Minnesota trucking companies paying six figures for trainee drivers amid supply chain crisis

One Minnesota trucking company says it'll pay trainees up to $115,000 a year on top of full benefits and a $10,000 signing bonus — and they're not alone.

(Unsplash/Zetong Li)
Unsplash/Zetong Li

Desperate to attract employees, Minnesota trucking companies will pay new trainees well over $100,000 a year with signing bonuses of up to $10,000.

Americans are starting to stock up on the essentials as the threat of supply chain collapse looms. Experts warn that shortages are likely to impact the upcoming holiday season as everything from certain Thanksgiving staples to Christmas toys are predicted to be absent from shelves. Already in Minnesota, a variety of products ranging from some kinds of food to hunting ammunition are in short supply. This is due in part to a lack of workers, according to state government officials.

The transportation industry was down about 6% of its drivers in August, as compared to pre-pandemic staffing levels, according to Yahoo finance. This means there are almost 100,000 fewer commercial drivers on the roads now than there were 18 months ago. As a result, trucking companies are feeling the squeeze both from shippers who are increasingly desperate to move loads and by their own balance books.

“The cost of having a truck sit empty is high … the cost of a sitting truck is $500 to $1,500 per day, per truck,” Shane Keller of Centerline Drivers told SHRM. Centerline is a transportation staffing company that recently had to fly drivers into the Upper Midwest for one of its clients because there were none available in the region.

As a result of the need to put men behind steering wheels, “the pay has gone up tremendously,” Bruce Busada, president of the Diesel Driving Academy, told NPR. Average salaries have gone up from $40-50,000 a year to about $85,000 a year for a first-year driver, he reports.

Meanwhile, some Minnesota companies offer even more than that. For example, Martin Brower in Fridley says it will pay trainees up to $115,000 a year on top of full benefits and a $10,000 signing bonus. Bolt Express says it will give company drivers up to $14,000 a month — that’s $168,000 a year.

These companies aren’t alone either. Waste Management in Blaine now offers a $5,000 signing bonus, McLane in Northfield offers a $2,500 bonus, and Old Dominion Freight Line in Shoreview now offers same-day hiring for drivers with a salary of up to $100,000.

Dash Express in Brooklyn Center says its local drivers can earn up to $125,000 a year, provided they’re using their own truck.

While some fact-checkers insist that driver pay hasn’t actually increased, their claims usually revolve around debunking a story that says a Texas company pays over $700,000. While it’s true that this company did list that astronomical figure in its job advertisements, the company isn’t actually cutting checks for the better part of a million dollars. Rather, this was just an amount that independently contracted drivers who essentially operate their own businesses might make if they haul specialized products like frack sand or hazardous materials.

Most of the Minnesota companies listed here, however, are actually trying to entice regular staff who will receive normal, scheduled paychecks.