Recently, there has been a lot of talk about how we pay our truck drivers. I’m sure you know that there are several different payment models. The most common pay system for a long-haul truck driver would be to be paid by the mile and the less common but popular option is the percentage system. Many local trucks, such as container haulers, are paid by the trip. Another example is that when I was a home delivery person for a major retailer, I earned a fee for each address I delivered to.
All these payment methods encourage the driver to hurry up and do the job. It also enables the driver to take shortcuts to make as much money per hour as possible. And we know that for some drivers, the incitive pay system encourages them to be unsafe. It boils down to, are drivers doing a thorough and complete vehicle inspection when they are paid by the mile or any of these other incentive programs? Or are they feeling that they are not getting paid to perform this function because the truck is not moving?
I believe that these incentive programs often lead to crashes and tickets. Being paid by incentive does encourage some drivers to take shortcuts.
I know that many trucking insurance companies also feel the same. It is not a coincidence that all insurance companies ask the trucking company about their payment plan to the driver. They want to know how the drivers are paid and if there’s any sort of a safety bonus. I have been told that the insurance companies have seen some benefits with the small number of companies paying hourly. In other words, those companies paying hourly appear to crash less. The jury is still out as it is still a small group of companies currently paying this way.
Is paying drivers by the hour the solution? It may be but it brings up some other issues and problems. For example, a long-haul truck driver would have to be paid overtime after 60 hours of work. That sounds like a problem. But is it?
Do you know that whenever a driver works for more than 60 hours, they are to receive overtime? It does not matter the compensation method. In other words, even if a driver is being paid by the mile and worked more than 60 hours in one week, they should be paid overtime by the trucking company, no matter how payments are computed.
Different provinces have different rules. To highlight some of the differences, in Ontario, if a highway transport driver works more than 60 hours, the hours above 60 are to be paid at time and a half. If you are a local Cartage driver or helper in Ontario, you are to be paid overtime after 50 hours of work in a week.
In British Columbia it is different. Local drivers are paid time and a half after nine hours per day and 45 hours per week. Long-haul drivers in British Columbia are paid overtime after 60 hours per week.
So, you really need to know how your work is classified and whether you are provincially regulated or federally regulated. Each province I researched say it doesn’t matter how you get paid. If you were paid by some form of incentive, such as mileage, you are still to receive overtime based on the provincial rules. I believe this is one of the reasons that some companies use the Driver Inc. model – they don’t pay overtime.
In days gone past, I understand why trucking companies used the incentive formula. It was complicated to know what the drivers were doing while they were not supervised. In today’s world, with ELD’s, it is easy to understand when the truck is moving and precisely what the driver is doing.
For safety, for fairness, and for truck driver retention, I think it is time to take an earnest look at compensating our drivers fairly, which might mean hourly pay. Wouldn’t it be nice to get paid for all the hours that you work?
Chris has been involved in trucking most of his adult life. He drove truck for and worked in various office/management positions for a major truck company. His last position of 5 years in the safety department where he was responsible for the recruiting of Owner Operators and their compliance. He joined a trucking insurance company in 2001 and has been in the insurance side of things until making Safety Dawg a full-time endeavour.