Truck Drivers vs Wharfies

On Monday I explored the differences between Teachers and Wharfies and some moaned that Teachers were hardly in a dangerous job, so then I looked at Police vs Wharfies, the Police are woefully underpaid for the amount of danger they experience compared to the rather benign working environment of wharfies.

People still complained that the comparison wasn’t really accurate because wharfies use heavy machinery like straddle cranes and swing lifters and move big heavy items like containers around.

So what better comparison then that a truck driver. According to Careers NZ the wage conditions of truckdrivers are:

Straddle carriers and trucks in a port

Image via Wikipedia

Heavy truck drivers usually earn between $15 and $25 an hour, or about $31,000 to $52,000 a year. These rates assume a 40-hour week but many truck drivers work more than this, some up to 65 hours a week.

However, pay can vary greatly depending on the:

  • type of goods being transported
  • size of the vehicle being driven
  • region you work in
  • company you work for
  • length of the trip.

I also checked by giving a trucking company CEO, who is a mate of mine, a call and asked him what the most his best wages driver earned last year. He said that it topped out at $70,000 mainly because a truck driver simply is unable to work the hours due to driving hours regulations. The most one of his drivers could work in a week including driving and non-driving time was 70 hours. They are off course driving equipment valued with a replacement cost well in excess of $500,000.

Not only that he pointed out that unlike wharfies who use their equipment in a controlled and flat environment, his drivers used all the same equipment to load containers, or loose items, or cars and vehicles onto the trucks, then drove thouse trucks onto the Motorway network and suburban streets to their customers depots where they again operated items like fork lifts and straddle carriers and off course swing lifters to load and unload the deliveries. Not only that they have the entire Police force laying in wait to catch them out for missing log book entries, expired RUC, mechanical defects, speeding and all manner of others things. Not to mention attempting to avoid all manner of other road users doing their crazy thing on the roads.

I also asked aobut health insurance plans and leave and the such and was met with silence and a comment about statutory requirements.

So in essence a truck driver is doing all of high risk usage of heavy machinery and in many instances the exact same machinery, but having to work every bit of 70 hours a week to attain the maximum possible of $70,000 while a wharfie works just 28 hours for every 40 hours rostered, scores $91,000 plus benefits, 5 weeks leave and a full medical insurance plan for them and their family.

The job comparison is fair. The wage comparison and conditions are not. Wharfies think they are hard done by but when you compare with similar industries you find that they are very well compensated. The only real difference being the closed shop and lack of comeptition has enabled them to rort the employers for far too long. The Ports of Auckland is now moving to bring the Port into the 21st Century.

Enhanced by Zemanta

THANK YOU for being a subscriber. Because of you Whaleoil is going from strength to strength. It is a little known fact that Whaleoil subscribers are better in bed, good looking and highly intelligent. Sometimes all at once! Please Click Here Now to subscribe to an ad-free Whaleoil.

  • Agent BallSack

    Also a lot of Truckies are Owner/Operators and as such have to take into account:

    RUC, fluctuating fuel prices, Insurance, COF WOF and Registration, Police attention, Overnight stays on long haul, depreciation of assets, down time due to restricted driving hours, major competition from large companies, idiots in cars who think a 30tonne truck can stop in 100 meters and a shit load more…

  • kevin

    Right on agentb/s.
    Not many wharfies would aspire to be an hourly rate trucker and lots of truckers would happily be a wharfie. We all just know that.

    • Agent BallSack

      Most truckers don’t like to be told how to vote or think so there goes that cream job on the wharf. You have to wonder how many are going out of business due to the ongoing dispute at POAL? Of course as long as the rights of the few (300) out weight the rights of the many (1m in AK)…. Interesting how the rabid left see this as a proletariat struggle but care less about the many people who rely on the secondary and subsidiary port occupations.

      • Interestingly….ironically? Their strike affects truck drivers! But not long term. The freight is there, it will get delivered so the truck drivers will get paid. But as for the many businesses working to a time frame with that freight – yes, will be interesting to see the fall out.

  • cornershop…not

    Cam – also why this is a good comparison – Truckies also work the sort of hours that their employers need them to work, often icluding night driving for long haul and early morning starts – weekends, etc etc so they get paid much less, machinery and risks similar, they work as their employer requires. Again – the wharfies are shown to be what can only be described prehistoric greed….(well actually probably more valid I point that at the union, the workers themselves my just be bullied into by a few hacks)

    • Not always true. Many get healthy rewards for different shifts. For the line haul guys note that they get paid the same whether they go from one end of the country to the other with one pallet or with a full truck. 

      Also the line haul guys don’t touch machinery – the unloaders do all the fork lift work. It’s the guys on the local runs that have the greatest risk but if you sit your tests, pay attention to your work it really is quite simple. 

      Which means for a good driver you can earn a large work for what is often mind numbingly simple work. 

      And while the employer might dictate the truck colours, signage, uniform & general hours of work, the owner/driver has complete autonomy over how they manage that time and when the deliver/pick-up freight.

      I would say that the most accurate comparison would be the store room/unloader guys in the transport industry versus the wharfies. 

  • Chris Trotter

    A fair comparison, Cameron, but I believe you’re drawing the wrong conclusion from the evidence.

    Thirty years ago drivers were at the cutting edge of the trade union movement. The annual “wage round” was kicked off by the Drivers’ Award negotiations, with the eventual settlement setting a bench-mark for other unions to follow.

    I suspect truck drivers would be considerably better paid for the work they do, and would enjoy much better and safer working conditions, if the de-unionisation of the workforce hadn’t been such a priority for the transport industry employers. The Employment Contracts Act and the lure of owner-operator status, broke the power of the drivers’ unions in the 1990s – with the consequences you so accurately describe.

    As an ironic aside, you might be interested to know that the man who led the negotiations for the Drivers’ Award in the early 1980s was one Rob Campbell. Yes, the very same Rob Campbell who now sits on the Board of Directors of POAL.

    It’s a strange old world.  

    • Chris – you are right…in a way. Re “I suspect truck drivers would be considerably better paid for the work they do, and would enjoy much better and safer working conditions, if the de-unionisation of the workforce hadn’t been such a priority for the transport industry employers”

      This would be true I would imagine for all the larger ‘good’ transport companies.

      But the small one with 1-5 trucks often fly under the radar. And they don’t get caught. They ignore OSH requirements putting their drivers & unloaders at risk, often skip on COF stuff, force drivers to ignore logbook rules who then get caught A LOT by CVIU, get fined A LOT forcing them to sell their crappy zero book value truck that still has a large debt on it….

      Being anti union myself it pains me to say that truck drivers are the one group I think who could do with a union occasionally – especially when Labour increased our ACC levies & RUC. But then the other side of the coin is that few drivers would want to be forced to strike – it costs a lot per day to have a truck and if you’re not in it doing your job you’re not earning the money so striking is dead time.

      But that is where the good driver/good company comes into. Make sure you work for a company that keeps its word, do your job, don’t dick around & you get rewarded & you wont need to strike!

      • The old saying goes if the wheels aren’t rolling the truck isn’t earning…and when you spend $600k plus on a truck and trailer unit you want those wheels rolling as often as possible. With the ports on strike a lot of trucking firms, drivers and owner/drivers are suffering, bot that the Maritime union cares.

    • It is a strange old world. And yes I did know that. But then Rob learned a thing or two and why he is now the fox in charge of the henhouse and not the other way round.

    • Yes and the Drivers were protected too by a law that forbade cargo to be transported by truck further than 50kms. Which also protected the massive staff at NZ Rail.

      The removal of such arbitrary and artificial barriers to intermodal transport really is the cause of the destruction of the Drivers Union 

  • I don’t know anything about wharfies, but I do know a lot about the transport industry including truck drivers. I’m married to one and I do the accounts.

    Cameron – 1st thing re “giving a trucking company CEO, who is a mate of mine, a call and asked him what the most his best wages driver earned last year. He said that it topped out at $70,000 mainly because a truck driver simply is unable to work the hours due to driving hours regulations. The most one of his drivers could work in a week including driving and non-driving time was 70 hours”

    No disrespect to your mate but he appears to be the CEO of a rather small transport company so perhaps not a good reflection of what MOST truckies earn. The biggest transport companies employ most of the truck drivers in NZ – whether as company drivers (very few) or owner/drivers.

    That he implied his driver could earn more than $70k if he worked more than 70 hours seems odd. $70k should easily be able to be earned under a 45 hour week. That is solid work excluding any breaks/chit chats/smokos. If you want to include those (trust me, the boys are just as good as the gossiping as the girls!) then 60 hour weeks would be more accurate.

    Also, what do you mean by “best wages”? Are you talking about employees or owner/drivers (whether they lease or own the truck they are driving) who are contracted (not written of course) to the transport company?

    In terms of the careers NZ – I am not sure how accurate this would be given that most truck drivers are self-employed. How do they collect their data & what is it measured against? I can’t imagine they would be able to collect it from the transport companies & the information wouldn’t be accessible via Inland Revenue as the contractors are just classified under Road Transport which can mean anything. Even the ACC classification of Road Freight Transport is a little ambiguous.

    In our transport company, the wages boys get about $45k for a 50hr week plus an annual bonus. The owner/drivers (except the monkeys) get about $60-70k working 50 hour weeks including breaks/smokos with a handful who don’t have as many breaks (my hubby as none) and work about 60 hours grossing anywhere between $80k to $160k p/a. And restricted hours doesn’t really come into it. The linehaul guys are all on a regular schedule & often have drivers so that the truck itself runs day & night up the country. The only guys that might be affected would be the floaters who don’t have a set run, but then their work isn’t as regular so can’t see that being an issue either.

    Ultimately for our transport company the income depends predominantly on the driver – how good they are (good drivers are like gold) & the ‘run’/contract (type of freight within their area) they have. Most of our guys have a fairly high turnover so that is when other factors come into it, factors which can drive up the expenses & reduce the gross income – such as mileage, freight difficulty, what type of rig they buy etc.

    There are a lot of guys who are on great runs and could earn a huge wage but they stuff it up by drawing out their truck loan terms, buying big brand new expensive rigs with fancy painting & signage when they could just have the standard signage & a good second hand truck. 

    However the rest of it is spot on – truck drivers do take on all the risk, all the responsibility with no luxuries such as annual leave, sick leave etc, work at least 50-60 hour weeks & high ACC levies – under Labour, ACC levies were increased by 94% yet no protest…you want to know why? Because they were all too bloody busy working! Same with Road Users – protest was minuscule as they just don’t have the time or money to give up a days work/find a replacement driver so they can protest.

    In terms of health benefits – do the wharf guys get some? Truckies like everyone have ACC and some companies have an arrangement with Southern Cross whereby they can get private insurance at a discount. Same applies to the vehicle, personal & public liability insurance.

    Sorry massive post – just thought I would share from a truck driver’s wife’s perspective! :)

    • I was talking specifically about wages staff, not owner/drivers….owner/driver aren’t really a fair comparison simply because of the individual business risk factor.

      The point I was trying to make is that truck drivers have external laws, like driving hours which really prohibit them working many more hours. The consequences of being caught over time on driving hours is too steep. Sure there are cowboys that run dual logbooks and the like but they run serious risks to their business, the owner, plus not to mention safety for themselves and all other road users. Driving hours are there for a reason.

      ANy business model that involves heavy gearing to get into will always hurt. I know this quite well with a friend who though he could borrow a lot for three trucks to work container movements. The reality for his small business is he was going broke slowly. Adding more trucks just sped up the process because of his gearing. That just means he was a poor business owner not that the model is broken.

      One thing I do know is the gear is big and expensive and if it is off the road the costs just keep on coming but the income stops.

      The CEO of the trucking firm is one of the largest with trucks all over the country doing all sorts of movements. The firm is one of the longest in existence too…he knows trucks, staff and transport.My explanations might not have been clear enough, and that is my fault not his.

      • Thanks for the clarification Cameron – yep the gear is expensive but I still think that if you buy within your means & have a good look at previous years turnover (they all have to keep their records for 7 years!) then a lot of the risk can be reduced. A good second hand truck & trailer is easily bought for well under $300k so to spend $500k when your gross income (so gross profit) is only $70k makes me think a few lessons on basic budgeting wouldn’t go astray. 

        But if you’re only talking about waged drivers well $70K is a good wage especially since they won’t be forking out for the cost of the truck so then it just becomes a question of hours where some employers no doubt have their drivers over a barrel.

        But there is no question that transport is a industry where capital investment is costly & the risks can be even more so. 

        And hubby corrected me on the log book thing too – about half of all drivers (whether waged or owner/drivers) who do line haul town to town which can mean more hours for a lower average hourly rate.
        I am curious about the wharfies earning $90k though – seems extraordinary & then to have the audacity to strike! They don’t know the meaning of doing it hard!Your CEO mate sounds interesting….I’m curious now!