U.S. distribution giant Walmart announced Thursday that it will raise wages for truck drivers well above the industry average and speed up the training of new drivers.
The group’s salaried drivers can now earn up to $110,000 in their first year, the statement said. The group told AFP that the average salary for new employees so far is $87,500.
A study released in 2020 by the American Truckers Association (ATA) estimated that the average annual driver salary in 2019 was $58,000. This figure masks a huge gap. Drivers who are self-employed or belong to a transport company generally earn less than employees in a “private fleet”.
The latter rely directly on companies that own the transported goods, such as Walmart, whose main business is not road transport.
Walmart has about 12,000 salaried drivers. The distribution group is the largest employer in the United States with 1.6 million employees. The Bentonville (Arkansas) company’s announcement comes as the road transportation sector is facing a severe shortage.
Last October, the ATA estimated just over 80,000 drivers went missing to meet road freight demand, a record. That’s an increase of about 30,000 people from four years ago.
According to the ATA, the shortage is due in part to the arduous nature of work, a minimum age set at 21 or the obligation to take a negative test for marijuana, the consumption of which is now legal in many Americans.
The Covid-19 pandemic has added to all of these factors and caused many truckers to leave.
“We plan to expand our fleet” and hire 5,000 drivers this year, a Walmart spokesman told AFP. In addition, the group plans to increase its capacity to train 400 to 800 drivers by the end of 2023.