While speaking with this driver, he had gone into some detail regarding how his current employer pays him. In this case there was a minimum guaranteed pay ‘if’ you ran five routes per week, with bonuses for a 6th run. In addition to this was the bevy of ‘accessorial pays’, as this industry likes to call it, such as NYC pay, stop pay, load/unload pay, etc. He then proceeded to show me his paycheck which, unfortunately, made it painfully clear as to why he was interviewing for the position. In showing me his check, he also reiterated numerous times that he did not understand why his pay was so low. This scenario is not uncommon among most drivers that I’ve spoken with while recruiting and/or interviewing.
One of the biggest problems in this industry is the irregularity of freight and the subsequent inconsistent pay. Unfortunately, most companies also have such complex pay structures that drivers are left punching numbers into a calculator and arguing with their dispatcher at the end of each pay period. It is also unfortunate that as most companies grow (and this relates to any industry) they tend to make more mistakes at the ground level; pay being one of them. These problems typically lead to drivers believing their company is trying to trick them out of pay or that the company they work for is in some way corrupt or intentionally misleading them to make money. Whether the above situation was due to a lack of freight, a complex pay structure, or an honest (or dishonest) mistake, there is one glaring problem: the driver’s pay should have been explained better.
Let’s get to the point, here:
Are trucking companies corrupt with their wages and/or wage calculation systems?
It’s my belief that people (or in this case businesses/companies) are generally good. I can also think of many situations where this was not the case. With that said, I do not believe that most larger trucking companies are intentionally trying to deceive their drivers (employee or contractor) out of their pay. This same notion goes for smaller fleets and/or owner-operators with a few trucks or less. However, I do believe that there are a few reasons as to why many drivers continuously believe this and it is primarily a result of the industry. As a driver, here’s what you’ll need to look out for:
The Owner-Operator Mentality
First let me say that I believe this to hold true for any person in life, let alone truck drivers. I do believe that this mentality is a great one to have for those ‘go-getters’ and ‘over-achievers’ in life, however most people just want to go to work, get paid, and come home to a nicely cooked meal. Pay should be very clear, concise, and accurate each week and it should be the employer’s responsibility to ensure that is the case. However, as unfortunate as it may be, that is simply not the case. Due to this, you will need to manage your income as a business. As a business, if you receive a bill that is incorrect, you would contact that vendor to get the mistake resolved.
As a truck driver you should be reviewing your pay every week and staying on the phone with your recruiter, driver manager, or payroll department until they give you your hard-earned wages. This leads me to my next point
Dispatchers are NOT Payroll!!
When you have payroll problems that you need resolved, you will need to talk directly to your Driver Manager, Payroll, Accounting, or whoever your company has deemed responsible for taking care of those problems. Most times dispatch will have zero idea as to what you even get paid per mile, per hour, or per day. Don’t take your anger out on dispatch, as they may be able to help you contact the right person and put in a good word for you to potentially accelerate the process!
Find a job with the least amount of accessorial pays possible. What I mean by this is find a driving job that doesn’t find the need to itemize, in list form, all the different ways that you get paid. This, as previously mentioned, primarily has to do with clarity. The more pay types there are, the greater chance there is that a mistake will be made.
Pay Systems: Clear as Mud
Before you even attend orientation for your first day of work, you should be very adamantly vetting your prospective employer’s pay structure, policies, and methods. I could write and entire additional article on the questions a driver should ask about pay during their job search and/or pre-employment. The above graphic shows the different ways that a driver is typically paid - this should be your first question! I’ll avoid listing all of the questions, for now, and leave you with this: if there is any doubt in your mind as to exactly how a specific pay bonus, structure, system, etc. works, you should be asking more questions. As a driver you should be able to regurgitate absolutely every detail of that companies pay without a doubt in your mind before you even think about taking the job.