If you have decided to pursue your career as a truck driver, then it is a great decision. If you are still confused about how much truck drivers make, then here is a guide to give you a brief idea about the salary of a truck driver along with a few money-making options that truck drivers can choose for themselves i.e. how much do truck drivers make.
How much do truck drivers make?
A truck driver’s salary may vary a lot, as in upwards of 35%. According to one report published on Glassdoor.com, salaries start out around $28,000 per year and max out around $65,000 per year, with the national average being $43,464. In 2019, those numbers raised up to $37,000 as a starting base and maxed out at $77,000, with the national average at $57,062.
As per the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median pay in 2016 is $41,340, meaning you get $19.87 per hour. The most recent statistics from the BLS states that the average income of truck drivers is $43,680, meaning you get $21.00 per hour.
As per Indeed.com, the median annual pay for entry-level drivers is $65,794.
When a truck driver works beyond the initial year, there are more job opportunities in the field, which may pay even more than that. For example, team truck driving is around $71,000 per year and the role of owner-operator is as much as $270,000 per year.
By combining all of these data we have curated a list to give a brief idea about how much a truck driver can make.
First Year & Student truck drivers may earn around $55,512 a year on average.
On average, CDL truck drivers can expect to earn up to $66,000 per year.
OTR CDL truck drivers earn the most, with salaries that average $59,158 per year.
Team truck drivers can earn an average of $71,000 each per year.
The average owner-operator can earn $270,000 a year. However, they bear all the expenses for their truck repairs and maintenance, which is very costly.
Factors Affecting Your Truck Driving Income
Why do pay rates vary so much? Well, the reason is that they are influenced by different factors, which includes the following:
Mileage: If you are able to drive long distances, you can typically earn more money compared to short-distance trips. However, assignments with smaller driving distances are often more convenient, but they usually tend to result in lower pay as well.
Education and licensing: Drivers with a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) earn more bucks than those without one.
Location: This factor does not have a huge impact, but still there are some regions where you can earn more.
Experience: The turn-over rate in the truck driving industry is really high. Most people simply do not have the qualification for this job, and they tend to leave the job within a short span of time. So if you want to stick around for years and prove yourself, you can ask for a more competitive salary.
Bonuses: Different companies offer different bonuses and benefits, which can add to your pay.
Specific Role: There are so many different types of truck driving jobs if you consider the trucking industry. Some of the companies pay significantly more than others. Some of the examples are team truck driving or specialized hazmat hauling.
Still, you need to spend a few more bucks on arranging your CDL, which is a must for your truck driving career.
CDL vs. non-CDL Income
You need a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License), if you want to pursue your career as a truck driver. You may skip out of licensing, but that is really not a good idea for multiple reasons.
According to Indeed.com, CDL truck drivers can earn an average of $62,752 per year. The national average for truck drivers everywhere is $43,464. So, having a CDL makes a big difference in your pay.
If you are not supposed to pursue a driving career without a CDL, you can get a fine for it. And most reputable companies will not hire you without one for exactly that reason.
Note that getting your CDL is not all that difficult or expensive. For CDL, you just need to go to truck driving school, and this is reasonably priced.
Pay per Mile vs. Pay per Hour
Pay per Mile vs. per Hour is another factor that you can consider when it comes to the salary you get as a truck driver. Some companies pay per mile while others pay per hour. Pay per hour opportunities are common with delivery service companies like UPS and FedEx as well as some local distribution outfits.
On the other hand, Freight drivers, are often paid per mile. Remember that freight drivers are almost always at work. Even when the truck is parked, you will still remain away from home. Usually, you have to stay away from your home for a day or two each week.
Generally, you can make more money if you get a pay per mile job than a pay per hour job— especially if you are good and experienced at what you do. If you are getting just 30 cents per mile and you are driving 700 miles per day, which is pretty much typical, then you can get $210 for that day of work.
Bonuses and Benefits
Truck drivers often receive great benefits as well as other bonuses, all of which serve to enhance their earnings. Here are some examples of bonuses and benefits you might receive:
Performance bonuses can be as much as five cents per mile, which you will get on a monthly or quarterly basis. These bonuses include:
- Bonuses for being a fuel-efficient driver.
- Bonuses for proving that you are driving safely.
- Bonuses for getting a clean bill of health on your DOT inspections.
- Hiring bonuses. Sometimes you get sign-on bonuses that are as much as $6,000. This is enough to offset the costs you might have paid for an independent trucking school.
- Referral bonuses are given at the time of hiring and can be a couple of thousand dollars per hire. There is a high turnover in the trucking business because companies always are in need of new drivers.
- You can also get “layover pay,” which is paid as compensation for the time you have been forced to spend waiting because of delays
- There are also other bonus options in terms of insurance for medical and vision or dental treatments. Moreover, there are some companies that may provide life insurance packages.
- Paid time off for vacation as well as sick leave.
- Retirement plans.
Truck Companies That Offer the Best Pay For New Drivers
We have made our own research on the highest paying truck companies that you can pursue your career with.
We recommend you consider Swift Transportation if you are just beginning your career in the trucking industry as a truck driver. This company has its own trucking school, where you can get free education and then you have to spend 26 months at a reduced salary paying back the costs.
This company is one of the highest-paying options that the new drivers can choose for themselves. On average, drivers working for Swift Transportation can make $39,878 per year.
This company usually reimburses drivers up to $4,000 if they have a CDL. If you do not have one, the company is willing to pay the fees of your tuition in exchange for work.
If you get started with an entry-level position with Con-Way Freight, you will work as a student driver. So, in this position you can expect to earn:
$.26 per mile if you drive up to 10,000 miles.
$.31 per mile if you have to drive between 10,001 and 59,999 miles.
$.33 per mile if you have to drive between 60,000 and 89,999 miles.
$.35 per mile if you drive between 90,000 miles and 119,999 miles.
$.38 per mile for all drivers who drive 120,000 miles to 124,999 miles.
Finally, you can make up to $.44 per mile with bonuses.
This is another great company that you can consider if you want to earn good money as an entry-level truck driver. You can make as much as $50,000 per year as a starting driver for J.B. Hunt.
We recommend another famous company TMC to new and experienced truck drivers. According to Glassdoor.com, on average, drivers at TMC earn $64,713 per year. At the lower end, a beginner can expect to get around $44,000 per year. So, this is not a bad option if you complete 1 year working in this company as a truck driver in the beginning stage.
Along with TMC, experienced truck drivers recommend another well-known company Crete Carrier to industry newcomers. However, Crete Carrier pays less than TMC; you can expect to earn around $37,000 per year, and the average salary is about $56,440 per year.
This is an interesting thread worth checking out on the topic of first year truck driving salary figures.
The pay for the truck drivers at the beginning stage/in the first year of service can vary quite widely, which can range anywhere from around $300 per week to around $1,000 per week. At the lower end, it actually means that you can make as little as $15,600. At the upper end, it means that you can make as much as $52,000 starting out. However, we have not included benefits and bonuses in this estimation.
You are not bound to go with the first job that comes your way out of trucking school. There is a lot of demand in this sector and if you shop around, you could find a far better offer in some other company.
Best-Paying Truck Jobs
If you want to advance your career as a truck driver, then you should consider about the following highest-paying trucking jobs:
Solo OTR Driver: In this type of job, earnings can vary quite a bit. But the average income is around $49,000-$59,000 in the first year.
A Dedicated Driver: For this type of trucking job, a driver works for a specific company like a department store, moving only that company’s goods. Routes may be identical for every trip. These drivers may earn as much as $65,000.
Trainer: If you are good at giving training to truck drivers, you can pursue your career as a trainer that can earn you up to $80,000 per year.
Specialized Driver: There are a number of jobs under this category. You can work as a line haul driver and make up to $80,000 per year. Besides this, there are some other high-paying specialized jobs that include hazmat driving, tank driving, oversized load driving, and ice road trucking. An ice road trucking owner-operator can earn up to $250,000 per year, working as a part-timer only. However, all of these jobs involve extra risk, but the compensation is amazing.
Team OTR Driver: Team driving is one of the most exciting opportunities in the truck industry. As a team driver, you can work in tandem with another driver. It allows you to switch back and forth with driving and resting that makes it possible to cover a much larger distance in a shorter time. Both of the drivers receive the compensation for the total mileage, not just the part you drove. Hence, you can make anywhere from $100,000-$150,000 per year.
Owner-Operator: If you want to run your own trucking business, you can hire other drivers including you. This type of job can earn you more than $100,000 per year.
You can make $40,000 – $100,000 per year as a Truck Driver. So, how much do truck drivers actually make? Well, It varies with experience, role, location, and some other factors.
You can make more than $55,000 in your first year. After pursuing your career as a truck driver for couple of years, you will start making more than $70,000, and eventually, you will even earn six figures a year.
Truck drivers can make a lot of money per year depending on what company they work for. When you first start in the truck industry, you will be making less than your peers who have years of experience. However, the first year truck driver salary is reasonable, and as an experienced truck driver, you can move quickly up through the company and start earning more money in around six months.