Trucks at Work

Pay vs. satisfaction

As a debate over a controversial budget bill rider that would suspend the 34-hour restart provision contained within current hours of service (HOS) rules heats up on Capitol Hill, it’s worth thinking about whether such rule changes amount to very much when it comes to the longer-term effort of finding and keeping sufficient numbers of truck drivers.

While the 34-restart is considered by many drivers to be a major annoyance – with others saying it poses a safety risk as well – would eventually eliminating this rule, which requires two off-duty periods between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. and is limited for use to once per week, make a real difference in the long-term work environment of truckers?

That question inevitably circles back to the two big issues regarding the industry’s inability to attract and retain enough truck drivers to meet current and future freight demand: pay and job satisfaction.

Interestingly, a new survey conducted by Monster Worldwide, which operates job posting site, and the WageIndicator Foundation finds that a significant portion of U.S. workers aren’t satisfied with their pay rates at all – a statistic that flips 180 degrees when the topic turns to “satisfaction with colleagues.”

In other words, noted Joanie Courtney (at right), senior VP-market development at Monster, the strength of “interpersonal interaction” at work may trump wage levels to a degree.

“Today we see a rapidly shifting, dynamic labor market, with pockets of tight demand and others of tight supply,” she explained. “This has made keeping current employees a priority for many employers, so while making room in budgets for pay increases isn’t always an option, there are other things that employers can do to keep employees happy and motivated to work hard.”

Fostering a collaborative and comfortable work environment or rewarding employees with an extra vacation day when they’ve done great work are examples of “extras” employers can do to aid in retention, Courtney said.

According to the survey data gathered by Monster and WageIndicator, U.S. wages in small firms (10 employees or less) are around $14 per hour, while U.S. wages in larger firms (5,000 or more employees) average $30 an hour.

[FYI: The sample used for this study consists of 4,270 respondents living and working in the U.S., some 57.17% of which are men and the remaining 42.83% women. Respondents from different age groups, varied industries, and various hierarchical positions in their respective occupations are included in the sample.]

Yet U.S. workers across the board are still relatively dissatisfied with how much they make, regardless of whether they work for small or large firms. Indeed, in the U.S., more than 65% of employees are not satisfied with their pay.

However, here’s the interesting part: Despite that unhappiness overs wages, the majority of employees in the U.S. – some 77.6% -- according to this poll – are relatively satisfied with the work relationships they have with their colleagues.

When comparing the U.S. to the U.K., Germany, and Spain, the study showed that Germany finds the greatest satisfaction across both categories, even though their wages are rather similar to those in the U.S.

Over half (56.4%) of German respondents are satisfied with their pay and more than 8 out of 10 respondents (81.4%) are satisfied with their working relationships with colleagues.

“The survey indicates that in the U.S., workers are significantly more satisfied with their work relationships with colleagues than with their wages,” noted Martin Kahanec, visiting research fellow at Harvard University's Labor and Worklife Program and scientific director at Central European Labour Studies Institute.

“This demonstrates that there are other factors besides wages that motivate U.S. employees to work hard and remain loyal to their colleagues and company,” he added, noting that while the main “pain point” remains pay rates for employees in most countries, there are things that employers can be doing to continue to motivate and retain talent.

Will such “extras” such as “on-the-job satisfaction” with work colleagues or extra vacation days be enough to sway more folks to try piloting big rigs for a living?

I’m not sure the jury has even been seated yet to fully ponder that question.

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