J. J. Keller® Compliance Network Logo
Start Experiencing Compliance Network for Free!
Update to Professional Trial!

Be Part of the Ultimate Safety & Compliance Community

Trending news, knowledge-building content, and more – all personalized to you!

Already have an account?
Thank you for investing in EnvironmentalHazmat related content. Click 'UPGRADE' to continue.
Enjoy your limited-time access to the Compliance Network Professional Trial!
A confirmation welcome email has been sent to your email address from ComplianceNetwork@t.jjkellercompliancenetwork.com. Please check your spam/junk folder if you can't find it in your inbox.
Thank you for your interest in EnvironmentalHazmat related content.
You've reached your limit of free access, if you'd like more info, please contact us at 800-327-6868.

Having trouble recruiting drivers? Survey reveals top three deciding factors for drivers


Freight may be slower right now but keeping your company image attractive and in front of drivers is crucial regardless of the economic outlook.

American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) published the Owner-Operators/Independent Contractors in the Supply Chain study in December 2021. Despite the title, there were insights into what company drivers and leased contractors value. This knowledge can help carriers improve recruitment efforts.

The 2,097 survey respondents were comprised as follows:

  • 33.8 percent were company drivers,
  • 66.2 percent were owner-operators (OOs)/independent contractors (ICs),
  • Over eight percent were female, which is higher than the 6.7 percent of all commercial drivers, and
  • 68 percent were between 45 and 64 years old.

Top three motivating factors

When assessing your retention and recruitment efforts, consider how you need to adjust your policies, operating model, and benefits to support drivers where it is most important.

The top three motivating factors for company drivers and ICs/OOs were found to be:

#Company driverPercent rated as extremely important/ importantIndependent contractor/ Owner-operatorPercent rated as extremely important/ important
1Job security/stability90Independence/ability to set hours94
3Health care/retirement savings79Choice of routes/ length of haul91

Most drivers consider these top three non-negotiables. If one of these aspects falls short of expectations, drivers will seek other opportunities sooner.

Company driver takeaways:

  • They value a stable company and income, meaningful health care coverage, and options to maximize retirement savings.
  • Females' top three responses were the same as males, with significantly more importance on each.


  • Consider reducing the waiting period for retirement plan participation from six months or longer, which is standard, to three months or less.
  • Emphasize these themes truthfully when recruiting and keep your promises.

OO/IC takeaways:

  • They value independence and the ability to determine how and when they run freight. Female independents felt even more strongly than males in the same areas.
  • Over 80 percent were very satisfied or satisfied with their top three under current deals. This level of satisfaction is significant given the leased contractor model is under threat of elimination by laws such as California Assembly Bill 5 and potentially prohibited on a national level.

Action: Run a contractor model compliant with Department of Labor requirements to reduce driver concerns over violating laws.

Compensation methods

Understanding driver satisfaction with compensation amounts and methods is crucial to retaining drivers and recruitment success.

Respondents' pay methods:

  • Company drivers: 46.2 percent were paid by the mile and 27.7 percent by the hour. The remainder had salaries, activity-based pay, or a mix.
  • Leased independent contractors: 49.1 percent were paid by a percentage of revenue, and 56.6 percent of OOs were paid by the load as the predominant method. The remainder was paid under per mile and percentage of revenue combinations, stop-off pay, or other activity pay.

Company driver takeaways:

  • Only 66.1 percent of company drivers were satisfied or very satisfied with their income on mileage pay versus 73.5 percent when paid by the hour.
  • The variability of paycheck amounts on mileage makes paying bills difficult, not just the annual wage.


  • Carriers that pay on mileage may consider a guaranteed minimum pay if the driver is available a required percentage of the week. Minimums can reduce paycheck variability and offset unpaid work time.

OO/IC takeaways:

  • Over 80 percent were satisfied or very satisfied with their income level.


  • Carriers can share with potential and current IC drivers their opposition to laws trying to ban the practice of contractors leasing with carriers.
  • Carriers with leased contractors should offer fair and attractive agreements, as proven with existing ICs under varying economic conditions.

Key to remember: Assess your policies and recruitment messaging for changes that better align with drivers' highest priorities.