Truckers say the way they’re treated by their employers and the general public is causing drivers to leave the industry

Trucker driver truck
Truckers say they’re treated so badly that it’s helping fuel the industry’s huge attrition rate. Alistair Berg/Getty Images
  • Truckers say some drivers are leaving the industry over its lack of benefits and low wages.
  • Most don’t get paid for downtime at shippers and say trucking companies don’t treat them with respect.
  • “They’ve chased off all the old timers,” said a trucker who’s been driving for 20 years.

Truckers say they’re treated so badly that it’s helping fuel the industry’s huge attrition rate.

Drivers who spoke with Insider said that some firms paint a rosy picture of the industry to lure new workers while offering few benefits and paying per mile to justify low wages.

“They want to pay the drivers peanuts,” Frederick Hall, a trucker in Georgia, said.

A shortage of truck drivers has been highlighted by the recent supply chain crisis, contributing to backlogs at ports and empty shelves at retail outlets. Some firms raised wages and offered bonuses to attract new staff after a surge in post-lockdown consumption spurred demand for haulage. However, many drivers say conditions are no better now than they were prior to the pandemic.

Drivers can spend weeks or months at a time on the road, away from family. They say that it’s a huge sacrifice, and companies often don’t compensate them adequately by paying the full hours they work. By generally paying by the mile instead, they aren’t compensated for time spent waiting for cargoes to be processed – which can amount to hours each day.

“This job is a lot of hurry up and wait,” Joe Katterman, a trucking instructor in Nebraska, said, adding that trucks sometimes wait for up to 12 hours to be unloaded.

Regulations allow truckers to drive for up to 11 hours a day and work for an additional three, but they spend the other ten hours living in their truck. Drivers say mileage-based pays means they’re not properly compensated for that, or for time spent pulled over due to bad weather or stuck in traffic. 

Some trucking companies have dangled massive sign-on bonuses to attract new hires. But Colorado-based trucker Brian Stauffer told Insider that drivers often have to meet a certain number of criteria to get those bonuses. That may include driving an unrealistic amount of miles, while sign-on bonuses are often paid incrementally, drivers only getting the total if they stay on for a year.

At mega-carriers, “you’re not a name, you’re a number,” Gary Otterson, a 20-year trucking veteran from Alabama, said. “They want to reduce the driver to an expendable resource.”

“Companies don’t look at drivers as anything more than an asset like gasoline – you have to have it to run your trucks,” said Doug Watters, a Mississippi trucker who’s been in the industry for almost 30 years.

Drivers told Insider that this treatment was in turn feeding the industry’s high attrition rate.

“They’ve chased off all the old timers,” Otterson said.

It’s made the industry like a “revolving door,” Mark Rumps, an Indiana trucker who runs the YouTube channel Trucking Answers, said. “People come in the trucking company front door and they walk right out the back door two months later.”

Many truckers said shippers and receivers often treat them badly. Watters said drivers often aren’t allowed to use their restrooms.

“The customers you go to treat drivers like shit,”  Leo Allseitz, a trucker of two years in Missouri, said.

The public can be a problem, too, with some turning their nose up at the profession.

“I get no respect from the general public,” Hall said.

“Everybody thinks they’re not successful unless they’re wearing a suit,” said North Carolina-based trucker Zach Crawford, who’s been in the industry for almost 20 years. He thinks the public view trucking as a “last-resort” job.

When asked why the industry has such a high turnover rate, Michigan-based former trucker Brian Pape said: “it’s how you’re treated when you’re out there. You’re treated as a lower-class citizen. And it’s almost degrading.”