Chris Curtis, from West Chester Township, practices backing a trailer during Butler Tech's Commercial Driver Training class Thursday, May 10 at the Butler Tech campus. The nation is seeing a shortage of truckers with many companies in need of drivers. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Trucking firms offer thousands of dollars in bonuses, other perks to lure drivers

A shortage of truck drivers has trucking companies using a number of retention methods to attract and retain new workers, including some hefty sign-on and referral bonuses.

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Forty-eight percent of newly-signed drivers received a signing bonus averaging $1,500, according to American Trucking Association’s 2017 Driver Compensation Study.

Larger sign-on bonuses of between $10,000 and $50,000 have been offered in some instances, with those large-scale rewards paid out over the course of a number of years, according to Thomas Balzer, president and CEO of the Ohio Trucking Association.

Ninety percent of truckload fleets give drivers paid leave and four of every five private carriers not only offer a 401(k) plan, but match employee contributions as well, according to a 2017 ATA study.

Companies also have instituted a minimum weekly wage rather than solely relying on prior payment metrics of by the mile, load or percentage.

That, along with “robust benefit offerings,” are some of the tools being used to stabilize workforce numbers in the profession.

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“We’re just trying to do our best to be highly competitive knowing that the workforce marketplace out there is getting extremely competitive as well,” Balzer said.

While ATA recruits via its Trucking Moves America program at, local training both public and private continues to grow.

Enrollment at the Ohio Business College Truck Driving Academy in Butler County’s Madison Twp. has been “a roller coaster” in the past decade or so, with a “huge slowdown” coming as the recession slowed government funding of loan options, according to training manager James Chambers.

The return of those options and the introduction of new grants in the last eight months has led to an uptick in enrollment at classes at the academy, which are offered every two weeks, he said.

It helps that the demand for new drivers is heavy, with approximately two dozen companies trying to recruit students from the training academy, Chambers said.

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Butler Tech started offering a CDL program May 2014 in five-weeks for a daytime class and 10 weeks for an evening class, according to Scott Palmer, the school’s executive director of adult education.

Enrollment growth has increased by approximately 10 percent each year with current employment totals on target to serve about 150 students for the fiscal year ending in June, Palmer said.

Butler Tech works with 120 companies looking to recruit new drivers, with companies coming to the campus on a rotating basis to visit with students.

”Our students"Many of them have job offers contingent upon passing of the CDL test,” Palmer said. “Once they have the test passed, then they’re able to secure full-time employment.

“You can get a job making a sustainable wage for a individual and his or her family. We’re in the right spot at the right time,” he said.