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PDA: Driver pay concerns soar in Q4

Jan. 30, 2023
Miles-related compensation issues supplant equipment as truckers’ top concern for the first time in survey’s history, according to agency’s latest data

Compensation complaints supplanted equipment-related issues as professional truck drivers’ top concern as 2022 drew to a close, according to fourth-quarter survey data from the Professional Driver Agency (PDA).

This is the first time in the five-year history of the survey that equipment isn’t the top concern.

“Seeing compensation issues top the list in Q4 was not a surprise,” Scott Dismuke, PDA’s vice president of operations, said in a news release. “The softening freight market has clearly resulted in a rise in driver frustration regarding compensation, particularly as it relates to miles. Miles-related compensation issues rose by 9% from Q3 to Q4 and since Q1 of 2022, miles-related compensation issues are up 21 percentage points.”

The shift started in the third quarter of 2022 and continued through Q4, PDA indicated.

Ironically, even while miles-related compensation issues are rising, drivers complaining about their pay rate has declined. During Q4, driver’s complaints about their pay rate decreased by 10 percentage points from Q3 totals.

“Pay rates have been going up consistently over the last couple of years during the COVID-related freight boom,” Dismuke said. “The drop in pay-rate complaints is a clear indication that pay rates are not the problem; it is drivers having the ability to log consistent miles to meet their income expectations. At the end of the day, it’s all about miles. If drivers are not able to consistently log miles, then is does not matter how high your pay rate is.”

Dismuke noted that increasing driver frustration with compensation and miles also is causing an increase in turnover rates. 

“PDA has seen an uptick in turnover in the last two quarters of 2022,” Dismuke added. “Drivers who entered the market during the freight boom of the last couple of years seem to be struggling with the softening freight market the most. They are experiencing their first freight slowdown and waiting longer for freight is not only frustrating but something they have yet to experience.”

Equipment still key, too

From a percentage standpoint, overall equipment issues dropped for the fourth quarter in a row, but mechanical/breakdown issues were up six percentage points from Q3 to Q4.  Dismuke noted that while the percentage of complaints has gone down, the number of drivers complaining about equipment has remained the same. 

“While the percentage has dropped nearly six points from Q1 relative to other categories, the total number of complaints remains basically the same,” Dismuke said. “Equipment issues continue to be a big source of frustration for drivers and play a role in the driver’s ability to log consistent miles, therefore affecting their compensation. So, while equipment issues have dropped to the second-highest issue for drivers, they still play a significant role in driver turnover.” 

The softening freight market will continue to be the biggest challenge for driver turnover. Dismuke maintains open and proactive communication, as well as quickly addressing driver concerns, are the key to combatting turnover in the new year.

“Reducing turnover and keeping drivers in trucks will continue to be a challenge going into 2023,” Dismuke said. “If you have drivers struggling with miles, they should be considered a high turnover risk. Having the ability to quickly identify and intervene with those drivers will be crucial in keeping drivers in the truck.”

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