How Does Salary Vary By Trucking Company?
Unfortunately for drivers, it’s not easy to determine the highest-paying trucking companies. Even if you look at the average trucker pay for each company, that doesn’t give you the whole picture. Pay rates vary by size, location, type of freight, hours away from home, benefits, and so on.
In this article, we’ll discuss how size and other factors affect how much a trucking company pays its drivers. Then we’ll cover a few of the highest-paying companies.
Trucking Company Size
The size of a company alone doesn’t strictly determine if it’s among the highest-paying trucking companies. There are positive and negative aspects to companies of all sizes. One large difference between small and large companies is the workplace culture.
Large companies tend to have more variety in available jobs, both in distance and freight. These companies may offer more flexible hours with greater opportunity for time off because they employ a vast amount of truckers.
For many large companies, the average trucker pay is lower, but they have money-saving relationships with businesses such as hotels, truck stops, restaurants and mechanics.
These companies also have other perks such as enormous support teams, family counseling, insurance, and nice facilities with amenities.
Some large companies have their own private fleets that ship their own products, such as Walmart and Coca Cola. These have very competitive pay but are not often thought of as “trucking companies.”
Small companies tend to have a more family-like atmosphere. You know your colleagues and bosses more intimately. Because they are more interested in retaining staff and reducing turnover, the average trucker pay may be higher at a small company.
You have a better chance to stand out at a smaller company. They may even offer profit-sharing incentives. Small companies may also ignore some of the more intense background checks from larger trucking companies.
Many small trucking companies prefer to hire truck drivers as contractors, possibly requiring you to be an owner-operator. While owner operators tend to be paid more because they own their own truck, they are responsible for their own taxes and may not receive benefits. This isn’t a situation recommended for rookie drivers.
Generally, most driver-friendly fleets fall in the mid-size trucking company (300-500 trucks). These companies pay a fair rate with decent equipment. They are also small enough that the dispatchers know who they are talking to.
Ultimately, the best way to learn about a company’s pay and benefits is to speak with truckers who work there already. They can help you get a sense of the atmosphere much better than recruiters, who are looking to sell you on a specific company.
Different companies offer different types of freight, which also affects trucker pay.
Here are some of the specialties in types of freight hauled that will allow for higher pay:
- LTL (less-than-truckload): LTL tends to have smaller freight and involves hauling cargo for multiple customers in one truck. These jobs usually have a specific route and are lucrative, sought-after positions. Small and medium-sized companies benefit from LTL. Some companies do both LTL and full truckload. The median income for LTL is $48,000 and can go up to $72,000.
- Hazardous Materials: This position requires a special HAZMAT endorsement and carries increased risk due to the cargo. The median pay is around $54,000 and can be as high as $120,000.
- Oversize Loads/Super Loads: Oversize loads require an extra permit and involves special coordination. The average truck driver salary is about $53,000.
- Ice Road Trucking: This is one of the most dangerous jobs because drivers have to navigate slick, icy winter roads. As a result, the job compensates drivers well. Ice road truckers can expect $20,000 up to six figures for the season. The pay and job duration depend on weather conditions.
- Defense Contractor Drivers (In or Near Combat Zones): Drivers who take jobs where there is a real possibility that they could be found in the middle of a running gun battle are some of the highest-paid drivers. These drivers volunteer to help the military resupply overseas bases and troops in harms’ way. The compensation can be in excess of $150,000 a year. The benefits are outstanding, but the risk is real. Prior military personnel usually find these jobs appealing.
Some of the most well-known and highest-paying trucking companies:
Con-way Freight (acquired by XPO in 2015):
- Details: LTL and full-truckload
- Approximate average salary: $55,000
- Details: While Wal-Mart is not a trucking company exactly, it does have its own fleet. Wal-mart has a high average truck driver’s salary, but high expectations and qualifications.
- Approximate average salary: $80,000
- Details: Line-haul and Parcel
- Approximate Median salary: $67,000
- Details: Flatbed, refrigerator, and tanker
- Approximate average salary: $58,000
- Details: LTL
- Approximate average salary: $52,000
- Details: Variety of hauling options
- Approximate average salary: $54,000
What Are the Highest-Paying Trucking Companies?
Trucking companies have entire marketing teams whose job it is to make the company look attractive to potential drivers. Their websites list tons of benefits, and truck driver recruiters will sing the praises of their company.
But is there a definitive list of highest-paying trucking companies? It’s not that easy…
As we’ve discussed, the average truck driver’s pay largely depends on their freight and the miles they move. Nonetheless, there is some research you can do into each company, so you make the most informed decision before signing any contract.
Median Company Salaries
The Top 10 Companies to work for based on both driver-reported median salary and employee satisfaction are provided by Glassdoor.com.
We have included a link to each company’s job board or career center are listed below:
- Arkansas Best-ABF , HQ Ft. Smith, AR- $48,000/union, LTL freight
- Old Dominion, HQ Thomasville, NC-$69,000, LTL freight
- FedEx , HQ Memphis, TN-$ 67,000, parcel freight
- Pitt Ohio– HQ Pittsburg, PA , $64,000, LTL freight
- Prime Inc.– HQ, Springfield, MO $40,000, TL freight
- Southeastern Freight Lines– HQ Lexington, SC, $68,000, LTL freight
- UPS-HQ Atlanta, GA, $70,000, Parcel freight
- Universal Truckload Services-HQ, Warren, MI, $37,000, TL freight
- United Road Service-HQ Romulus, MI, $83,000, TL car hauler
- Quality Distribution-HQ Tampa, FL, $56,500, TL trucking and chemical transport
Union companies are held to a contractual standard higher than non-union companies. The Teamsters Union is the primary union for organizing truck drivers.
According to Teamster.org, “Union truckers earn an average of 27 percent more than non-union drivers.”
Wages and benefits under Teamster contracts are mostly better than those of non-union employees in similar jobs. Teamster contracts also offer health coverage, job security, paid time-off, and retirement income.
Most companies, especially long-haul/OTR, are not union. Union jobs can be hard to find. Some of the union companies that bargain with the Teamsters Union are:
- YRC Worldwide
- New Penn Motor Express
- Penske Truck Leasing
- Standard Forwarding Company
- UPS Freight
- YRC (Yellow/Roadway)
These union jobs are paid hourly, including overtime, and are usually less than truckload (LTL) freight, with local or regional routes that get the driver home more often than OTR drivers who are paid cents per mile (CPM). Having a union job does mean paying union dues. Drivers who are curious about union jobs should visit their local Teamsters Union hall for job listings.
Is There a Highest-Paying Trucking Company?
Because pay varies so much in this industry, it’s not an easy answer. At the end of the day, it’s up to the driver to ask each company for the amount of salary and home time they offer.
Here are some quick tips to finding out which specific companies pay the best:
- Talk with the recruiters and ask them a list of targeted questions.
- Speak with someone in the trucking company’s payroll or benefits department to get clarification of details from the recruiter.
- Ask other drivers that currently work or have worked in the past for any company you are considering.
- Use our Top 5 Productivity Apps to help manage your conversations with recruiters and keep track of offers from trucking companies.
- Remember that being paid well is more than just a paycheck. Insurance, profit sharing, and retirement plans are all valuable components of the driver’s compensation package.