Q1 2023 driver wages data trends: Upward momentum slows, but pay gains still historically strong year over year

Mileage, hourly, and annual earnings for professional truck drivers continued to grow in the first quarter of 2023, according to The National Transportation Institute’s National Survey of Driver Wages and National Driver Wage Index. Likewise, fleets continue to pad compensation add-ons like bonuses, productivity incentives, and accessorials pay. 

Here are a few key trends and takeaways from the current quarter’s driver wages data tracked and analyzed by NTI: 

Pay gains slow, but momentum remains historically strong year over year 

Despite corrections in the freight market and changing economic conditions, wage growth continued across segments, trailer type, fleet type, and driver experience level in 2023’s first quarter – both year over year and quarter to quarter. While gains were muted from the last few months of 2022, wage momentum is still notable year over year, particularly for newer drivers.  

By percentage, drivers with a mere one year of experience saw their base per-mile wages grow 5.4% from 2022’s first quarter. Base pay for drivers with three years of experience grew 5% year over year. Base pay for the highest paid drivers, so-called cap earners, grew 4.3%. Those percentage gains are similar for drivers paid on an hourly basis, too.  

To put those percentages into perspective, average annual wage gains have only topped 5% in five of the 28 years since NTI began tracking driver compensation in 1994. So historically speaking, 2022’s gains are still noteworthy, despite the slowdown in the back half of the year.  

The per-mile pay ranges have been removed from this chart, which is based on the National Driver Wage Index and shows pay prevalence for drivers with one year of experience, but you can see the prevalence of fleets’ pay ranges migrate up the scale compared 2022’s first quarter. The left side of the chart reflects lower mileage-based pay ranges, and the right side reflects higher pay: 

Recruiting indicators still point to an active market 

The frenzied hiring pressures of 2021 and early 2022 have certainly subsided, but NTI compensation data reveals that recruiting indicators are still showing strength, both compared to 2022’s fourth quarter and year over year. 

The prevalence of fleets offering sign-on bonuses grew a few percentage points from last quarter, and their prevalence was up 10 percentage points year over year. The dollar amount that fleets are offering for sign-ons also grew compared to late 2022 and the same period a year ago.  

Referral bonuses likewise saw their prevalence and their dollar amounts climb.  

Lastly, the number of fleets offering guaranteed pay continues to grow, too.  

To see how your fleet’s sign-on bonuses, referral bonuses, or guaranteed pay options compare to the market and select competitors — or to benchmark your mileage, hourly, and annual earnings by hiring location, region, trailer type, and much more — contact NTI today to see a demo or to learn more. 

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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