traffic jams, and the extra time wasted in finding a place to park for the night. A good dispatcher should have already known all this, but with the ELDs it put everything up front and maybe in some ways the companies have realized how out of date the hours of service regulations are.
With paper logs, a driver could hide all this time, but now the ELD is recording everything. That is not the only way a company can track drivers time as we have all kinds of technology now that will record everything about a driver, tractor, and trailer. One of my earlier blogs about New Over the Road Truck Drivers talks about all the way technology has taken over the industry and all the ways the government and companies can track you these days.
With all the technology we have now there should be no reason for a driver to sit at a grocery warehouse for eight hours to get unloaded. Likewise, there should be very little waiting time spent being loaded. But, every day we here the stories about this, it seems this has not changed, but paying drivers by the hour or a monthly salary, it may improve.
With the ELDs a driver is forced to drive when it may not be the best time to operate, such as downtown Dallas or Chicago at five PM! A driver no longer has the option to pull over, take a nap and wait for the traffic to settle, this alone increases the possibility of accidents. If you were paid by the hour, you would not be so stressed about traffic and worried about not making any miles.
The hours of service have been an issue since they were implemented years ago. We all know each one of us is different and any time you tell a person when to work or when to sleep it does not work. Another thing the hours of service rules do not take into consideration is hauling livestock, produce and thousands of other time-sensitive freight.
Adding to the confusion several sectors of the trucking industry have requested exemptions from the ELD. The FMCSA has granted some, and some have not. About all trucking companies in the U.S. have asked for an exception for one reason or another. Some may be justified and some may not. One can certainly see why livestock haulers should be exempt but why should a regular freight company get an exemption because they feel their freight is more time-sensitive.
As is usual for our government the FMCSA has done nothing to clarify anything. By granting exemptions to some carriers, for a certain amount of time and not granting exceptions to others has done nothing but create a host of other problems. We are making it much more difficult for those charged with enforcement, the drivers, and load planners.
It is way past time for everyone concerned to realize the hours of service regulations put in place in the 1930s is out of date and no longer workable in today’s trucking industry as is being paid by the mile. If a driver is limited to the hours they can drive, why pay by the mile?
Work According to The Hours of Service Rules
Yes, maybe it is time all drivers, instead of calling for an all-out strike, to work the hours according to the rules as they are now. You can also read Why We Can’t Run Legal for more. If the drivers all together worked according to the hours of service regulations, drove the hours as they were mandated, and shut down at the end of their on-duty time, it would not be long the companies would realize changes were needed.
Soon after the ELD mandate went into effect, it was apparent how out of date the hours of service regulations were. Could it be time for drivers and dispatchers to give up and quit trying to find a way around the rules? If all the shippers and receivers realized that drivers and companies were not going to bend the rules, that the government has mandated, to satisfy their wishes; it would not be long before business would change.
I understand there are many driving today that are working for great companies, paid high wages per mile, and receive hourly pay when down or waiting. There are many complaints from a lot of drivers about being taken advantage of by the big trucking companies and these are the organizations that complain about driver retention and turn-over. Two other sectors of the transportation industry, the airline pilots and railroad conductors get paid a salary. They do not get paid by the miles they travel, and they receive added benefits such as motel and other reimbursed expenses.
Both airlines and railroads make a profit by doing pretty much the same thing as a trucking company; they transport people or cargo and are reimbursed by how many miles are required. I want to challenge any significant trucking company; start paying a great hourly or monthly salary, add some perks for motels and meals when a driver is stuck waiting out his 34-hour restart. Just this alone may go a long way towards driver retention and turn-over.
Our industry has seen several changes throughout the years, but many things have not changed at all, such as driver pay. But I wanted to get the opinion of drivers on this subject. I think if the drivers all get together; started running legal and demanded hourly or salary pay the companies would have no choice but to change.
A few changes in the hours of service regulations and have everyone paid a salary would go a long way in eliminating a lot of confusion. Now would be an excellent time for drivers to demand hourly pay, especially in our current environment with the driver shortage.
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