Amid a mass nationwide truck driver shortage, Walmart has upped the ante by raising driver salaries to $87,500 a year, on average, beginning this February, in a bid to attract the hundreds of workers it needs to fill out its fleet in 2019.
The retail giant hired more than 1,400 new drivers last year, but as roughly two-thirds of the nation’s freight is transported by truck and consumer demand for its wares increased last year — same-store sales grew 3 percent during 2018 — the company needs another large batch of fresh drivers to keep it running.
But the ultra-low unemployment rate and the job’s challenging on-the-road lifestyle mean there are fewer workers interested in taking these roles. The American Trucking Association estimates there are 48,000 vacant trucking jobs, which may be why Walmart announced its wage increase.
Its drivers will earn an additional one cent per mile and extra pay for every arrival, bringing the average annual compensation to $87,500 and its all-in rate close to 89 cents per mile.
A salary just shy of $90,000 will definitely tip the scale in Walmart’s favor as its competes for potential drivers. The median annual wage for most tractor-trailer truck drivers across the U.S. is $44,500, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, or about $43,000 less than what Walmart says it will pay employees. And only 10 percent of truckers earn above $64,000.
Walmart also offers drivers three weeks of paid time-off in a driver’s first year and quarterly bonuses for safe driving, according to Business Insider. They also enjoy a rarity in the trucking word: two days a week at home.
In addition to its benefits, Walmart is also making its on-boarding process faster in hopes of increasing its new driver recruitment. It slashed wait times between a candidate’s initial review and their mandatory driving assessment in half, and added targeted one-on-one mentoring from veteran drivers to its new driver orientation practices.
All of this is a departure from the company’s old system, in which candidates were given one chance to perform an assessment, and were judged based on their driving skills and ability to accurately complete safety scans before departure. This "one and done" test was so rigorous that only about 10 percent of candidates made it through the trial run, according to Yahoo Finance. Now, about 80 percent pass under the new trial process, Walmart told Business Insider.
But becoming a Walmart driver still requires that you not only pass this initial on-boarding process and driving checks, but that you have 30 months of experience in the past three years and a clean safety record.
Like this story? Subscribe to CNBC Make It on YouTube!