Truckload and logistics giant Schneider National, Inc. said it will offer up to $6,000 in tuition reimbursement to qualified truck drivers who graduate from driving school, earn their Commercial Driver's License, and then go to work for Schneider.
The move by Green Bay, Wis.-based Schneider is the latest carrier effort to attract and retain drivers for an industry that many believe will soon find itself significantly short of them.
To qualify for the program, drivers must be hired by Schneider within 60 days of graduation, the company said. Drivers will be reimbursed at a rate of $150 per month. Schneider said its program would cover the full cost of many truck-driving schools.
"[The company's program] helps students overcome a big hurdle in starting a driving career—the cost of attending an accredited truck driving school," said Mike Hinz, a Schneider vice president, in a statement.
The truckload industry is experiencing a shortage of qualified drivers, though estimates vary as to its severity. Transport Fundamentals, an industry consultancy, pegs the shortage at about 100,000 drivers out of a full-time driver population of about 2.5 million. That number should peak at about 250,000 by late 2013 as new federal safety regulations, combined with retirements and increased demand to haul freight, will result in more drivers leaving the industry at a faster pace than they can be replaced, according to the consultancy.
Other estimates have put the current driver shortage at as low as 30,000 and as high as 188,000.
Wage issues are generally not cited as the main factor behind a truckload driver exiting the industry or for switching carrier employers. Still, it is a widely held view that drivers are not generously compensated for often-difficult work that keeps them away from home for sometimes weeks at a time.
The median annual salary for a Schneider driver ranges from $42,611 to $51,983, according to the company. That is considered in line with the rest of the truckload industry.
The actual wage is based on years of driving experience, tenure with the company, geographic location, and the line of business, such as intermodal or dedicated contract carriage, Schneider said.