Lately I have seen alot of articles about how truck drivers get paid, and the relationship between poor pay and driving over the legal hours of service.
When I started driving most companies paid hourly for local drivers and percentage of the revenue for line drivers. Hourly pay has always been poor especially considering that federal and most state overtime laws do not apply to truck drivers. The laws to exempt truck drivers from overtime pay still applies today. Percentage pay generally is around 25% +/- of the gross revenue of the truck, however there are only a handful of companies who pay their drivers percentage pay today.
Now the pay standard for truck drivers is MILAGE PAY. Sounds simple right? Here is an example: A driver runs a load from Casa Grande, AZ to N. Las Vegas, NV. To follow the allowed truck routes avoiding crossing Hoover Dam he must drive 429 miles, great! So lets say he gets 36 cents per mile, that comes to $154.44 pay for the driver. If the company he works for pays "PRACTICAL MILES" that is most likely what he will get paid. However many companies pay "SHORT MILES" or "DIRECT ROUTE", for that same trip. The direct routing is only 360 miles, and the pay at 36 cents per mile is now only $129.60. The driver cannot drive the direct route because trucks are not allowed on Hoover Dam.
To add injury to insult many of the same companies who pay "SHORT MILES" also have a "SLIDING SCALE MILAGE PAY". In other words, the longer the trip is the lower the milage pay. For example, a load that runs 300 miles or less might pay 40 cents per mile, but a load that runs 2000 miles will only pay the driver 28 cents per mile. There usually are different increments in between. 1-100, 101-300, 301-600, and 601+. These are just examples, but the greatest pay is for the shortest trip, the pay goes down at each increment. The companies that do this don't generally advertise their pay scale or if they do, they advertise only the top pay leaving out the fact that their pay is sliding scale and that they pay only short miles.
Then there is the work that the driver gets little or no pay: Hours or even days at loading docks. Down time while the truck or trailer is broken down or sitting at a repair facility for days. Long layovers between loads sitting at a truck-stop away from home waiting for a dispatch. Chaining and un-chaining tires in snow. Even any minor repairs on the truck or trailer that the driver performs because it is faster than waiting for hours for a repair truck.
Now let's add to the driver's financial problems - He has to eat while away from home, right? The restaurants and fast food outlets at Truck Stops is generally higher than their counterparts in shopping centers. Other supplies are priced significantly higher than anywhere else. A Truck Stop or Travel Center is nothing more than an over-sized convenience store. Parking is limited also for semi-trucks, many large truck stops especially around metropolitan areas charge upwards of $15 for parking overnight. Other expenses like toll roads, scales, washer fluid, motor oil, and even truck washes are not reimbursed by many companies. Don't forget fines for just about anything under the sun. See the posts about New Jersey's snow clearing law, or the Fatigued Driver Checklist. Believe it or not, I personally have been fined for "NOT MAKING MY BED" cost $100. (I framed that one and it's on my wall at home)
I am not whining when I write this, just stating the facts. What is the solution? There is alot of talk in government, but I doubt there will be any action. Some people are proposing forcing hourly pay, but remember that overtime is exempted by law for truck drivers and if you look in the classified ads you will see that hourly pay for truckers is very poor.
If you look at labor laws, osha regulations, etc. you will find that the laws that protect your pay, safety, and health as a NON-TRUCKER are not in place for truck drivers. Yet the regulations we must follow are extensive and growing.
Again I ask, what is the solution? For starters I believe that the government should repeal the laws regarding the exemption of overtime pay for truck drivers. Trucking companies who pay milage pay should pay "Practical Route Miles" or "Hub Miles". The practice of paying on a decreasing sliding scale for milage should be made illegal. These small things would go along ways toward helping truck drivers to make an honest living without breaking any laws just to make ends meet.