How Much Do Truckers Make?
Truck driving jobs are in high-demand and you may have considered what it would be like to hitch up your own truck and hit the open road in an 18-wheeler. Before you drive into a career as a truck driver, you need to know how much truck drivers get paid and whether it is a good career to invest your time and money in. Learn about how much CDL drivers make and how to make more money as a truck driver so you can decide whether this career is right for you.
The short answer to whether you can make good money as a truck driver is yes—but you have to be willing to work for it. With dozens of job openings and a high demand for new truckers, there are lots of jobs for people looking to find a great career driving. However, there’s a lot more to truck driving than there appears to be. The life of a truck driver certainly isn’t easy and lots of training is required to do your job well.
Despite the challenges, how much CDL drivers get paid is largely based on how hard they’re willing to work, especially during their first year behind the wheel. While the Bureau of Labor Statistics states that truck drivers make an average salary of $42,480, hard-working truckers with years of experience can make significantly more.
Many companies offer sign-on bonuses that can boost your income, and truckers like oil rig workers or owner-operators can make over $100,000 per year if they have a lot of experience in the industry. Drivers looking to make good money, but stay closer to home might enjoy a job as a local truck driver. Whether you stay local or pursue an OTR trucking career, there are a plethora of trucking jobs available that provide a great opportunity for you to start a great career with significant benefits for your future.
Truck drivers aren't usually paid a set salary. Instead, they are typically paid per mile or per hour based on the type of driving they do. Your rate for driving depends on where you work and how much experience you have. Truck driving rates usually range between $0.27-$0.40 per mile or $8.67-$28.10 per hour. For drivers hitting the open road as OTR truckers, pay per mile is often better than hourly pay, whereas for local drivers who spend more time loading and unloading their vehicles, hourly pay may be a better option.
Aside from finding a great trucking company to drive with, how much truck drivers make is largely determined by what kind of truck driving they do. Here are some of the most common types of truck driving jobs and how much truck drivers make.
OTR Truckers (Over the Road): Solo OTR truckers typically bring in around $45,000 their first year. Team drivers can get more miles in and make more money. The average team OTR truckers make around $66,000, but can make as much as $88,000.
Owner Operators: After years of experience in the trucking industry, you might decide to start your own trucking company and become an owner operator. You can either run your own truck or a fleet of drivers. Either way, salaries for owner-operators can be over $100,000 per year.
Dedicated Drivers: These drivers only drive for a specific company that hires them directly (like Walmart or Costco). Dedicated drivers have specific routes they run and only haul materials for the company that hires them. Average pay is around $45,000 to $65,000.
Trainers: With a few years under your belt and a clean record you might consider stepping into the role of trainer. Teaching other drivers pays well and you can make between $60,000 and $80,000 per year in this position.
Specialty Drivers: This includes HAZMAT haulers, coal mine truckers, oversize load drivers, ice road truckers, and more. How much CDL drivers make for these positions varies and is usually more than the average pay because there is greater risk involved. For example, ice road truckers can make between $42,000 and $250,000 in only a few months depending on how much they work.
What kind of trucking you do is up to you, but most higher-paying driving jobs require experience and a clean driving record. Doing the most you can to get experience and certifications during your early years, while keeping a great record, will help you down the road in your career.
How much do CDL drivers make with top companies? Like most jobs, the company they work for plays a large role in how much truck drivers are paid for the position. Some companies pay their employees more than others, and it will benefit you to do a little research and see how much truckers make with a company. The best way to learn the going rate for entry-level drivers is to do some online research and chat with individuals in the industry. Some companies will also cover your CDL training costs as well, which can save you thousands of dollars up-front.
Most truck driving companies require experience to qualify and help you get better pay. Some of the best-paying trucking companies and their average salaries include:
Dayton Freight: This company focuses on LTL trucking and pays around $72,151 per year.
Holland Freight: They strive for next-day delivery, provide benefits, and pay $72,339 per year on average.
ABF Freight: Most employees seem to like working for this company, and although the hours are long the average pay is around $73,562.
Estes Trucking: This company averages $75,000 per year in pay.
GP Transco: This company also pays an average of $75,000 per year.
Trimac Transportation: $76,796 is the average salary.
Brady Trucking: This company offers safety incentives and benefits as well as a decent salary—$79,906 on average.
Walmart: Great benefits, low turnover, and $79,994 per year make Walmart a great choice for drivers.
Acme Trucking: Operating out of seven states, this trucking company is known for paying their drivers on-time, every time. Considering the average yearly pay is $82,892, that sounds pretty good.
Epes Transport: They operate mostly in the Eastern and Southern United States and offer a variety of positions for drivers. The average pay is $83,921.
Aside from the pay, you also want to make sure the company you work for has a good reputation as a great place to work. Some of the best truck driving jobs aren’t with trucking companies, but private companies. Here’s a quick overview of some of the best jobs for dedicated truck drivers and how much they pay:
Although Walmart is not a truck driving company, they have a large fleet of dedicated drivers. Walmart is known for having some of the best truck driving jobs in the industry and their average truck driver salary is $79,994 per year. Walmart also covers training costs for their employees, allows drivers to be home at least once a week, gives safe driving bonuses, and provides extensive health and retirement benefits.
Drivers for Target earn an average of $55,229 per year to make sure products get to the stores in a timely manner. They offer training and benefits to their employees as well as paid vacations.
Another great company to work for as a dedicated driver is Costco. Most drivers report enjoying their work for this company, and the average yearly pay is around $49,752. Drivers with experience might discover this is the right company for them.
How much truck drivers get paid driving for FedEx varies depending on the type of driving you do. FedEx freight jobs pay between $41,000 and $71,000 per year, local delivery drivers earn around $36,000 per year, and FedEx LTL drivers earn an average of $72,000 to $79,000 per year. Compared to other companies FedEx pays slightly less than average to owner-operators per mile (around $0.93 per mile). However, they do offer good benefits and home time for their drivers.
If you’re a new driver interested in learning how much truck drivers make with these companies, talk to their drivers, or check position requirements to see what qualifications you need in order to apply.
While most well-paying truck driving positions require at least some experience, there are companies that pay new drivers well and give them a great opportunity to gain further experience. Some of the best companies for new drivers are:
US Xpress: This company reimburses students for their truck driver training up to $7,000. They also have great on-the-job training and newer equipment to help new drivers.
Swift: This company has new trucks and equipment, and doesn’t require previous trucking experience.
CR England: This company provides company-sponsored CDL training and doesn’t require previous experience to get started.
Werner Enterprises: Flexibility of location is key with Werner, as you can work out of any part of the country.
Rohel: This company helps new drivers get the skills they need to succeed and doesn’t pay a lower rate for new drivers like many other companies do.
This isn’t a full list as there are many great trucking companies you can work for. Doing a little research and finding out which companies you like is a great way to start, as well as looking at truck driving job boards to find which companies are hiring.
The best way to learn how to make more money as a truck driver is simply through experience. The more experience you get and the more effort you put in (especially during your first couple of years), the better you will get paid down the road.
During your first year as a truck driver, make sure you keep yourself organized, deliver loads on time, stay on the road as much as you can, and above all—keep a clean driving record. A good safety record is key to making more money and will give you more options later on.
Other ways to make more money as a truck driver involve getting more endorsements and training, qualifying for bonuses, and considering what benefits you’ll receive from your employer.
In addition to your CDL exam, you’ll want to pursue additional endorsements to increase both your experience and career advancement in the future. It will also give you more options as a truck driver, more information on how to make more money as a truck driver. Some of the main endorsements you can pursue include:
Tanker Vehicle Endorsement: This endorsement allows you to transport liquid loads.
HAZMAT Endorsement: Hazmat training allows you to transport hazardous material loads that pay more money.
X Endorsement: A combination of tanker and HAZMAT endorsements.
Air Brake Endorsement: This endorsement allows you to operate vehicles with air brakes.
Interstate CDL Endorsement: If you’re at least 21 years old you can pursue this endorsement that allows you to drive between different states.
Double/Triple Trailer Endorsement (T Endorsement): Allows you to drive trucks with more than one trailer.
N Endorsement: The endorsement is for tank vehicles.
S Endorsement: This allows you to drive school buses.
P Endorsement: Allows you to drive passenger vehicles.
Getting additional endorsements like these gives you more truck driving opportunities and allows you to collect a better paycheck than a driver without them.
How to make more money as a truck driver aside from getting additional endorsements? Part of what CDL drivers make depends on the bonuses they receive throughout the year. Many trucking companies offer bonuses. Some of the main bonuses include:
Sign-On Bonus: This can be a great way for new drivers to earn a little extra cash. Different carriers offer different incentives, but bonuses typically range from $1,500 to $6,000.
Safety Pay: Keeping a safe driving record not only helps you get better jobs as you advance your career, but you might also get bonuses for keeping a good record.
Monthly Mileage: Some companies offer incentives for reaching mileage goals. Stay on the road and you might just bring in some extra cash in addition to your regular paycheck.
Fuel Efficiency: Fuel is expensive, but there are steps drivers can take to reduce their need for fuel. Companies sometimes provide bonuses for keeping the gas bill down while you drive.
Referrals: If you refer other drivers to the company who do a great job you just might get a bonus to go along with it. Carriers are always looking for new drivers and are willing to pay for good referrals.
Clean DOT Inspection: These inspections reflect on drivers and companies alike and carriers sometimes show their appreciation for keeping a clean record by giving out bonuses.
Talk with companies you're interested in working for to see what bonuses they offer their drivers.
There’s more to figuring out how much truck drivers get paid than just the salary they earn. Drivers should also be aware of the benefits they are getting and how that will affect them as well. Some of the most common benefits truck drivers receive are:
-Paid Vacation Time
-Paid Sick Time
-410K Retirement Accounts
Of course, not all benefits are related to retirement or medical care, other benefits might include flexible scheduling and greater job security because of the high demand for truck drivers in the industry.
Choosing a career in the trucking industry means job security for life. There is a constant demand for truck drivers, so as long as you follow industry regulations and guidelines, you can always rely on having a job. There are many benefits to choosing a career in trucking. These include:
Career advancement: Once you’ve earned your CDL license, you can earn additional endorsements that qualify you to haul hazardous materials, heavier loads, and passengers. Each of these endorsements makes you a more competitive job candidate, which can qualify you for better, higher paying routes.
Travel: Truckers are literally paid to travel the country. If you have a passion for traveling, trucking is a great choice for you.
Be your own boss: As opposed to an office or factory job, truckers get to be their own boss in a sense. No one is standing over your shoulder watching you work. Truckers are required to be self-starters, time-sensitive, and responsible.
Cheaper, faster training: Becoming a truck driver does not require a degree. Instead you’ll have to take and pass a CDL training course and some medical screenings. Most trucking schools are, on average, about seven weeks long and cost between $3,000 to $8,000. However, compared to the typical cost and time of colleges or universities, trucking school is significantly faster and cheaper.
Earn a good living: While being a truck driver won’t make you rich, it will keep you comfortable. Most entry level truckers make around $40,000 a year. As you drive more and earn more endorsements, you can make up to $65,000 per year. In addition, most trucking companies provide benefits. Learn more about trucking benefits below.
Now that you know how much CDL drivers make and how to make more money as a truck driver, you’re ready to begin pursuing your nes career or advancing the one you have. Remember that getting the training you need and keeping the road safe are the keys to making more money as well as putting in the work, even when it’s tough.