The US continues to target truck drivers from South Africa – here’s what you can earn

 ·11 Apr 2022

Retail giant Walmart has announced that it will ramp up pay for its truckers as the country faces a national shortage of drivers.

Speaking to Bloomberg, a Walmart spokesperson said the company will begin paying drivers $95,000 (R1.4 million) and $110,000 (R1.6 million) in their first year at the company, while veteran drivers can earn even more.

The pay bump pushes Walmart truck drivers further ahead of typical US levels. The median pay for heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers was $47,130 (R690,000) in 2020, according to the US Labor Department.

As a result of the shortage, US companies are increasingly turning to foreign drivers to make up for the shortfall, says Arnoux Maré, managing director of Innovative Learning Solutions (ILS).

“The shortage of professional truck drivers is a massive challenge both locally and globally, which represents a significant opportunity for South Africans seeking new career opportunities.

“In 2021, a survey of 800 companies from 20 countries by the International Road Union found that European companies expected to face a 17% shortfall in drivers this year, largely because of a lack of trained drivers.”

Maré noted that the US is overwhelmingly dependent on road freight for the transport of goods, and the American Trucking Association (ATA) has estimated that the US needs more than 80,000 truck drivers to plug the shortfall.

The first step for anyone looking to capitalise on this opportunity will be to seek the required training and qualifications, and to build their driving experience, Maré said.

“This means obtaining a Code 14 license to drive High Mobility Vehicle (HMV) or heavy-duty vehicles, as well as a professional driving permit (PDP).

“To set your CV apart, we then recommend that you build your practical experience and knowledge of professional truck driving techniques such as performing pre-trip inspections, driving in wet conditions, alley docking, or driving the 8-formation.”

“We have received an increasing number of queries from young and unemployed South Africans, including a rising number of women, as well as individuals seeking to launch new careers such as former Uber and Bolt drivers.”

He added that there are numerous online resources for drivers looking to apply for positions with US companies or seeking assistance with obtaining a US work visa.

What drivers earn in South Africa 

In February, the government published new minimum wages for wholesale and retail truck drivers – taking effect from 1 March 2022. While inexperienced drivers are likely to earn around R5,000 per month, data shows that experienced drivers can earn between R10,000 and R15,000 per month.

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.

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.

The maximum permissible number of hours per week for a driver is 45, representing a maximum of nine hours per day over a five-day working week.

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

It should be noted that these are minimum wages and are not reflective of what more experienced drivers can earn in South Africa.

Drivers can also earn substantially more based on which companies they drive for and their cargo.

Driver type Area A Area B
Light (3,500 kg or less) R4 521.70 R4 521.70
Medium (3,501 kg – 9,000 kg) R5 436.18 R4 521.70
Heavy (9,001 kg – 16,000 kg) R5 917.79 R5 627.27
Very Heavy (16,001 kg or over) R6 502.75 R6 186.87

With further reporting from Bloomberg.

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