Schneider National Inc. has taken another step to tackle the driver shortage that has long been dogging the truckload operating industry.

Schneider has unveiled details of what it labels “the largest pay increase for drivers and owner-operators in its 70-year history.” The package is scheduled to take effect on February 6, 2005. It will offer company drivers an average of an additional $4,000 per year and provide owner-operators with linehaul rates of up to 90 cents per mile plus fuel surcharges and certain business expenses.

But money is not the only issue. The carrier said that it has made “marked improvements” ensure a driver spends more time at home, as well as increasing the predictability of work schedules.

“We’re looking at a state-of-the-art driver scheduling system to allow drivers to use a Qualcomm unit or a computer to schedule time at home,” Mike Norder, Schneider National spokesman told Fleet Owner. “One of the largest issues in our industry is the predictability in time-at-home needs and identifying tour opportunities to drivers that will allow more predictability and time at home.”

“Schneider is 100% committed to providing the most rewarding driving careers in the industry,” said Scott Arves, Schneider National president of transportation. “This investment lets our more than 15,000 drivers and owner-operators know that we’ve listened carefully to their concerns and are making investments that will impact their paychecks, careers, and quality of life both at home and on the road.”

“I think there is still a large need for longhaul over-the-road drivers, and we have a large group that will continue to work in that configuration,” said Norder. “We have seen significant growth in our intermodal division and it has opened up many opportunities local and regional for drivers. We’re working toward ensuring that the right type of opportunities the driver is looking for is available.”

Additionally, the carrier is implementing other strategies to make a driver’s work environment attractive enough to inspire driving for a carrier.

“Our Home Run program allows three drivers or three teams of drivers to share trucks,” explained Norder. “Two drivers would operate it for two weeks at a time, while one driver is home for a week during that time. It’s staggered to allow drivers an option that provides them with 17 weeks off per year, and what is amazing is that they have not seen reductions in annual earnings.”

Although providing an attractive pay scale has been a challenge to an industry that typically sees slim profit margins, Norder said he doesn’t anticipate that these measures will put the company at a competitive disadvantage. In fact, he expects other carriers to continue to offer higher wages and incentives to drivers.

“I certainly expect other carriers to raise their wages as we move into 2005,” Norder said. “However, I don’t expect them to match our opportunities in both a compensation and work-life standpoint.”

Schneider says it plans to continue to implement new programs focused on its mantra of time at home and predictability. And with these measures in place, the company expects to see immediate results in attracting quality drivers.

“We’re completely committed to ensure that we retain and recruit the safest drivers in the industry, and by being able to offer these types of programs we certainly expect results,” Norder said.