"The Road Home" Podcast

Episode 8: Is Mileage Pay Fair?

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Episode 8: Is Mileage Pay Fair?

Getting paid by the mile, or as a percentage of the gross revenues, has been the norm in the long haul portion of the trucking industry for decades. The normal laws that govern most hourly jobs, like mandatory overtime pay after 40 hours, simply don't apply to long haul truck drivers. Some drivers complain that at times they're being forced to work for free. Is this really the case? Are drivers being taken advantage of? We'll take a look at how mileage pay works and whether or not it's fair to the drivers.

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Transcript: Is Mileage Pay Fair?

Hey folks, I'm Brett Aquila with TruckingTruth.com and welcome to another episode of our podcast 'The Road Home' where we help new drivers prepare for life on the road.

Today I want to talk about the advantages of getting paid by the mile, instead of by the hour, and dispel some of the myths about drivers earning minimum wage or regularly having to work for free.

Getting paid by the mile, or as a percentage of the gross revenues, has been the norm in the long haul portion of the trucking industry for decades. The normal laws that govern most hourly jobs, like mandatory overtime pay after 40 hours, simply don't apply to long haul truck drivers.

Because of this pay structure there are a whole lot of duties that a driver performs which they aren't paid for specifically. Most of the time drivers will not get paid while they do paperwork, fuel the truck, inspect the truck, count freight, sit in stopped traffic, or wait to be loaded or unloaded.

And what about the fact that you're gone from home, away from your family and friends for extended periods of time? Shouldn't your time away from home count as work time? Shouldn't you get paid for everything you do since you're forced to do it so far away from home?

Well the reality is that our society has a long list of jobs that either pay a commission, pay by the amount of work you get done, or pay a fixed salary. In fact, roughly half of all jobs in the United States pay an hourly wage, and the rest pay by some other means. There are also millions of people that travel long distances as a regular part of their job. So getting paid a salary or a commission instead of an hourly wage, and having to travel as part of your job duties is certainly nothing new or unique in our society.

So the overriding concern in the minds of many is simple: 'Why should I have to work for free? Why won't I get paid for everything I do?'

Well you are getting paid for everything you do, even though you're only getting paid by the mile. They're simply averaging out all of the work that goes along with the driving portion of your job. For instance, let's look an the average week for an over the road truck driver.

A typical week will involve roughly 2,500 miles of driving. You'll make roughly three pickups, three deliveries, four fuel stops, seven pre-trip inspections, a couple hours of paperwork, and quite a few hours spent sitting around at customers waiting to be loaded or unloaded.

If you turn things around and look at this from an hourly perspective, probably one quarter of all of the hours you put into tasks related to your job is unpaid! So obviously drivers are getting screwed, right?

No, of course not. Your mileage pay is designed to include all of the typical job duties that go along with the driving. Now this isn't always going to work out perfectly every time. Some loads are going to require more hours of additional work, others far less. But in the end you're paid a mileage salary that reflects all of the work you'll have to do to make that delivery possible.

So what you should do to properly evaluate your pay is to look at your entire body of work over time and ask yourself if it's worth the money it paid or not. Don't worry about how you were paid or how it was broken down. If you make a thousand dollars in a week's time it doesn't make any difference if you're paid hourly, salary, commission, or piece work. A thousand bucks is a thousand bucks. So you look at the work involved, look at the money you made doing it, and decide for yourself if trucking is worth it or not. It really is as simple as that.

Two Big Advantages Of Mileage Pay

Now there are actually two huge advantages to getting paid by the mile. For one, you're going to get paid for the total amount of work you accomplish. When you think about it, isn't that what you want? If you're turning 2,500 miles in 50 hours and another driver is turning only 2,000 miles in those same 50 hours wouldn't you be pretty unhappy about getting paid the same amount of money for those 50 hours or work? Of course you would! You're doing a lot more work than the other driver. His ability to waste time means he's making as much as you are but doing far less work. So if you're the hard working type you're going to have the opportunity to outwork your peers and push your salary higher. You're going to produce more and you're going to be paid more for your great productivity, exactly as it should be.

The second big advantage is that everyone within a trucking company ultimately makes money the same way - by keeping those wheels turning. Everyone at your company is somehow responsible for keeping those trucks moving. Whether they're in sales, customer service, management, dispatch, load planning, safety, or maintenance your job is to make sure your company can move as much freight as possible.

That means everyone within the company is truly working together and relying on each other to make a decent salary and to keep the company profitable. This isn't necessarily the case in an hourly position. If you're the owner of a factory and you're paying your workers an hourly salary you're going to try to squeeze all the work you can out of them every single hour. But if you're one of the workers you'll actually make more money for doing less work if you can figure out how to waste more time or be a little less efficient.

So management is trying to get the workers to do more work in less time, while the workers are trying to do less work for the money they’re being paid, and you have this constant tug of war going on where both sides try to win by hurting the other. You also have your best workers getting paid less for the work they're doing, and your laziest workers making the most for the work they're doing. So there's tension between management and the workers, and there's tension between the workers themselves.

So the environment is more fair to employees and more healthy for management-employee relationships when everyone is being paid for the amount of work they accomplish, not the amount of time they put in (or waste).

So in the end we’re faced with two key questions: Is mileage pay fair, and is the truck driver pay worth it? In my opinion mileage pay is very fair, and it's the way I always preferred to get paid. I like being paid for the amount of work I get done because I've always been an incredibly hard worker which means I have the opportunity to make significantly more money than my less productive peers.

As far as whether or not a truck driver's pay is worthwhile or not, that depends on the individual. For me personally, I loved my years on the road. It was a never ending adventure full of challenges and fascinating circumstances that has left me with a lifetime of incredible memories and gave me a career I could build a better life with. For others, trucking will be the ultimate nightmare that isn't worth the sacrifices it takes to thrive in this industry.

Give yourself some time to put in the work it takes to figure out how the top tier drivers turn the big miles they can turn consistently. Once you can get to that level you'll know enough about life in this industry to know if the salary you can make as a truck driver is worth it or not. But don't get hung up on exactly how they break down the pay. It doesn't matter if you make $1,000 bucks in a week being paid hourly, salary, commission, or piece work. A thousand bucks is a thousand bucks. Look at the work you put in to make that thousand bucks and decide for yourself if it's worth it or not, so in the end when the workday is done you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the road home.

I'm Brett Aquila with TruckingTruth and we'll see you next time.

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