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Fleet makes case for hourly pay

Posted: February 5, 2018 by Steve Bouchard

JEAN-SUR-RICHELIEU, Que. — CH Express drivers were not alone in worries that a U.S. mandate for Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) might affect how much they could make. But ­managers at the flatbed fleet have responded in a bold way – by paying the long-haul drivers by the hour rather than distances.

Serge and Marc-Andre Hubert.

“The goal was to make sure the drivers did not pay the price of the new regulations,” says Marc-André Hubert, the fleet’s operations manager. “We wanted to reassure them that the amount would be the same – or even more – with the electronic log.”

“The decision is kind of our statement that we were not afraid of the new regulation,” said president Serge Hubert. If anyone was to shoulder the burden of added costs, it would be CH Express.

The fleet’s approach to Hours of Service doesn’t actually change. “We are not afraid of the new rules of the game because we already impose them,” Marc-André says. “But we understand that our drivers can have some apprehensions.”

A couple of drivers were skeptical at first, wondering where the scam was. “There is none,” he stresses.

The hourly compensation is based on the Electronic Logging Device, calculating actual hours of work and driving down to the second rather than using PC Miler.

“The calculation was simple,” says Marc-André. “Our drivers were paid 42 cents per mile. Based on a speed of 100 kilometers per hour and a distance of 1,100 kilometer per day, it is $25 an hour for a senior driver [more than two years of experience]. A junior driver [less than two years of experience] earns $21 an hour. The hourly wage ceiling is set at $28 per hour for drivers who have five years or more of seniority in the company.”

On-duty activities other than driving earn a rate of $18 per hour.

There are still other bonuses to consider. Each pick-up or delivery is paid $ 25, in addition to the hourly rate. An hour of this work, for example, would earn a driver $43 an hour, Serge says.

“When we do [Less Than Truckload], we want the driver to be encouraged to put the most partial loads on his trailer. We have established our system so that it is very beneficial for the driver to make these stops. These are bonuses to efficiency.”

Another $75 per day is paid for oversize loads, while every stop that registers a clean roadside inspection earns another $50.

“We like our carrier rating to be good, and this initiative helps us do that. The drivers receive a bonus upon presentation of the inspection documentation, which is included in our files. We know who went to the inspection and how much time was spent,” Serge says.

Drivers can legally work 70 hours a week, of course, and that is typically divided into 55 hours of driving and 15 hours on duty. CH Express pays time and a half after 60 hours of work

Strictly from an accounting point of view, the executives expect salary costs to rise 10-20% with the change. But recruiting, security, and service costs are expected to drop.

“By opting for a pay per hour, we bet we do not have to worry about recruitment and retention. We are willing to pay the price for good, professional, courteous, and safe drivers, and I am comfortable selling the professional service at the price it is worth. But I’m not comfortable paying for a driver who wants to drive in an unsafe and non-legal way,” says the CH Express president.

It’s about more than financial figures, however. They claim to have approached the pay issue first and foremost from the human side of the equation.

“For a long time, the pressure has been absorbed by the drivers. The whole industry says, ‘Traffic is your problem. Waiting time is your problem.’ Now, [these] are no longer the problems of the ­drivers. Whether a truck driver is traveling at 10 kilometers per hour because of congestion, at 70 kilometers per hour because of the weather, or at 100 kilometers per hour, it’s the same thing. The meter runs and it is paid. This takes away frustration and ensures that the driver can provide better service and be safer,” Serge says.

The word of the new pay structure spread quickly.

“It’s not very difficult for us to recruit now. It was … ­madness when we announced our pay per hour. Drivers were applying everywhere, even from the United States,” he adds.

“Recruitment is no longer a priority topic in the company right now. And this allows us to focus on our strength, which is to sell transportation services.”

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