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Focus: Transportation Management

Feature Article from Our Transportation Management Subject Area - See All

From SCDigest's On-Target E-Magazine

- Dec. 16, 2014 -


Logistics News: Controversial 34-Hour Restart Rule Rolled Back for Now, while ATA Says US Truck Driver Pay is On Par with General Household Income


New Law Suspends Rule Until DOT Performs Study on Impact; Driver Shortage and Turnover Show Pay not Nearly High Enough


SCDigest Editorial Staff


In modestly surprising news, the US Congress this weeked passed legislation as part of the overall budget bill that will for awhile at least roll back the controversial new rules relative to what is called the "34-hour retstart" provision. The bill is expected to be signed into law by president Obama any day.

The more limiting 34-hour restart rules for drivers were probably the most opposed aspect of the new Hours of Service rules from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) that went into effect July 1, 2013.

SCDigest Says:

Walmart, which pays driver in the low $70,000 range, has of late been advertising extensively for drivers throughout most of 2014.
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The new law will roll back those rules to what they were before the new HOS regulations went into effect, pending a mandated study of the overall impact of those rules. The new measure "directs the Secretary [of Transportation] to conduct a study of the operational, safety, health and fatigue aspects of the restart provisions in effect before and after July 1, 2013. The Inspector General is directed to review the study plan and report to the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations whether it meets the requirements under this provision."

That means that drivers will once again be permitted to restart their weekly hours by taking at least 34 consecutive hours off-duty, regardless of whether or not it includes two periods of time between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. A driver can also utilize the restart more than one time per week if necessary.

The American Trucking Associates, representing carriers, and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) were among the groups opposed to the new 34-hour restart, claiming it hurt productivity while delivering little or no benefit to safety, reduced flexibility, and actually put more trucks on the road during peak morning drive hours.

"OOIDA and small-business truckers applaud the House and Senate for rejecting scare tactics and misinformation and maintaining the bipartisan hours-of-service provision," said OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer in a press release.

The relaxation of the rule is hardly permanent, however. Because the language resides in an annual spending bill, its terms expire at the end of fiscal year 2015, which is Sept. 30, 2015. Whether the DOT/FMCSA study will be complete by then is anyone's guess, as is what such a study would conclude.

A reasonable assumption is that if the study shows the changed 34-hour restarted rules did not meaningfully improve trucker safety, the Congress would move to make the current relaxation permanent. Also unknown of course is whether Congress would extend the temporary halt to the rules if when the next budget is developed in the summer the FMCSA study is not complete.

The 34-hour rule rollback was actually first proposed for the new Surface Transportation Bill that was signed into law this last summer, but didn't make it into the final wording, it's thought in part due to the accident involving a Walmart truck in June that severely injured actor Tracy Morgan and killed his friend. Reports indicated the Walmart driver had not slept in some 24 hours before the crash.

Carriers have in general overall estimated a negative impact on productivity of about 2-3% from the new HOS rules. What piece of that impact is specific to the 34-hour restart rule is unclear, but one analysis said productivity would be improved about 1% from the change back to the old rules.

ATA Study Says Trucking Wages Comparable to Pay at Most Households, Benefits Competitive

According to new study by the American Trucking Associations, median pay for drivers was on par with the national median for all U.S. households, and the industry offers drivers "competitive" benefits.

(Transportation Management Article Continued Below)



"The data in our Driver Compensation Study, which covered 130 fleets and more than 130,000 drivers, shows that now more than ever, trucking is an excellent career path," said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. "Fleets are raising pay and offering generous benefit packages in order to attract and keep their drivers in the face of a growing driver shortage."

Among the study's key findings:

• Median pay for drivers ranged from just over $46,000 for national, irregular route dry van truckload drivers to more than $73,000 for private fleet van drivers. (See graphic below).



Source: ATA

• In seven of the nine categories of drivers covered by the survey, pay met or exceeded the U.S. median household income of just over $53,000.

• While mileage-based pay was a common method, three out of four fleets used multiple methods to pay drivers including the most frequent approach, paying some drivers by the mile and some by the hour.
• Nearly 80% of truckload fleets offered drivers paid holidays.

• And 80% of private carriers not only offer a 401(k) retirement plan, but match employee contributions.

As can be seen from the graphic, the study was based on 2013 data, and in 2014 many if not most major carriers actually increased driver pay. Despite those moves and the data the ATA brings here, a significant driver shortage continues to exist and constrains US truckload capacity.

Even very attractive driver jobs in private fleets are going empty. Walmart, which pays driver in the low $70,000 range, has of late been advertising extensively for drivers throughout most of 2014.

Given the lifestyle challenges, many observers have suggested pay needs to rise into at least the low $60,000 range for over-the-road dry van drivers to close the shortage, and some say it needs to go even higher.

According to the ATA's own data, driver turnover continues to be a huge issue, and got worse in Q2, the last quarter from which data is available. Large fleet (greater than $30 million in revenue) turnover in Q2 reached an annual rate of 103%, according to the ATA. That's 4% over the same time in 2013 and the highest rate seen since the third quarter of 2012. Turnover at small fleets also reached its highest level in nearly two years at 94%, a full 12% higher than Q2 2013.

What are your thoughts on the 34-hour rule suspension? How far do we have to go on driver pay? Let us know your thoughts at the Feedback button (for email) or section (for web form) below.



Recent Feedback

How many of the other "median pay" careers require the extended periods away from home. OTR drivers are in effect on duty 168 hrs. a week. Which means $50,000 annual is equal to less than $6.00 hourly. If you reject my 168 hr. argument and only apply 70 hrs. without overtime. It still pales when compared to compensation for equal hrs. in other trades / careers.

Robert Gillespie
Not Provided
Dec, 17 2014

It's not that drivers pay met or exceeded the U.S. median household income of $53,000. It's how many hours a driver has to drive to get the wages. Most drivers work their 60-70 hours of service. Which means if someone getting paid $16.00 an hour and was paid overtime he would make more then $53,000. How many people would work that many hours every week of your life?

walter f jones
JB hunt
Dec, 17 2014

The median is that most people work a 40 hour week. We work minimum 70. We work 14 hour days.

You never spend any quality time with your family, even if you're a daycab driver. Pay is disgraceful!

I'm not making ends meet and I'm on the higher end!

Ann Walter
Dec, 17 2014

I'm paid well in comparison to a lot and especially for the average median household income in my state. That said, I don't make six figures and hauling hazmat should pay over 100k and that's what I haul. Disagree? I haul gasoline and diesel fuel. Who's going to work next week if my peers and I stop working tomorrow? Noone. Our job is crucial to the economy and the jobs worked within it. As for the 34 hour restart, it  needs to stay suspended. It's ridiculous to place time periods within it when we don't all have the same sleep schedule. I work nights and am off Sunday and Monday nights, if I don't (I never do) get off work before 1am Sunday mornings under the new law that was in place then I can't come out Monday night from time to time to get my company out of a bind. That's insane!! Plus that holds me back from making extra money. I would like to also say that the 30 minute rest break is useless. That's 30 minutes that I'm doing nothing productive and 30 minutes later before I wrap up and get rest. Therefore I'm 30 minutes more fatigued than I would've been everyday while still on the road. Safe? Nope. Just my thoughts. 

34 hour rule
kenan advantage group
Dec, 18 2014

While driver pay may be on par with the median for households, it still isn't sufficient. There was a time when as a trucker you could ask your wife to stay home with the children, and live comfortably. I'm an LTL driver and as far as I can tell you have two options. 

1. Take a job with great pay, extremely crappy equipment, 3rd world benefits, and really zero perks. (Vacation/sick days, holiday pay & 401k that matches only up to $600 a yr. *my situation*)
2. Or take a job with low pay & enjoy all the perks of a profitable company.
So, no. The current pay structure isn't sufficient for drivers which is why drivers aren't afraid to switch companies. Also, why isn't there a consideration to mandate that all company drivers be paid hourly. There are companies that start drivers at .26¢ a mile where drivers are killing themselves for miles & can't make ends meet. 



Central Transport
Dec, 18 2014

 During my 10+ years in operations I saw firsthand that most drivers preferred to drive during off-peak hours -- maximizing the amount of miles they were able to cover during their 11hr drive time.  Requiring drivers to include two consecutive breaks between 1am-5am not only puts more drivers on the roads during peak traffic hours, but can also cause their 34hr reset to take up to 51 hours depending on when their break starts.  I personally would not consider 2+ days at a truck stop to be a relaxing break.  Remember, not all drivers make it home for their reset.

Suspending the 34hr rule should increase productivity 1-2%, but the primary concern is, will the safety statistics remain the same, get better or worse?  Some would argue that drivers are more tired between 1am-5am, but others will argue some drivers are on a different sleep cycle.  As we all know too well, it just takes one major news headline to potentially make the rules and regulations stricter for truck drivers -- whether the accident was related to the hours-of-service or not.  

In 2014 I've seen driver pay increase between 8-15% for a number of companies; along with bonus plans based on tenure that aim to keep the driver with the company longer.  Overall, current pay levels are attracting more applications to recruiter's desks, and increasing their seated truck percentage.  As long as companies are filling empty trucks, driver pay will most likely remain at its current level.  

Will Cotten
Transportation | Warehouse Optimization
Dec, 18 2014

I think its great someone finally listens to the people that were affected by the bad policy of the 34 Hour restart. It put a burden on every driver out there. The 168 hour was the one of the craziest things I've seen along with two 1 to 5's - what world did they live in? Now we can go back to work the way we need to. To get the nations goods moved. Who ever thought we could move it all with the sun shining was not in the trucking business. Thanks OOIDA for fighting for us.

J Perry
Not Provided
Not Provided
Dec, 20 2014

I believe OTR Drivers pay should be in the high 70k or low to mid 80k. Local driver's pay delivering food makes 75k to 100k too easy and home every day!

Not Provided
Dec, 23 2014

Years ago I used to get overtime for working over 40 hrs in a week. My pay went from 21% to 31 1/2% until the owner decided to just give me 23% total so she could make more profit. If she could pay overtime in 1987, why they pay it no? We work for a living just like everyone else and we should be paid overtime just like everyone else. Also, if all truckdrivers were paid by the hour with overtime they would slow down and quit running people off the road trying to make a living and would be under a lot less stress. Now let's see if the government gets going on this study, or it won't ever happen.

Truck Driver Eldorado
Not Provided
Jan, 05 2015

We were told to break the law and do has many deliveries (over 20 stops a day). We've got people driving trucks with air brakes they don't have the air brake endorsement. We are working over 14 hours a day. As the only driver, we have to keep driving until we are at the store beginning at 6am and at times not getting back to the store until 10:30pm, sometimes 11:00pm. Something needs be done about this. They threaten to replace us and make it hard for us to get another job because new employers must contact your last employer they will tell them that we're not a good candidate for the job because they can't find replacement drivers.

Christopher brown
Lowes 1412 14th Ave west Bradenton Florida
Aug, 20 2015