Despite a sluggish freight market, Schneider National is going ahead with an across-the-board pay raise for its drivers. The increase, which takes effect Sept. 30, will add up to $4,500 to the average paycheck.

“This pay increase allows us to continue to retain and attract the best and brightest drivers in order to deliver the level of service our customers expect and deserve,” said Mark Rourke, president-TL services.

The pay increase breaks down as follows:

  • Inexperienced drivers receive company-provided training and will earn 30 to 34 cents per mile, or about $36,000 to $46,000 per year;
  • Drivers with one year of experience will earn 39 to 42 cents per mile;
  • Drivers with three years of experience will earn 40 to 43 cents per mile;
  • Drivers with five-plus years of experience will earn 41 to 45 cents per mile.

Rourke noted that Schneider’s new compensation program is for its mileage-based over-the-road, dedicated and bulk drivers, with compensation varying by the region of the country where the driver operates. He added that Schneider has recently changed its driver-dispatch system to enable nearly two-thirds of drivers now get home daily or weekly.

“These pay improvements and efforts to address work-life balance represent our commitment to providing one of the best total compensation packages in the industry,” said Rourke. “It also highlights that drivers and customers are [our] lifeblood.”

Schnedier’s pay raise may also be part of an effort to attract drivers back into the industry so it will be ready when the freight market rebounds.

“Truckload freight rates have been depressed so far this year, while inflationary and operational cost pressures have severely challenged truckload carriers. If this environment continues in the near term, it becomes more likely that trucking company failures will increase,” said Clarence Werner, chairman of Werner Enterprises. “But it also becomes more likely that when the market turns, industry freight rates will rebound and increase more rapidly than normal.”

Werner added that while the driver market remained challenging through the second quarter, partly due to seasonal rather than permanent turnover, the seasonal employment shift turned out to be lower than expected this year. “Normally in the spring and summer months the driver market is difficult due to outdoor jobs in construction and housing that become available with improving weather conditions,” he said. “The current weakness in these industries and other factors are helping improve driver availability.”

Recruiting and retaining drivers is more competitive than ever, but Schneider feels that there’s more at stake than economics. “We believe that paying our drivers more is simply the right thing to do,” said Rourke. “We know our success lies in leading the industry by retaining and building our core of safe, experienced drivers and a reliable workforce to ensure our customers have the service they need when they need it.”