Earlier this month we wrote about how the trucking industry is experiencing a huge shortage of qualified drivers and how that driver shortage increases the risk of truck accidents on our nation’s roads. There are several different factors that are causing the shortage, but one of the leading causes is pay. And it’s not only how much truck drivers are being paid, but more specifically, how they are being paid.
Truckers Are Usually Paid By The Mile
Dating back to the 1930’s, the trucking industry has by and large operated on a pay-per-mile model with truck drivers. The model is rather simple. Truck drivers are usually not paid a yearly salary or based on how many hours they work; they are paid based on the number of miles they drive.
This may sound like a reasonable model, but it is unfair to truckers in many ways. For one, they are paid only while they are driving. This means that when they are loading or unloading goods, they are not being paid for their time. Furthermore, if they are sitting stationary in traffic or are forced off the road due to a mechanical failure or poor weather conditions, they are not making money.
Why Is The Pay-Per-Mile Model Dangerous?
At first glance, the average American may wonder why he or she should be concerned with how truck drivers are paid. After all, that’s an agreement between the employer and the employee.
The problem with the pay-per-mile model is that it makes the roads more dangerous for other motorists by incentivizing truck drivers to engage in risky driving behaviors.
For example, if a truck driver is hauling a load over a 500 mile stretch of road, he or she is paid the exact same amount whether that trip takes 8 hours or 10 hours. That provides the driver with a clear incentive to make the trip in as short of an amount of time as possible. This encourages truckers to speed, which is one of the leading causes of truck accidents.
The pay-per-mile model also encourages drivers to take fewer breaks and work longer hours in order to cover more distance. That only leads to more fatigued truck drivers on the road.
Case Study Shows Hourly Pay Reduces Accidents
About 15 years ago a large trucking company with about 1,200 drivers switched from the pay-per-mile model to an hourly pay rate. The company noted that even though its drivers were compliant with federal regulations regarding the number of hours worked, its drivers were still showing signs of fatigue and being more prone to accidents. It switched to an hourly pay rate that would allow drivers to work shorter stints without losing money. As a result, the company saw its accident rate plummet. It also maintains a driver turnover rate of about 17% rather than the 90% national average.