How Much Money Do Truck Drivers Make?
It’s one of the most important questions to ask when considering a new career. Money, after all, is what pays the bills and keeps life trucking along. Luckily for drivers, the ongoing truck driver shortage means more opportunities to make money in the Professional Truck Driving Industry.
Truck Driver Demand Steadily Increases
The map shows the most common jobs by state, over time. You can literally see the demand for professional truck drivers increase before your eyes.
Getting Paid By the Mile
Unlike other careers with a set salary, Truck drivers are usually paid a rate per mile they travel, not for how long they work. That rate varies depending on the years of experience the driver has, the region where they drive and the company they drive for. According to the BLS†, most trucking companies pay drivers between $0.27 to $0.40 cents per mile. You may find some companies paying more because of the high demand for Class A licensed Truck Drivers.
On average, a Truck Driver can expect to drive between 2000 and 3000 miles per week. When you get paid by the mile, your odometer counts your money for you as the miles fly by. This makes it easier to track your expected pay. Truck Drivers that are paid by the mile do tend to make more than hourly or salary paid drivers.
Truckers also have the opportunities to earn bonuses in addition to their regular pay. Truck Driver Pay also varies by company, location, the type of driving you do, the materials you haul, and your certifications. The best news is that new truck drivers will find competitive wages and great incentives due to the current high demand.
Types of Driving
Solo OTR Driver – Solo truck drivers make up a large percentage of the workforce. Their earnings vary depending on the available bonuses offered by their carrier. That’s why having the option to choose your carrier is such a great benefit! First year drivers average $40,000-$45,000 their first year.*
Team OTR Driver – Working in a pair means you can clock longer distances. When there are two truck drivers, the work can be switched off while the other driver rests or relaxes. Because both drivers are compensated for the combined mileage, there’s typically more money to be had. Teams can average up to $100,000-$150,000 a year!*
Trainer – After you’ve spent a few years on the road, you can apply to positions to train new drivers. You could then earn truck driver trainer pay and can average $60,000-$80,000 a year.* Gaining enough knowledge and experience to train new drivers can really make a difference in pay!
Owner-Operator – If you like the idea of running your own business instead of working for an employer, consider becoming an owner-operator once you have gotten adequate experience working for a carrier. Owner-operators can earn a greater rate-per-mile by cutting out the middleman and signing contracts directly with companies. As an owner-operator, you could eventually have your own fleet of drivers!
There are many additional factors that contribute to how much money truck drivers make, such as:
- Type of Driving/Specific Carrier: Professional Truck Driving isn’t limited to one style of job. Positions like Team Driving, Dedicated, or Specialized Hauling (such as flatbed, refrigerated, and hazmat) are valued differently by each carrier based on current needs. The same type of position varies in pay rate from carrier to carrier.
- Mileage: Typically, drivers can increase their earnings by accepting assignments that require longer driving distances. In addition to opportunities to receive bonuses for mileage milestones, professional truck drivers can choose to make extra base-pay by driving more.
- Bonuses: Each position or role in professional truck driving comes with its own set of available bonuses. Drivers are typically given incentives like achieving mileage milestones, signing on with specific carriers, and referring other drivers to earn extra money.
- Experience: Your effort pays off! Over time, you’ll build a reputation that could demonstrate your competency and dependability. Simply put, carriers who are impressed with exceptional drivers will pay more for their time. Eventually, you could negotiate a higher rate per-mile and improved benefits packages.
In addition to regular pay, you may also be able to make money through various bonuses as a CDL-trained truck driver. Each carrier company is different, but could offer bonuses like:
Monthly mileage – Some carriers pay extra to drivers who hit company thresholds for miles. Earn money for driving the longer distances and earn extra pay just because you drove them with your company!
Sign-on bonus – In order to attract new truck drivers, competing carriers will sometimes offer sign-on bonuses for drivers selecting their company. The amount differs from carrier-to-carrier and can be a whole sum or gradual payments.
Fuel efficiency – By using various fuel-saving practices, you prove to your carrier that you are a cost-conscious truck driver. Carriers appreciate that and many reward their drivers for cutting down on fuel use.
Safety pay – Carriers strive for safe driving and may even offer bonuses for proven safety out on the highways. Proving that you can safely drive a tractor-trailer means more than good business, it means saving lives!
Layover pay – If you are inconvenienced or stalled in the delivery process, some carriers offer layover pay as a way of compensating truck drivers for the time lost.
Clean DOT Inspections – Clean Department of Transportation inspections are good for both the driver and the company. Carriers know this, and many pay their truck drivers for clean inspections.
While benefits can be hard to translate into an exact dollar figure, they can be of great value to drivers. Before deciding on a carrier, you can determine if their benefits fit your preferred type of lifestyle. Benefits in trucking can include:
- Paid vacation
- Paid sick time
- Medical and dental insurance
- Ride-along policy. Bring your friend, family or even a pet!
- Life insurance
- Job security
- 401k retirement plans and more
After you’ve signed on with a carrier, you will go through a period of direct training while clocking behind-the-wheel hours with a carrier trainer. Carrier training programs sometime offer a designated training pay that begins on the first day of orientation! Discuss training pay options with carrier representatives during their frequent visits to Roadmaster facilities.
When carriers hire quality truck drivers, they want to keep them a part of their team for as long they can. To do this, carriers give truck drivers incentives or reasons to stay for longer periods of time and to continue driving safely. Types of incentives include, amongst others:
- Increasing wage
- Premium 401k plans
- Company stock
- Longer periods of paid time off
- Inexpensive rider policy rates and more!
Once your training is complete and you’ve earned your Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), you’ll work with Roadmaster’s Job Placement Assistance Program to determine the carriers that are the best fit for you. Some Roadmaster students complete their CDL training course in as few as 4 weeks and others are even pre-hired by carriers during the early stages of training.
Pair this with the benefits and bonuses you have the potential to earn – packages that often include health, dental and life insurance, 401k, paid vacation and sick time – and it’s easy to see why you should consider a career in the Professional Truck Driving Industry!
*wage information provided by Werner Enterprises