(Updated with comments from Schneider, more information on other companies that have made changes)
In what appears to be the opening salvo in what could be a battle of truckload carriers seeking to hang on to and increase their driver base, Schneider National this week announced a pay increase.
Public announcements of pay increases were frequent in 2018, at the height of the driver squeeze. But several sources said they believe Schneider is out in front of other carriers in making its announcement during the increasingly strong freight market.
Schneider’s disclosure was not in a press release. Rather, it was on a webpage on the company’s homepage.
Tim Hindes, the founder and CEO of StayMetrics, which analyzes and consults about issues regarding driver retention, said Schneider’s move was “out front.”
“It’s not surprising though,” Hindes said in an email to FreightWaves. “Many carriers I spoke to expect a Q4 rush of announcements. This will be the stimulus.”
Schneider says on its website that the new pay will allow drivers to earn up to 61 cents per mile.
“Schneider recently implemented a pay increase for team drivers,” a Schneider spokeswoman said in an email to FreightWaves. “Experienced team drivers (1+ years) now earn $.04 per mile more when starting with Schneider while inexperienced team drivers (0-1 year) will now earn $.02 per mile more when starting with Schneider.”
“The pandemic has influenced the speed in which shippers are accelerating products through their supply chain,” the statement added. “These shippers are seeking solutions from Schneider at higher rates for the expedited transit time and Schneider is passing the rate increase on to our team drivers.”
Company pay rates are not generally disclosed. That is why the various company announcements of pay increases in 2018 were so notable. They were well out of the norm, driven by a historically strong freight market that some people are starting to think is being matched.
On its homepage, Heartland Express says starting pay for its drivers is as much as 54.5 cents per mile, depending on experience.
The earlier FreightWaves report of the Schneider move, announced earlier this week but not in a press release, did bring some other companies to come out and say they had raised their pay rates. For example, Dave Ables, the president and CEO of The Dart Network based in Minneapolis, sent FreightWaves an email to say that it had implemented the largest pay increase in company history four weeks ago, and also had cut lease payments by $400/month.
But nobody is believed to have implemented pay increases at a company roughly in size with Schneider, which recorded $4.7 billion in sales last year.
The move by Schneider is coming even as its public data shows driver expenses have been on a downward trend. For example, in its 10-K annual report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Schneider referred to a 12% decline in salaries, wages and benefits between 2019 and 2018 and cited “lower driver pay” as a reason.
The trend was continuing in the first half of 2020. In the second quarter, for example, salaries, wages and benefits were reported as $247.8 million compared to $286.3 million last year. Sequentially, the second-quarter numbers for that category were down from the $264.4 million in the first quarter.
But it’s somewhat notable that compensation in the second quarter was down 6.2% from the first quarter while revenue for the company as a whole was down 7.7%. Salaries, wages and benefits did not fall at the same rate sequentially as the decline in revenue.
Jeremy Reymer, the founder and CEO of DriverReach, which works closely with fleets on their hiring, said he had not heard of any similar increases, “but I expect to see more of the larger fleets jumping on that wagon.
“The demand right now is insatiable,” he said in an email to FreightWaves. “It’s really intriguing since the economy certainly isn’t banging on all cylinders.”
In an email to FreightWaves, Dave Osiecki, the president and CEO of Scopelitis Transportation Consulting, said a pay range of $85,000 to $90,000 “seems to be the range that a few of the big players are shooting for.”
Osiecki also said he expected that other companies will follow Schneider’s lead.