How Much Do Truck Drivers Make?

  1. What are the highest-paying trucking jobs?

  2. How does long-haul or local truck driving affect my pay?

  3. How are truck drivers paid?

  4. What is per diem for truck drivers?

  5. What are the highest-paying trucking companies?

  6. How do I make more money as a truck driver?

  7. How do I get the miles I want?

  8. What bonuses and benefits can I get as truck driver?

  9. Is truck driving a good job?

  10. Is truck driving a good career for my future?

  11. Is truck driving a good next step after the military?

 


 

HOW MUCH DO TRUCK DRIVERS MAKE?

 

The trucking business offers a variety of driving occupations, from hauling heavy machinery across the country to making several local grocery deliveries in a single day. Because of this wide variety, the average truck driver salary depends on a number of factors including:

  • What you drive
  • What you haul
  • Where you go
  • How long it takes to get there.

A simple divide also splits the two primary types of drivers: Long haul and local.  The long-haul truckers typically drive long distances across the nation and tend to earn a higher salary than their short-haul counterparts.

  • Long haul, also called “over-the-road” or OTR, is more than a job. It’s a lifestyle.  And it’s not for everyone.  Because of the demands of the job, trucking companies are always looking for long-haul drivers, and they’re willing to pay more to get them.
  • Local or short-haul truck drivers typically make less due to various factors, such as being paid an hourly wage rather than by the mile. Despite lower pay, these jobs are in-demand because the drivers get more time at home.

Due to an increased demand for home time, there is also an emerging employment option for drivers called “regional”.  These drivers typically stay 500-700 miles from their home terminal and get to be home 2-3 times a week. These highly-competitive jobs pay as much as OTR positions and can usually can be attained with one year of verifiable experience. Due to population density, geography, and available freight, these jobs are primarily found east of I-35.

 

What is the Average Truck Driver Salary?

 

The average salary for truck drivers varies according to the distance traveled the type of cargo being hauled, and the company perks that are offered. For example, the annual salary a long-haul truck driver earns increases with profitable bonuses, such as sleeper, layover, and inconvenience or detention pay.

Taking these monetary perks into consideration, the annual salary of a long-haul driver on average is $44,000. This number is highly variable because drivers are paid less in their first year, and the salary is dependent upon how many miles are driven. If a long-haul driver dedicates themselves to putting in the miles, the upper limit of the average truck driver pay can reach $65,000 after the first year.

Local drivers rarely have bountiful bonus options available. Instead, they are typically paid by the hour, for an average salary of $42,000 per year.

 

How Much Do Truck Drivers Make Starting Out?

 

The road to becoming a professional truck driver is straightforward and ultimately rewarding. Budding truckers are required to earn a Commercial Driver’s License, or CDL, before signing up with a reputable trucking company.

Some companies offer “paid CDL training,” which combines the CDL school and the testing, with an offer of employment at a reduced rate. Drivers typically work for these trucking companies for a year in order to pay off the education provided. After a certain amount of time, some of these companies even reimburse a portion of that money to the driver.

Once rookie drivers have successfully adapted to their new profession, then the journey truly begins. The first year of a new truck driver often involves adapting an exciting and challenging new lifestyle full of hard work and personal growth.

 

When a CDL Driver Enters the Workforce

As with any new job, spending time with a trainer is mandatory. Trainers are able to provide rookie drivers with the valuable training they need. For example, new employees may learn the company’s culture and expectations in a classroom setting for approximately two weeks. Afterward, trainers take rookie drivers on a run for a few more weeks.

Training provides the new driver with a direct view of a trucker’s lifestyle.  The ability to maintain a positive working relationship with the trainer greatly impacts the successful completion of the training period, but more importantly the skills gained will build the foundation for the rest of the driver’s career.

During this time frame, new drivers may receive a wage for training. Typically, this wage is lower than the average truck driving salary, due to the rookie driver being paid by the hour. Drivers that have paid for their CDL training outright may earn approximately $500 a week during training. If a driver has opted for a company paid CDL training, however, the low hourly wage may be further reduced as the CDL training expenses are deducted weekly. This usually leaves the rookie driver with approximately $300 to $400 a week.

Trucking companies that offer CDL training, such as Swift, Roehl, Celadon, Schneider, Prime Inc., and CRST typically hire their graduates and get them on the road as quickly as possible. To earn the most during the beginning phase, it is wise to compare the training salary that is offered by each company before signing up to drive. A trucking company may offer their trainees a larger wage than their hourly salary due to the total amount of miles driven. For example, Swift offers new drivers $600 a week or 12 cents per mile, whereas Celadon offers $450 a week or 18 cents per mile.

 

When the Annual Salary Kicks In

Once the training period has concluded, rookie drivers will be able to transport their first haul. The routes rookie drivers usually get are not the greatest and average 2,500 miles at approximately 15 cents per mile. These hauls are considered normal routes, due to the lack of endorsement required to drive them. Rookie drivers are encouraged to transport these hauls in order to familiarize themselves with the trucking lifestyle. After a rookie driver has a few of these routes under their belt, they will be able to seek new, better-paying opportunities.

One way to achieve this is with endorsement training. Truck drivers with endorsements are able to drive a wide range of vehicles and haul different kinds of cargo. When a CDL driver completes an endorsement course, they are able to add one of the following endorsement letters to their license: T for trucks with double or triple trailers, N for tank vehicles, H for hazardous materials, and X for a tanker hazmat combination.

Due to the usefulness of endorsements, it is highly recommended for rookie drivers to obtain all of them when attaining their Class A CDL. Doing so makes the transition from shorter, normal routes to longer, higher-paying endorsement jobs seamless. Once a rookie driver is ready to take on an endorsement job, they are adequately prepared to take on most any emergency that may occur out on the road. Knowing how to handle these situations takes planning, patience, and practice that can only be attained through months of direct experience.

 

Completing the First Year

Within the first six months, truck drivers should start to see an increase in their salary. Although the average truck driver salary varies based on the state and trucking company, typically rookie drivers will make $20,000 to $45,000 during the first year. This amount increases to approximately $40,000 to $55,000 in the second year, or more with additional endorsements.

Professional truck drivers know that once the initial training has ended and the CDL lessons are paid for, the salary increases substantially. After adjusting to these bumps in the road, rookie drivers will be adequately prepared to acquire endorsements and earn a higher salary. Although attaining this trucking level is challenging, the entire ordeal is a profitable and personally rewarding experience.

 

About The Authors
Contributor: Jessica Cottner. Expert Review: William Mason, Luke Nold.