factFiction4 FactCheck: Do tanker drivers earn £45k?The claim

“Tanker drivers are paid on average £45,000 a year – double that of a regular haulage driver.”
Government department DECC press release, 26 March 2012

The background

Wednesday’s talks to avoid a fuel tanker strike will bring to a head a dispute that’s been running for more than a year.

The union Unite, which represents 2,000 fuel-tanker drivers, insists it’s not about pay – but that it is pushing for better terms and conditions for workers in an industry that “used to be run by the oil companies alone”.

“Over the years it’s  been contracted out to other companies and the conditions and the terms were kept pretty solidly at the beginning. But over the years they have become eroded,” Diana Holland, the assistant general secretary of Unite, said yesterday.

But that hasn’t stopped rumours that the union’s demands include a 27 per cent pay hike for drivers, and it hasn’t stopped Conservative party officials distributing leaflets claiming that tanker drivers earn up to £47,500 – or pointing out that’s more than a staff sergeant bomb disposal expert in Afghanistan (who earns around £35,000).

The implication is that tanker drivers are well-rewarded for the risks involved in lugging explosive cargo across the country.

According to the DVLA there are a total 55,592 LGV drivers of hazardous goods in the UK – with 84 per cent licensed to haul “explosives”.

But are the drivers as well off as the government claims?

The analysis

The average gross earnings of a full-time large goods vehicle (LGV) driver is £497.50 a week or £25,360 a year, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

An LGV is defined as any vehicle with a mass of over 3,500 kilogrammes – and covers vehicles previously known as HGVs (heavy goods vehicles).

The ONS doesn’t break down the pay of regular haulage drivers from tanker drivers; but we can assume that the latter command bigger pay packets – and the ONS figures show that the top 10 per cent of LGV drivers earn an average of £33,439.

That’s some 25 per cent less than the government’s figure of £45,000.

What’s more, it runs much closer to the average figure quoted to FactCheck by the union Unite, which represents 2,000 drivers who account for 90 per cent of those supplying petrol to UK forecourts.

A spokesman for Unite told us that the average salary of a tanker driver was around £35,000.

Yet the government, alongside some of the companies balloted for industrial action – such as Wincanton and Hoyer – quoted average salaries of £45,000.

Despite this, one Hoyer employee tweeted a picture of his payslip to us (below) adding: “I have (had) enough of the BS about what we earn WE DO NOT EARN 45K”.

03 tanker salary factcheck FactCheck: Do tanker drivers earn £45k?

“We’re guaranteed basic hours BUT we don’t do basic hours we are routed to max every shift. Due to redundancies less driver > work,” he added.

Of course this is just one worker at Hoyer, and a spokeswoman for the company continued to insist that the average salary was £45,000 for a 4×12-hour shift week.

However, she did concede that this figure includes “an element of overtime”. The overtime kicks in if drivers are stuck in traffic or if they work an extra day, she told us.

A spokesman for Wincanton also confirmed to FactCheck that the average £45,000 salary included “an element of overtime”.

The verdict

Yes tanker drivers earn more than your average LGV driver (the average gross annual salary across the board is £25,360), but according to official figures the average gross annual salary of a tanker driver is likely to be around £33,500.

That’s 25 per cent less than the £45,000 quoted by the government and by some haulage companies.

For a tanker driver to earn £45,000 in a year is however quite possible – but only if they put in extra hours in overtime.

By Emma Thelwell

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