Why truckers walk away from job
Researchers at the University of Arkansas say that a combination of poor working conditions and pay issues may explain why so many truckers put the brakes on for good and walk away from the profession.
“It’s no surprise that the amount of time drivers spend on the road away from their homes and families is a major concern in the trucking industry,” says John Delery, professor of management in the Sam M. Walton College of Business. “Some long-haul drivers make it home only once a month and consider their rig to be a home away from home.”
Delery and Nina Gupta, also a professor of management in the Walton College, collected personnel information from managers of 326 large U.S. trucking companies and found that in addition to time away from home and family, many truckers are not satisfied with pay, or, specifically, the way they are paid.
The category “not enough driving hours/ runs scheduled” was listed as a problem by drivers at more than three-fourths of the companies, which, the researchers say, indicates that drivers are not scheduled for enough miles to make an acceptable rate of pay.
“It’s not that drivers aren’t paid enough per mile,” Gupta says. “The total number of miles is the problem. Many drivers are frustrated because they don’t have control over the number of miles they drive. Because they’re paid by the mile, they want to keep rolling. They don’t like it when they’re hundreds of miles from home and waiting for a new assignment.”
Gupta says the rate-per-mile system used primarily by truckload carriers is an example of the piece-rate pay system, which is one of the oldest kinds of pay systems. Most likely, the historical reason for the existence of the piece-rate system, which is incentive-based, in the trucking industry is that managers cannot directly supervise drivers, Delery says, add-ing that “Incentive pay aligns the interest of the employee to that of the company.”
The system isn’t necessarily obsolete, Gupta says, but with the trucking industry it is problematic because employees do not have control over their performance.
Although Delery and Gupta do not advocate specific solutions to this issue, there are alternative pay systems that could improve turnover rates. Delery says companies have the option of moving from the rate-per-mile system to simply paying an hourly or yearly salary. There are measures and tools—highly selective hiring practices, objective performance appraisals and on-board computers that enhance communication between drivers and dispatchers—that can accurately evaluate potential or current employees.
These tools, rather than a system based purely on incentive, can ensure that employees are motivated, loyal and conscientious. Gupta says that if companies do not want to abandon the rate-per-mile system, they can carefully design and execute the system to provide consistency for the employee and reduce or eliminate abuse.