Walmart is launching a training program that will allow employees who work in its distribution or fulfillment centers a chance to drive company trucks.
The nation’s largest retailer introduced a 12-week program where established drivers will teach aspiring truckers, The Associated Press reported.
The starting pay is also a big incentive.
Walmart spokesperson Anne Hatfield said the company is raising starting salaries for its truck drivers to between $95,000 and $110,000 a year, The Wall Street Journal reported. The previous average starting salary was $87,000, the spokesperson said.
In the U.S., the median annual pay for heavy-truck and tractor-trailer drivers was $47,130 in 2020, the most recent annual data available, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That figure has increased by about 3% to 4% annually, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Walmart’s announcement on Thursday comes as the trucking industry is battling driver shortages due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The American Trucking Associations, a large industry trade group, estimated that the U.S. is short about 80,000 drivers, according to the AP.
The retailer said that about 20 workers in Dallas and Dover, Delaware, have earned their commercial driver’s licenses, the AP reported. Hatfield told the news agency that about 400 to 800 workers in Walmart’s supply-chain network are expected to complete the new truck driving program this year.
The program will initially be open to only supply chain associates who are near the two training locations, CNBC reported. Hatfield said that in the future, all Walmart employees will be able to apply for the program.
“We want to make sure we continue to attract drivers, but also retain” existing drivers, Karisa Sprague, a senior vice president in Walmart’s human resources department, told The Wall Street Journal.
The retailer hired 7,000 drivers for its internal fleet over the past two years, including a record 4,500 in 2021, the newspaper reported. Walmart employs approximately 12,000 truck drivers overall.
“You can pull up job postings and there are lots of sign-on bonuses and shiny objects out there, and we want to make sure our associates are taken care of,” Sprague told The Wall Street Journal.
Sprague added that the cost to become an independent truck driver can cost about $4,500.
“We know that the industry isn’t necessarily building more drivers, but we want to be able to continue the growth of our private fleet,” Sprague told The Wall Street Journal. “We need to find multiple ways to do it.”
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