Walmart will lift starting pay for lorry drivers to as much as $110,000 a year in the retail company's latest move to recruit and retain logistics staff in the tight US labour market.
The new salary level is compared with current pay averaging $87,500 for first-year drivers and is about twice the average $56,491 annual pay for a long-haul driver, data cited by Walmart showed.
Whether a new driver can make the full $110,000 depends on factors such as distance driven and location, a Walmart spokesman said.
The aim is to make working as a driver for the company a “destination job”, Walmart supply chain executives Fernando Cortes and Karisa Sprague said in a blog post.
“The investments in pay and training build on multiple recent driver bonuses and improved schedules that enable drivers to spend more time at home,” they said. “Once drivers are on board, this is a job many leave only for retirement.”
Walmart, which currently has 12,000 drivers in its fleet, is looking to add another 5,000 in 2022.
The company has also established an internal training programme in which staff from other parts of Walmart can train for 12 weeks and earn a commercial driver's licence.
Walmart is paying for trainees in some areas to earn their CDL, which can cost as much as $10,000, the company said. Most companies require drivers to pay for their own training.
The goal is to bring on 400 to 800 drivers through the programme by the end of the company's 2023 fiscal year, a spokesman said.
The hiring push comes amid a period of significant revenue growth for Walmart and other big-box chains throughout the coronavirus pandemic, a period also characterised by port backlogs and supply chain snarls.
The crunch in drivers has prompted some larger trucking companies to argue for lowering the national driving age, a policy opposed by independent drivers who have called for more parking capacity, less unpaid waiting time and other improvements in working conditions to improve employee retention.