NTI’s year in review: A look back at 2023’s key driver pay trends, plus a recap of pay strategies, answers to your pay questions, and conversations with industry leaders

‘Tis that time on the calendar: Year-in-review season. With 2023’s story all but wrapped, the team at The National Transportation Institute has compiled some of the top driver pay trends and themes of the year, along with a recap of media and free resources made available to your fleet throughout the year. Click through any of the links in this blog to see more in depth data recaps, media, blogs, resources and more:

What happened with driver pay in tough year for freight?

With a correction cycle that began in 2022 lingering throughout 2023 — continuing to suppress freight rates despite escalated costs for carriers — driver pay raises were more limited than in recent years. However, upward momentum did persist, albeit at a slower pace.

One element we’re watching as the year closes: What happens with W2 pay? Even though base mileage and hourly wages continued to climb, fleets have struggled this year to keep drivers as productive, with fewer loads and miles (combined with more frequent layovers) nipping at drivers’ earnings. These trends could cause drivers’ annual pay to remain flat or even decline slightly in some cases, despite stronger base pay.

To read more about 2023’s driver pay trends, read NTI’s recap here.

What influenced driver wages this year? 

A mix of factors contributed to this continued growth for driver wages, including perpetual constraints on driver supply as well as ongoing macro labor market constraints. The unemployment rate remained at record lows, and job openings remained at record highs, particularly in industries that compete with trucking for available personnel.

Turnover remains elevated across the industry, and hiring demand remained robust despite the ongoing freight correction cycle. According to pre-employment queries in the U.S. DOT’s CDL Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse, fleets hired drivers in the same volume throughout 2023 as they did in 2022 — and at an elevated rate compared to 2021.

While the harsher freight market and suppressed freight rates forced fleets to be more cautious with driver pay raises, entrenched constraints on driver availability continued to move driver pay positively.

Our resources for fleets to navigate and excel in 2023 and beyond:

Struggling with driver productivity and quit rates in a tough freight market? Here are 3 ways to communicate with drivers and raise the bar of expectations

Miss our Six Driver Pay Strategies for a Down Market? Read them here.

Layovers between loads became more frequent this year during a more sluggish freight environment. In addition to ensuring your layover pay is adequate relative to market data, communication with drivers around layovers and their pay is just as important. See NTI’s advice about layovers and communication, and see a few data points about how much fleets are paying drivers for layovers between loads.

The percentages have been removed from this chart, but it shows the consistent growth in the percentage of fleets who offer guaranteed weekly pay over the past five years.

Is guaranteed pay the right move for your fleet? We explored that question here in a blog entry in August — and shared a few data points for your fleet to consider. 

One question raised frequently throughout the year given the economic factors: Should we freeze driver pay? Could we get away with pausing previously planned pay raises for tenure or otherwise? We explored those questions and our advice in this entry in the NTI blog.

Is there ‘false advertising’ in your fleet’s driver recruiting process? Here’s how to ward off an unintentional turnover culprit. 

Women & The Wheel: A series on elevating opportunities for women in trucking

During Women’s History Month in March, NTI published a series of resources and blogs exploring themes and policies around making trucking a more attractive and secure career choice for women of all ages and backgrounds, as well as how fleets and the trucking industry at large can create career paths for more women to reach leadership positions. Featuring voices of industry leaders in recruiting and HR, as well as conversations with female drivers, the Women & The Wheel series provided tangible insights into how trucking can continue to evolve to meet the needs of a rapidly changing workforce. See our full Women & The Wheel series at this link.

Taking the Hire Road rewind + driver voices on ‘Payday!’

As a guest host of the FreightWaves Taking the Hire Road show and in her role as a host on SiriusXM’s Raod Dog Trucking Radio, NTI President & CEO Leah Shaver spent plenty of time behind the mic this year providing invaluable insights around driver recruiting and retention strategies, reaching trucking’s next generation, internal and external communication at the fleet level, driver happiness and satisfaction — and, of course, plenty of conversations about drivers and their paychecks. Those conversations also included an in-depth conversation with FMCSA Administrator Robin Hutcheson and the initiatives her agency is working on regarding those topics and more.

To replay any of the Taking the Hire Road shows with Leah as guest host, see the links below. Find replays of Leah’s show Payday! on Road Dog Trucking at SiriusXM.com or in the SiriusXM app.

Taking the Hire Road replays: 

Unlocking the road to driver happiness — with Beth Potratz

NTI interviews FMCSA on trucking workforce policies, driver pay’s relation to safety, truck parking, and more — with FMCSA Administrator Robin Hutcheson

‘Self-care isn’t selfish’: The importance of prioritizing personal restoration for everyone in trucking — with Eileen Dabrowski

Thriving driver recruiting programs start with thriving communication — with Kameel Gaines

‘Promoting the truck driver as a well-respected, well-compensated career’ — with TCA President Jim Ward

Connecting with trucking’s next generation — with Anthony Book

‘At some point, every entry-level driver has to drive their first mile’ — with Brad Ball

Are you a member of the press and working on an article, video, podcast, webinar, or other content for which you’d like to reference NTI data or interview a source from The National Transportation Institute?
Email us at press@driverwages.com.


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Listen live every month

On the first Thursday of every month, NTI President & CEO Leah Shaver, aka the Sunshine Girl, goes live on air on SiriusXM Channel 146, Road Dog Trucking, to talk with drivers about all things pay. From paycheck questions to working with fleets on resolving issues around compensation, HR and legal, life on the road, and relationships with their employers, Payday on Road Dog Live dives into topics drivers care about most.

Catch every episode live on SiriusXM, SiriusXM.com, or the SiriusXM app, where you can also listen to episodes on demand.

Or to engage with Leah throughout the month on pay topics, follow her on Facebook and Instagram