FreightWaves Carrier Summit: Driver pay may rise alongside rates (with video)

Carriers looking to attract more drivers may have to get creative with recruitment, as well as consider raising pay or adding bonuses, said Rob Hatchett, president of SeatMyTrucks.

FreightWaves’ JT Engstrom talked with Hatchett Wednesday during the FreightWaves Carrier Summit. The event, with headline sponsor Blume Global, is streaming live Wednesday and Thursday on FreightWavesTV and on

“I think for the month of September, we’re going to see a bunch of driver pay increases or there will be sign-on bonuses, or it may be cents per mile,” Hatchett said. “If [freight] rates keep going up, and we keep having a tough time hiring drivers, filling seats, you’re going to see some rate increases.” 

Hatchett founded Chattanooga, Tennessee-based SeatMyTrucks around 18 months ago. The company is an advertising firm that helps carriers find and hire more drivers.

Hatchett said the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse has taken a lot of people out of the driver pool since it began Jan. 6. 

Of the 28,445 drivers registering at least one drug or alcohol violation in the clearinghouse, 26,443 — or 93% — are in “prohibited status” because they have not completed the steps required to get back behind the wheel. 

“Does that mean that’s almost 30,000 drivers out of the driving pool? That’s got to have some impact on lowering the number of drivers in the driver pool, and this is pre-COVID-19,” Hatchett said. 

The coronavirus pandemic that began around late February across the U.S. made it even more difficult to recruit, train and retain truck drivers, Hatchett said.

“One of the biggest impacts on trucking is driver orientation, when you hire drivers, most carriers used to bring them all on-site, put them on a Greyhound bus, where there’s lots of people crammed into a bus, and then bring them to hotels and orientation rooms,” Hatchett said. “Now, if you want to hire drivers, is the driver going to get on a bus? Do you have a room big enough to social distance?”

Hatchett said trucking firms are having to rethink driver orientations by taking them online, or put social distancing measures in place while training and recruiting.

Another factor that made it difficult to recruit drivers were individuals who decided to stay out of the workforce while collecting unemployment the past several months.

“How many professional drivers were taking unemployment? We know for a lot of states, like Tennessee, unemployment benefits were $275 per week for the state portion, plus $600 for the federal portion; they’re getting $875 a week,” Hatchett said.

“Do you think it’s tempting for a regional driver gone from their family a week to two weeks at a time, think it’s tempting to take $875 a week and stay at home for three months? Human nature would say, yeah, that makes a lot of sense,” added Hatchett.

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