Private fleet driver pay increasingly tells a different story than for-hire wages

While per-mile and hourly pay for professional drivers at for-hire fleets has been riding a rollercoaster for nearly a decade (you can read more about that rollercoaster ride in this NTI blog entry from last year), wages at private fleets and dedicated 3PLs tells a much different story: That of steady year-over-year growth through every up and down economic and freight market cycle since 2008.  

That includes persistent wage growth — even a slight uptick in growth momentum — over the past two years, while driver pay growth at for-hire fleets has been stagnant amid the freight market correction cycle.  

Private fleets and their dedicated 3PL counterparts have been active in benchmarking their driver and diesel technician compensation, and they’re taking a highly granular, analytical approach to every aspect of the total compensation package. Beyond that benchmarking activity, they’ve been actively adjusting pay, finding ways to simplify pay to make it clearer for drivers to understand, and doing so as an intentional strategy to grow their headcount.  

And much of that headcount is often scooped up from for-hire fleets — especially as for-hire motor carriers are in more of a holding pattern on pay and taking a wait-and-see approach to compensation in the current freight market cycle.  

What are the trends with private fleet wages?  

The pay gap is once again widening 

Whereas for-hire fleets had gained ground on the wage gap between their wages and private fleet driver wages, that trend has reversed over the past 18 months, as private fleets have continued to grow their compensation offerings. In addition to exploring the 2024 trajectory of and forecast for driver wage growth at for-hire motor carriers, NTI’s 2024 Driver Market Forecast explores how much private fleet wages will likely grow this year. Read the full forecast at this link.  

So much more than just base wages

By taking a granular, analytical approach to pay benchmarking and adjustments, private fleet compensation spans nearly every activity and hour a driver is working. Attributes like labor (loading and unloading at distribution centers, stores, retail locations, grocers, etc.), components like stops and pre- and post-trips, shift differentials, deployment add-ons, detention and layover pay, and so much more, private fleets lead the way with innovative approaches to ensuring drivers feel they are compensated appropriately for their work and time on duty. That’s in addition to the normal recruiting incentives like sign-on and referral bonuses, as well as incentives for performance, safety, fuel, and productivity. 

Location-based pay reigns  

As we explored last week in the NTI blog, location-based compensation plans are the preeminent compensation structure for professional drivers at private fleets and dedicated 3PLs. Read more about the trend toward location-based pay models here and why such a pay model should be under consideration by your fleet. The 2024 Driver Market Forecast explores how and why pay will change the market level this year. Read it here.  

Transparency in pay and schedule 

In addition to generally providing more robust compensation plans and continuing to adjust pay to attract new drivers and retain existing ones, private fleets generally offer more predictable, consistent work schedules and can more clearly communicate that aspect of the job to drivers during the recruiting process and especially during their tenure at the company.  

What does the data say? 

Interested in accessing market-level pay data on private fleet wages? Contact NTI’s team to learn more.  

What do these trends mean for private fleets and for-hire motor carriers? 

For private fleets and dedicated 3PLs, these trends signal that the competition for drivers persists even through the current cycle. That’s abundantly clear in both anecdotal conversations and NTI’s work with private fleets — and in NTI’s deep well of wage survey data of private trucking fleets. Private fleets must ensure their compensation, scheduling, and recruiting and retention programs are keeping pace with competition and must continue to actively work to implement programs and policies that support growth goals.  

For for-hire carriers, this means you must ramp up your internal marketing and communication with your people. Consistently and persistently remind your drivers why they chose you, what they like about you, and why they want to stay. Utilize all of the levers at your disposal to engage and connect with drivers and to re-market and re-sell your fleet to them. Want to learn more about ways you can leverage internal marketing programs to engage with drivers and reduce turnover? Check out this free resource from NTI.

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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.

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