Per-mile pay makes drivers unhappy, study says

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A study of 326 large U.S. trucking companies found truckers dissatisfied with per-mile pay, which does not allow them control over their performance. Alternative pay systems, such as hourly or yearly salaries, could improve driver turnover rates, the researchers said.

Nina Gupta, University of Arkansas management professor, and colleagues found that in addition to working conditions and lack of home time, many truckers are unhappy with their per-mile payment method. Drivers at 75 percent of the companies listed “not enough driving hours/runs scheduled” as a problem.

“It’s not that drivers are not paid enough per mile,” Gupta said. “It’s the total number of miles that’s a problem. Many drivers are frustrated because they don’t have control over the number of miles they drive. Because they’re paid by the mile, they want to keep rolling. They don’t like it when they’re hundreds of miles from home and waiting for new assignment.”

Long-haul drivers average four trips home a month and usually work for truckload carriers, which represented 56 percent of the companies studied, the researchers said. In general, truckers quit truckload and special-commodity carriers at a higher rate than they quit less-than-truckload carriers, the researchers said. Many LTL drivers are paid a salary rather than by the mile.

Driver turnover averaged 28 percent among all companies studied, the researchers said. Besides pay, benefits and working conditions, factors that contributed significantly to turnover included problems with supervisors, pension plans or the lack thereof, and annual performance appraisals, especially if the appraisals were seen as purely subjective, the researchers said. Equipment and physical working conditions, such as company policies about driving speed, were less likely to prompt a driver to quit, the researchers said.

Computers and other technology could be used to increase communications not only between drivers and supervisors but also between drivers and their families, the researchers suggested. This could decrease turnover, the researchers said, but they warned that if technology is used only to monitor and control drivers, it would have the opposite effect and send more drivers away.