To combat a shortage of truck drivers, trucking companies are giving drivers some of the largest pay increases in the job market.
According to an analysis conducted by job search website Glassdoor.com, truck driver wages surged 7.8 percent year over year in October in what represented largest jump in wages among 60 common professions. The surge was even more substantial in certain regions, including Los Angeles where pay swelled 9.3 percent.
Healthy economic growth is contributing to wage increases. Across all industries, individual earnings grew 2.8 percent.
“Our economy is growing, and there are a ton of goods that need to be transported,” said Andrew Chamberlain, Glassdoor’s chief economist. “Truck drivers haven’t yet been replaced by machines, and they are in very high demand.”
The surge in pay for truck drivers outpaced increases in other high-demand industries such as healthcare, where medical assistants enjoyed a 6.3 percent wage bump.
Among traditionally blue collar jobs, logistics and distribution positions are particularly lucrative at the moment. Warehousing associates saw wages swing up 7.7 percent year over year to a median $44,920.
Median annual pay for truckers is $54,000, although the figure varies widely by employer and type of hauling. Across all categories nationwide, workers earn a median of $51,404 each year.
The recent pay raise is fueled in part by expectations that the approaching holidays and cyclical pressure will rouse freight demand that has been sluggish for months. From now to 2027, the American Trucking Assns. trade group expects freight tonnage moved by trucks to expand 27 percent.
Carriers are concerned that they’ll be caught unprepared for the upswing, especially as they struggle to reverse a growing shortage of drivers. The industry currently needs 25,000 more drivers, according to ATA.
Although truck manufacturers are experimenting with autonomous vehicles that can drive themselves, human drivers remain necessary for now.
But retirement is siphoning experienced truck drivers out of the existing worker pool. And a low 4.9 percent unemployment rate likely means that desperate job-seekers aren’t actively seeking work.
Operating a big rig requires training and can be a physically demanding job. Turnover is exacerbated by the long hours and a nagging perception of low pay.
Last year, heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers earned a median of $40,260 a year, or $19.36 an hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s less than $56,516, the national median household income at the time, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
To lure more drivers into the fold, the trucking industry is dangling larger paychecks. Employers are also increasingly offering bonuses linked to monthly mileage, fuel efficiency and other measures.
And prospective truckers appear to be biting. The industry added headcount for the fourth straight month in October, bringing 3,000 jobs onto payrolls, according the Department of Labor.
After a revised gain of 1,800 jobs in September, employment in trucking transportation — sans private fleets — is now at 1.46 million.