BENTONVILLE, Ark.—Walmart will now pay its truck drivers up to $110,000 in their first year, and the retailer is launching a 12-week program that allows its supply chain associates in the Dallas, Texas, and Dover, Delaware, areas to earn their commercial driver’s license (CDL) and become long-haul truck drivers for Walmart.
Walmart currently pays its drivers an average about $87,500 in their first year, reports CNBC. The median pay for truck drivers is $47,130 per year, which is higher than the median for all occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average private fleet driver earns more than $86,000 a year, according to ATA.
Walmart’s training program will be open only to supply chain associates in the beginning, but the Arkansas-based retailer plans to eventually allow any Walmart employee to apply. Walmart hopes to train between 400 and 800 new drivers this year.
Currently, Walmart employs 12,000 truck drivers, and it hired 4,500 truck drivers in 2021, a larger number than any time in its history, a Walmart spokeswoman told CNBC.
Last year, the trucking industry was short by 80,000 drivers, which was a record high, according to the American Trucking Associations. ATA’s Chief Economist Bob Costello says that although new truckers are entering the industry, the number of new drivers isn’t keeping up with the increased demand for goods. Costello says that based on driver demographic trends, including gender and age, as well as expected freight growth, the shortage could surpass 160,000 in 2030.
There were 3.36 million truck drivers employed in the U.S. in 2020, a 6.8% drop from the number employed in 2019, according to ATA.
To recruit more drivers, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is allowing drivers age 18 to 20 years old to drive semi-trucks across state lines under a pilot program by the Transportation Department.
The apprenticeship program is allowed under the infrastructure law passed earlier this year, which included a Trucking Action Plan. The plan aims to improve trucker retention and recruit more truck drivers and in return, help the national supply chain for the long-term.
Earlier this week, President Biden highlighted the accomplishments his administration has made through the plan, saying that last year was the was the best on record for trucking job growth since 1994, with gains continuing into the first quarter of 2022. The president promised to continue to expedite CDL issuances, and states have granted more than 876,000 CDLs since January 2021. Trucking employment now exceeds its pre-pandemic level by 35,000 and is higher than it was before it began to decline in 2019, says the White House.
Trucking moves 72% of goods in America, and the industry grew more than 20% last year due to a surge in demand for goods caused by the pandemic, according to a White House fact sheet.
Trucking is running low on drivers mostly because of high turnover and perceived low job quality. Trucking turnover averages about 90%, although that is mostly a measure of drivers switching jobs among carriers—churn within the industry and not attrition, the ATA says.
Drivers spend about 40% of their workday waiting to load and unload goods, and those hours that are typically unpaid. Drivers are also exempt from receiving overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Many truckers are not directly employed and operate as independent small businesses, bearing the cost of leasing, gas, insurance and maintenance themselves. These financial constraints cause many to leave the profession. Trucking also draws on an older, heavily male workforce—the median age is four years higher than the overall workforce and almost 90% of the industry is men—which adds to its recruiting challenges.
NACS Magazine shared how carriers are casting a wider net for applicants to fill truck driving jobs in “Women on the Road” in the October 2021 issue.