The CEO of America’s largest independent moving company explains how his morning routine led to a $100k minimum wage for long-haul truckers

Chuck Kuhn, CEO and founder of the largest independently-owned trucking company, JK Moving Services

  • JK Moving Services is the largest independently owned trucking company in the US.
  • To attract and retain talent, the company raised its drivers’ minimum salary to $100,000 a year.
  • Insider spoke with JK Moving’s CEO, Chuck Kuhn, about the decision.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Chuck Kuhn founded JK Moving Services as a one-man, one-truck operation in Fairfax County, Va. when he was 16.

In 1981, shortly after earning his first driver’s license and buying his first truck, he eagerly took local moving gigs on the weekends because he wanted to alleviate some of the stress that can sometimes saddle families during big moves.

Now, Kuhn has help. JK Moving has swelled to employ over 1,000 people, including 400 drivers, making it the largest independently owned moving company in North America. Recently, the DC-based company announced its 2021 growth plans to hire 100 drivers and raise drivers’ annual salaries to $100,000 – nearly double the national industry average of $56,483, according to Glassdoor.

Job seekers have the upper hand right now. As the American economy bounces back from a pandemic slump, many employers across industries are offering tantalizing perks to lure talent. JK’s salary bump is part of that trend.

A sharp increase in online ordering has bolstered demand for delivery truck drivers, but many moving companies are still grappling with strategies to hire and retain CDL drivers. The cons of the job – long hours, unpredictable pay, sheer boredom – may outweigh the benefits for some CDL holders. In some trucking companies, drivers are expected to work up to 70 hours over an eight-day period. But JK’s revamped salary model could sweeten the pot.

“Our long-distance drivers are paid a percentage of the job they do and one of the challenges is the seasonality of the moving and storage industry,” Kuhn, JK’s CEO, told Insider. “So we were strategizing on how we would retain a quality driver fleet. How do we appeal to drivers in the industry at a higher level than our competitors?”

After a few rounds of discussion, Kuhn said JK’s executive team unanimously decided that guaranteeing a minimum annual salary of $100,000 would help curb the unpredictability of income, the biggest pain point for their drivers.

“If you’re a long-distance driver, and your significant other is at home and possibly taking care of children, making sure that paycheck comes in timely, accurately, and consistently is critical,” Kuhn explained.

The salary bump is an additional perk in the company’s existing benefits package which includes a 401(k) retirement plan, paid time off, company-paid profit-sharing program, and tuition reimbursement, among other benefits. Kuhn said that last year, JK invested nearly $2 million in employee-profit sharing.

“Even drivers that were making over $100,000 were excited to know that now there’s a guarantee,” Kuhn said. “So even if there’s a pandemic or if there’s a big snow event, if something happens in the economy, we’re committed to meeting this $100,000 guarantee regardless.”

Kuhn says the decision stemmed from his morning routine of walking around the warehouse and dispatch rooms.

At the start of each workday, he says he checks in with drivers and tend to other operational duties. Hearing about how hard it is to make ends meet during slow, winter months helped Kuhn inspire a conversation with his executive team, which ultimately led to the $100,000 minimum wage decision.

“I’m a big believer in management by walking around. I get on the floor, I eat with my people. I listen. I check on the uniforms. I check on the attitude of our workforce,” Kuhn said. “I learned a whole lot more by listening, and it’s amazing.”

Since the announcement of the salary bump, Kuhn said the company has seen a “tremendous amount of new applicants.”

“If we don’t have top talent serving as our ambassadors,” Kuhn said, “it’s detrimental to our customer experience and our future growth.”

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