Both jobs involve often stressful 70-hour work weeks, both require sitting in a cube-shaped workstation, but only one lets you sample every roadside greasy spoon from Bangor to Bakersfield.
The starting salary for one of Walmart’s in-house truck drivers could be $110,000, the same as a first-year analyst at Goldman Sachs, the retail giant announced Thursday. The economics that got things here are unique.
Coming Up Shortage
Unlike many major retailers, Walmart maintains its own private fleet of truckers, a policy going back to the company’s very early days when its founders decided they preferred to do the job in-house. Walmart started paying truckers way more, often double the industry standard, and never looked back. “You pay a little bit more, but you get a more safe and loyal workforce,” Ken Braunbach, Walmart’s VP of transportation, told Business Insider in 2019.
Truck driving often demands long hours, pressing deadlines, and low pay. More than 3.5 million Americans are truck drivers, but the Department of Transportation estimates 300,000 leave the profession every year. While massive churn has led some to claim there’s a shortage of truckers, simple numbers suggest there’s more likely just a shortage of desirable trucking jobs like Walmart’s:
- The American Trucking Associations, an industry trade group, claims there was a worker shortage of 80,000 truckers last year. But the Bureau of Labor statistics, academics, and labor groups have frequently challenged such assertions, noting 450,000 people obtain commercial licenses every year to enter the field.
- The average salary for a long-haul driver was $52,240 in 2021, while Walmart, which employs 12,000 truckers, is now offering a starting salary of $95,000 to $110,000.
“We still have a lot of positions that can’t be filled because of the working conditions,” Mike Chavez, executive director of the Inland Empire Labor Institute, told Time.
Driving Need: Walmart’s need for more truckers is obvious. Pandemic-driven demand was a boon for major retailers, and more business means more drivers. The company hired a record 4,500 truckers last year and will even pay for commercial driver training, which can run up to $5,000 per person, for employees who want to switch jobs and hit the open road.