How Do I Make More Money as a Truck Driver?


Whether company driver or owner-operator, whether OTR or local, all truck drivers want to earn more money. Initially, the best way to do this is to get all of the endorsements on your CDL. These endorsements allow you to deliver specialty freight beyond what the standard CDL Class A permits.

The more freight you can deliver, the more jobs that are open to you. The goal is to give yourself as many opportunities as possible so that you are increasing your profits. You can get these endorsements when you pass the written CDL test and get your learner’s permit.


Endorsements have separate tests that need to be passed and include:

  • HAZMAT pays well for hazardous freight.

    Double and Triple Trailers (average salary $62,000)
  • Passenger endorsement for the transportation of individuals such as on buses (average salary $40,000)
  • Tanker/Tank Vehicle vehicles designed to carry liquid loads such as non-potable water,  milk, animal fats not fit for human consumption, and gasoline (average salary $50,000)
  • HAZMAT, or hazardous materials for transporting fluids and other materials that may pose a danger if exposed to the outside environment (average salary $50,000)
  • Combination of tank vehicle and hazardous materials for truckers transporting HAZMAT inside a tanker such as gasoline (average salary $50,000)
  • School bus, which requires the Passenger endorsement in addition to a separate school bus endorsement (average salary $30,000)


There are also non-endorsement opportunities to earn more money. Some of these are more specialized jobs that give you an opportunity to earn more money.

  • Dry-van driving is the most common position in the industry and is perfect for those who prefer regional routes with a fit schedule; the salary for these positions is around $44,000 a year when going OTR.
  • Less than Truckload (LTL) driving and consists of cargo that is gradually unloaded at multiple stops. The average salary for this position is around $20-25 an hour, or $50,000.
  • Flatbed – flatbed truck with freight that is tied down onto an uncovered bed. Flatbeds are less common but offer a salary that is competitive with other non-endorsement driving. Additionally, drivers can earn extra tarp pay for cargo that requires a tarp.
  • Reefer/Refrigerated – Refrigerated trucks carry items like frozen meat and other materials that need to have their temperatures regulated. These are also known as reefer trucks. Average salary $40,000.
  • Ice Road – There are specialty positions available that can really maximize the money that you make as a truck driver. The highest paying position available in the industry is driving a truck on ice roads. This is a dangerous position and one in which you are subject to extreme conditions, however, for adventurous types the compensation may be worth it. Ice road trucking averages $80,000 a year.
  • Auto Haulers – There is also the option to drive car transport trucks. Again, these positions come with increased risk and danger but are rewarded with increased revenue for the driver. Average salary $60,000.
  • Over-dimensional – Over-dimensional loads require extra attention from the driver and involve specialized rules and restrictions along with coordination from pilot cars in order to haul oversize loads. Average salary $60,000.
  • Harvest hauling – This is an opportunity to earn additional cash on the weekends. Truck drivers can haul grain for local farmers in between other loads.

In order to maximize your profits, it is vital that you get as many CDL endorsements as possible, so that you can be available for any employment that becomes available. Many companies handle various types of freight. If you are flexible in the type of loads you can handle, you have the best opportunity to find the highest-paid truck driving jobs.

Finding specialty jobs such as ice road trucking may be more difficult, but procuring a job in this area could help you truly maximize the money you could make as a truck driver. Ice road trucking earns the most money along with LTL, over-dimensional loads, and car transport.

So if you are looking for the highest-paying truck driving jobs, start with the above options and search for companies that provide extra bonuses, perks and incentives in order to ensure that you are putting the most money in your wallet as possible.

How Much Do Truck Drivers Make With Their Own Truck?

Owning a semi-truck makes it possible to earn a six-figure income transporting cargo. Truckers that pursue the owner-operator route earn an annual salary of approximately $180,000. Unfortunately, this handsome sum is reduced by numerous fees, such as maintenance, insurance, and other expenses.

Owner operators can earn more for more responsibility.

 As an owner-operator, truckers have the luxury of being able to choose their runs. Of course, this also means that they have to find them. Owner operators can look for jobs online on popular boards.

Finding your own jobs on an online board means you can select the best freight that companies will hire you for. 

Unfortunately, the time it takes to find that job is unpredictable, and the time spent searching for a suitable route is completely unpaid. This can be particularly stressful for a new owner operator that still has payments on their semi-truck.

Additional Fees and Costs

 Starting out, owner operators quickly discover the additional fees that are associated with the job. Many truckers are familiar with most of the business expenses that come with owning your own truck, such as gas, insurance, and maintenance fees. Other profit reductions, however, may catch a new owner-operator off guard.

Owner-operators that wish to earn their own operating authority need to have a US DOT and an MC number. Truckers can generate these numbers and register them on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association’s website.

Before retrieving this information from the FMCSA, truck drivers should sort out a few business details beforehand. For example, truckers will need to decide a name for their business and whether they are establishing their authority as the sole proprietor, LLC, corporation or in a partnership. Each option determines the owner-operator’s liability and how they should file taxes later on.

Once a trucker confirms this information, the next step is to procure liability insurance of at least $750,000. This amount increases to $1 million if an owner-operator intends on transporting hazmat materials. New carriers are typically charged substantially more than average during the first few years. Due to this, insurance premiums can range between $4,000 and $16,000 annually for one truck. With the company’s name and liability insurance settled, the remaining process of registration will cost approximately $300. This includes the fee for filing the BOC-3 Form, IRS Form 2290, Unified Carrier Registration, and registration.

After registration is complete, other deductions, such as Federal Heavy Vehicle Use Tax and Ad Valorem, need to be accounted for. Keeping a detailed record of these expenses is paramount. Due to this, we encourage owner-operators to hire an accountant or allocate plenty of time for their bookkeeping process. Those that choose to forego this vital step face a potential nightmare during tax season.

How Owner-Operators Receive Payment

When a business owner needs to transport their cargo to a buyer, they seek out a way to ship their product. Typically, this is where an owner-operator comes in. Business owners leverage a percentage of the potential profits they are earning from the sale of their product. This percentage-based pay differs from the hourly rate of local company drivers and the CPM calculations of OTR company drivers.

After the precise percentage has been agreed upon, the trucker delivers the cargo to its destination. Once this is accomplished, the business owner usually waits to receive payment from the buyer before paying the owner-operator.

To accommodate for this delay, new owner-operators need to have some savings while they wait for their payment. Be aware that if the total sum of the percentage pay does not cover the total expense accrued during the run, an owner-operator may break even or worse. Due to this, it is extremely important to confirm that the load will actually turn a profit before accepting the long-haul.

Be Wary of Shady Leasing and Contractor Agreements

Some lease agreements do not favor drivers.

Drivers may opt to procure their own semi-truck through a trucking company by signing a lease agreement. Truckers that choose to take this route may receive company-provided trailers, fuel cards, cash advances, insurance, and provided loads. An owner-operator lease typically consists of a low monthly rate and zero down at signup.

These leasing programs offer truck drivers great benefits and an easy way to get started.  But are there any drawbacks? Unfortunately, enticing lease agreements also provide scammers with a convenient way to con truckers.

This typically occurs when the driver is unable to make lease payments due to a decrease in miles driven and an insurmountable amount of fees. For example, shady carriers may overcharge for insurance, fuel taxes, and mandated repairs at a company facility. Although an owner-operator would never willingly agree to these unfair practices, they may be outlined in the contractor agreement.

To avoid falling for this scam, ask detailed questions about the lease agreement. If the contractor seems pushy or in a rush, walk away. The risk of financial ruin is not worth the trouble. Carriers that offer a legitimate owner-operator lease agreement do not mind if a trucker decides to have the document evaluated by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.

Owner-operators that want to run their own business have a few distinct advantages over company drivers. They can avoid company favoritism, select the best loads, and choose when to travel. The downsides, however, are the recordkeeping and the latency issues associated with receiving payment. Many company drivers do go on to become owner-operators, but we don’t recommend it until you’ve been in the trucking industry for several years.



About The Authors
Contributors: Clyde Hoggatt, Jessica Cottner. Expert Review: William Mason, Luke Nold.

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