Pay to Leave

I passed a sign the other day. It was offering a $10,000 sign on bonus for a team. It was also offering a $4,000 sign on bonus for solo drivers. That is a lot of cash. Most of these bonuses are not paid at sign on. That would be nice. Heck, I would be tempted to spend a year filling out applications joining companies and collecting sign on bonuses. It would pay better than driving. These companies are not stupid. Most of these bonuses are paid out either incrementally, or after staying there at least a year.
That got paranoid Jeff thinking. If a company owed me $10,000 if I stayed there a year, 10 months in would freight start drying up? I am not saying it happens, but after 25 years in this business I have gotten skeptical. Besides that, a 1 time payout seems like a bad way to choose a company to sign on with.

So how do you choose a company? It used to be gathering information from drivers and owner operators. An owner operator would seek out owner operators from a company and start asking questions. A company driver would do the same with other company drivers.  Recruiting drivers is a competitive business. Companies are using drivers and owner ops as recruiters. Most will even offer a bonus to drivers or owner ops for recruiting others.

Investigating a company is a good idea. These days drivers are interviewing companies more than the other way around. My biggest question is “What is your turnover rate?” Industry turnover rates are over 100%. So a company that keeps the average driver over a year is above average. A company that keeps it’s drivers over 2 years on average is outstanding. That also feeds into the bonus thing. If a company offers a sign on payment after a year, but tends to keep drivers less than a year, the sign on bonus is an empty promise.

Money, equipment, and average length of haul are all factors. They are not the only factors. Do your homework.  Even if you are an owner operator equipment matters. MPG differences from one trailer to another can be significant. I have noticed a half MPG difference between some of our company trailers with similar loads.

So how does a company recruit? What would attract me beyond the obvious? What if a company would offer to pay me to leave after a year? That would get my attention. It would show me their confidence. The pitch would be “If you are not happy after a year-we would be willing to give you $2,000 to leave.” Their incentive would be to keep me happy. It would also show me that this company can think creatively. Creative thinking leads to profitability. That would help recruit me.

Comments (4)

Jeff Clark

Jeff Clark of Kewaunee, WI has been driving a truck for 24 years. He has been an owner operator for 11 years.

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October 05, 2014


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Joey-that is the idea of the reverse bonus. The carrier is incentivized to keep the driver. If they make the driver happy-the driver would rather stay than collect the bonus.

July 30, 2013 19:49:45 PM

How about get rid of bonuses and pay the driver more? With less turn over, carriers would be in better shape.

July 30, 2013 17:36:15 PM

I did the reasearch on my current carrier and have been with them since 1996. I get upset with the boss everyonce in awhile but in the end we have always worked it out. I really like the idea of the reverse bonus because it would really say something about the carrier .

July 30, 2013 8:02:36 AM

Jeff we just finished attending the Expedite Expo & Road Gorilla held in Wilmington, OH. There were attendees who are all ready in the expedite industry, truckload industry or those researching if trucking was something they were interested in. While many of the carriers are offering bonuses most of the people we spent time with were researching the companies, talking with current drivers, attending workshops to see which carrier would fit their needs. A sign on bonus was just that a bonus if they chose that company. I believe I like your idea best. Do your homework and pick the right company that fits your needs. We have been with our current carrier for nine years and are still happy.

July 29, 2013 3:56:44 AM