Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Washington Post says truck driving is an $80,000/year job, then says it's a $42,000/year job.

Washington Post article screenshot.
Screenshot by Auto Enthusiasts Newsblaster of a Washington Post article,
published online on May 28.
The Washington Post seemed just a little confused in an article they published yesterday about a serious shortage of truck drivers in the U.S. But maybe it was a simple matter of disconnect between reporter and headline writer.

It happens.

I'm more than happy to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. I don't want to be too snarky—I like to play nice with other writers, journalists and bloggers.

Nevertheless, when I saw the headline describing truck driving as "an $80,000 job" show up in my Google News feed today, it piqued my curiosity a bit. Yes, I know that there are some truck drivers who make enough money to give me occasional (but short-lived) thoughts of making a career change.

But I didn't think that $80K was typical.

Apparently, I was right—even according to the Post article itself—because, when I read on, I saw that it cited government statistics indicating that the median annual pay for truck drivers is just over half of that, at $42,000.

In other words, notwithstanding the headline, it's a lot more accurate to say that driving trucks is a $42,000 job than to say it's an $80,000 job. That's a big difference.

So maybe that career change doesn't seem quite so attractive after all.

When you look a little more closely, though, it seems that the confusion doesn't end there, because both of the drivers quoted in the article who said they earn or expect to potentially earn $100,000 or more are not compensated on a salary basis.

One is an owner-operator in a two-person company. The other is paid as a percentage of load cost, which is more like a commission than a salary. It isn't really an apples-and-apples comparison to talk about those kinds of payment models in the same conversation in which you're talking about employees earning wages in the ballpark of $40,000–$60,000 per year.

Yes, there is a truck driver shortage in the U.S. That much is clear, and with the kind of demand we're currently seeing the compensation should be attractive enough to entice more good drivers into the field.

But suggesting that an $80,000 per year truck driver is typical only muddies the waters. Clearly it isn't typical.

And maybe that's a big part of the problem. Maybe $80,000 truck drivers should be typical.

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