A Covenant Transport truck sits at the company's facility in Tiftonia.


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In the battle to recruit and keep drivers on the road, Covenant Transport is offering more than just higher pay.

The Chattanooga-based trucking company said this week it will guarantee $1,000 a week of pay for each of the 1,032 experienced drivers that haul hazardous materials, plus another two days of earned home time.

Although most drivers carrying hazmat materials on an expedited basis earn $1,200 or more a week, Covenant's new weekly pay guarantee is believed to be the largest in the industry and offers drivers an assurance of income on an ongoing basis.

"With this, you know that if you work 45 weeks a year, you're going to earn at least $45,000 a year and probably more," said Rob Hatchett, vice president of recruiting for Covenant. "Even with higher pay rates in our industry, there are still weeks where you might get caught in a snowstorm or have your truck break down and you don't make as much as normal. We're saying even with all those things, we're still going to guarantee you this baseline and that's the kind of consistency in pay that drivers really want but usually have never had."

At the same time, Covenant said it will boost its starting pay for hazmat drivers by 2 cents a share to 72 cents per mile.

Covenant Transport, the nation's 18th biggest trucking firm and one of the largest shippers of expedited, long-haul freight, is trying to keep pace with the growing demand for truck shipments and the industry's historically high turnover rate of drivers. Covenant has expanded its driver count by about 200 drivers in the past year and Hatchett said he could easily add another 150 drivers, if he could get enough qualified applicants.

The American Trucking Association (ATA) estimates there is a current shortage of 35,000 to 40,000 truck drivers nationwide, forcing trucking companies to boost wages to help entice more people into the industry. Trucks move nearly 70 percent of all U.S. inland freight and the ATA projects the driver shortage could worsen as the economy improves and freight volumes continues to rise.

The ATA's chief economist, Bob Costello, estimates that continued economic expansion could require the addition of as many 100,000 drivers a year to keep up with demand.

In response, carriers are looking at different pay methods to the traditional cents-per-mile formula.

"I think we'll see more guaranteed pay packages," David Schumann, general manager of Progressive Transportation, told, an industry publication.

Covenant Transport, known in the trucking industry as a leader in expedited team freight of hazardous materials, is able to charge its customers more to quickly move valuable yet potentially hazardous freight across the country, Hatchett said.

"When you have a hazardous material load going from Chattanooga to Los Angeles, you can't put it on a solo truck or on a train," he said. "The only way it's going to get there is by team truck and that's our special niche. With the growth of eCommerce, a growing number of online buyers are expecting to have what they order within a few days time."

The minimum guarantee for HazMat team drivers with less than a year of experience is $850 per week. The new pay package also features company-paid HazMat endorsement andan improvement in earned home-time to two days earned for 12 worked.

Since Jan. 1, Covenant has hired 1,287 drivers — up from the 987 truck drivers hired by Covenant in the same period a year ago. Hiring from student graduates from truck driving schools is up about 30 percent this year.

Covenant Transport is currently hiring in all 48 states with orientations held every Monday in Chattanooga, Dallas, and Los Angeles.