The US is recruiting drivers from South Africa – here’s what they earn

A severe shortage of truck drivers in the US has led to more companies bringing in drivers from abroad.

In 2019, the US was already short 60,000 drivers, according to the American Trucking Association. According to Bob Costello, the group’s chief economist, that number is anticipated to grow to 100,000 by 2023.

Craig Fuller, the founder and chief executive of the data and information firm Freightwave, told Bloomberg that companies are increasingly turning to drivers from South Africa and Canada as workers from those countries can often speak English, making it easier to get the necessary license.

This was echoed by Arnoux Mare, chief executive of Innovative Solutions Group, who told RSG that this was not a new trend and that South Africans have been in demand for several years.

Mare’s company specialises in outsourcing work functions including hiring logistics and drivers for companies and he has also employed local drivers to drive for international companies.

He added that the trend was not limited to the US, with South Africans also sought after in Europe in countries such as England.

While Mare could not give an exact figure on how many truck drivers are in demand, he said that there was a clear shortage and demand.

He added that these drivers would still be required to do their licences and learn the various road rules, so South Africans should not expect to start working straight away.

He further cautioned that immigration to the US is in high demand from other countries, so South Africans should be cautious of just quitting their jobs here and moving over without having a plan in place.

He added that drivers should also be cautious of companies promising ‘R1 million a year’ as these stories can often be too good to be true. This is not necessarily a normal salary or what one would actually earn.

How much truck drivers earn in the US

Data sourced from the salary website Indeed shows that the average annual base salary for a truck driver in the US is $67,256 – almost exactly R1 million.

This is obviously highly dependent on the qualifications and experience of the driver, with drivers earning substantially more depending on the company they work for and the number of years they have driven.

This aligns closely with comparative salary data from salary website Talent, with an average annual base salary of $67,600 (R1,005,833).

Entry-level positions start at $51,676 (R768,897) per year, while most experienced workers make up to $96,183 (R1.4 million) per year.

How much truck drivers earn in South Africa 

Data sourced from salary website Indeed shows that the base salary for a truck driver is R10,728 per month in South Africa – or roughly R130,000 a year.

Comparative salary data from Payscale shows that the average pay is slightly lower at R98,225 a year, or R8,185 a month.

The Department of Labour also published minimum wages for wholesale and retail truck drivers in 2020.

 

These wages establish the minimum baseline across the sector, and workers can earn significantly more based on their position and the company that they work for.

According to the government-mandated minimum wages, drivers are paid in accordance to what part of South Africa they are based in:

Covers
Area A Areas around Bergrivier, Breede Valley, Buffalo City, Cape Agulhas, Cederberg, City of Cape Town, City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality, City of Tshwane, Drakenstein, Ekurhuleni, Emalahleni, Emfuleni, Ethekwini Metropolitan Unicity, Gamagara, George, Hibiscus Coast, Karoo Hoogland, Kgatelopele, //Khara Hais, Knysna, Kungwini, Kouga, Hessequa local authority, Lesedi, Makana, Mangaung, Matzikama, Metsimaholo, Middelburg (Mpumalanga), Midvaal, Mngeni, Mogale, Mosselbaai, Msunduzi, Mtubatuba, Nama Khoi, Nelson Mandela, Nokeng tsa Taemane, Oudtshoorn, Overstrand, Plettenbergbaai, Potchefstroom, Randfontein, Richtersveld, Saldanha Bay, Sol Plaatjie, Stellenbosch, Swartland, Swellendam, Theewaterskloof, Umdoni, uMhlathuze and Witzenberg.
Area B  All Areas not listed in Area A.
For those who work as drivers, the maximum permissible number of hours per week is 45. Broken down into a working week of five days, which represents a maximum of nine hours per day.

Workers can work overtime and agree to work six-day weeks, depending on the agreement they have with their employer.

Driver type Area A Area B
Light (3,500 kg or less) R4 047.89 R4 047.89
Medium (3,501 kg – 9,000 kg) R4 866.83 R4 047.89
Heavy (9,001 kg – 16,000 kg) R5 297.74 R4 047.89
Very Heavy (16,001 kg or over) R5 822.25 R5 537.57

Read: South Africa’s driving licence system is broken – with these extensions ending in August

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The US is recruiting drivers from South Africa – here’s what they earn