how much do truck drivers make

If you are considering a career as a truck driver, one of your first questions is probably "How much do truck driver's make?" A truck driver's salary depends on many factors - all explained in detail in this article.

A professional truck driver has the opportunity to explore the cities and countryside of the United States –while keeping the American economy humming strong. Truckers tend to appreciate the independence a professional driving career brings because typical trucking routes often take days or weeks to complete.

According to the federal government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were nearly 1.9 million truck-driving jobs in the United States during 2016. 

Are you interested in becoming one of the nearly two million truckers transporting goods locally, or from coast to coast? The first step is to obtain the required Commercial Driver’s License (CDL).

Commercial Driver’s Licenses (CDL)

To legally drive a commercial vehicle, an individual must meet the license eligibility requirements set forth by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). These requirements include -

  • Be at least 21 years old 
  • Have no disqualifying criminal offenses on record, no DL’s denied, or canceled. 

Obtain a Commercial Learner’s Permit  (CLP)

  • Submit all required documentation
    • A current driver’s license
    • A ten-year driving record generated from the DMV
  • Complete the Medical Exam Self Certification 
  • Successfully pass a road test and written knowledge exam
  • Pay Fees
  • Practice with current CDL licensed driver

Obtain a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL)

  • Maintain the CLP for two weeks
  • Bring a vehicle to take a road test that is the same type as the one the applicant intends to drive after being licensed
  • Pass CDL Skill Exam
    • Control 
    • Inspection
    • Road Test – waivers available to military veterans

CDL Endorsements

CDL license holders may opt (or be required) to add an endorsement for driving School Buses, School Buses, Passenger Vans, Hazardous Material Carriers or Tank Vehicles, among others. 

For more information on CDL licenses, see all of our CDL Resources.

Types of Commercial Driver’s Licenses

Commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs) fall into three general classes. Each CDL class is mainly differentiated based on the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) being driven, however, there are other factors. Additionally, each class of license may determine whether a truck driver is required to obtain an additional endorsement to drive legally.

Class of CDL Licenses

The Class A License  

The Class A License is required for truck drivers operating a vehicle with a GVWR in excess of 26,000 lbs. – with a vehicle in tow weighing more than 10,000 lbs. A Class A CDL is generally required for long-distance tractor-trailer drivers. Class A CDL drivers generally obtain the endorsements required to carry specific payloads. Examples include –

  • Double or Triple Tractor-Trailer Drivers 
  • Flatbeds
  • Tankers Trailers
  • Livestock Carrier Vehicles, among other

A Class A CDL License requires a driver-applicant to obtain at least 160 hours of classroom hours, combined with wheel training hours.  Additionally, with proper endorsements, a Class A license holder may be permitted to drive Class B & C vehicles. 

The Class B License 

The Class B License is required for operating a motor vehicle that has a GVWR that exceeds 26,000 pounds – with a vehicle in tow weighing less than 10,000 lbs. Examples include -

  • A Garbage Truck
  • A Tow-truck
  • A Bus, or a Segmented Bus
  • A Delivery Truck 

The Class C License 

The Class C License is required for drivers who operate a passenger vehicle with 15 or more passengers, plus the driver, or for the transport of HAZMAT materials as defined by the Federal Government.  

Preparing for the Commercial Driver’s License Test

A smart way to put forth your best effort when taking the Commercial Driver’s License test is to allocate enough preparation time before sitting for the exam. Check out the many CDL practice tests, study guides and flashcards available to prepare for the CDL written test regarding – 

  • General Knowledge
  • Doubles & Triples
  • Air Brakes
  • Hazardous Materials
  • Combination Vehicles
  • Tanker 
  • Passenger Transport
  • School Bus

Training Pay

Many carrier programs offer paid training programs. 

Commercial Truck Driver Opportunities

The earnings potential for truckers depends upon how they choose to work as a professional truck driver. Additionally, pay rates for professional truckers differ from carrier to carrier. 

Noted below are the primary ways truck drivers manage their driving careers: 

The Solo Over-the-Road (OTR) Driver Salaries

Solo truck drivers account for the largest portion of the trucking workforce. Earnings vary and depend upon the rates, incentives and bonuses offered.

Approximate Average OTR Driver Salary - $45,000 to $50,000 per year.

The Team Driver SALARIES

A team of drivers allows the pair to travel longer distances as one driver can rest while the other driver keeps the truck moving forward.

Approximate Average Team Driver Salary - $125,000 to $150,000 per year

The Driver-Trainer SALARIES

Some truckers many years into their career choose to train new drivers as a way to increase their earning potentials and to stay closer to home. 

Approximate Average Driver Trainer Salary - $60,000 to $75,000 per year.

The Owner-Operator SALARIES

Truck drivers with sufficient experience often opt to own their own vehicle while remaining its primary driver. Essentially, an owner-operator has great earnings potential as the owner-operator cuts out the middleman by contracting directly with clients. 

Approximate Average Owner Operator Salary - $100,000+ per year.

Carrier Management

Veteran truck drivers often move to managerial positions with larger carrier companies - as a supervisor or a dispatcher. Top-level management positions often have yearly salaries that reach beyond six figures. 

Truck Driver’s Salary stats

The Bureau of Labor Statistics separates truck driver statistics into two broad categories. These are -

Average truck driver salary (Tractor-Trailers)

According to the federal government’s BLS website, the earnings stats for Tractor-Trailer/Heavy Truck Drivers were as follows –

  • 2018 Median Hourly Earnings - $   21.00
  • 2018 Median Yearly Earnings - $ 43,600

Average Truck Driver Salary (Delivery Trucks) 

According to the federal government’s BLS statistics, the earnings statistics for Delivery Truck Drivers were as follows –

  • 2018 Median Hourly Earnings - $   14.66
  • 2018 Median Yearly Earnings - $ 30,500

How much do truck drivers make per Mile

While some professional truckers are paid a base salary, most truck drivers’ compensations are based on a per-mile agreement.  The mileage rate paid depends on a trucker’s experience, the type of trucking work, the employing carrier, and the location of the work. In general, truckers paid by the mile earn more than those with base pay.

Consider the following when being paid by the mile –

  • The majority of carrier companies compensate their truck drivers between $.28 per mile and $.40 per mile. (BLS) 
  • Truck drivers generally drive 2,000 to 3,000 miles each week. 
  • The Class ‘A’ license tends to offer the best ‘per mile' pay rate, due to stronger demand.
  • The Electronic Logging Device (ELD) Congressional Mandate – Truck drivers who must track their HOS (Hours of Service), must do so electronically as of December 2017. An ELD is digitally synchronized with the motor vehicle’s engine. EDLs send fleet managers HOS information in real-time. The revised mandate also limits the amount of driving time for truck drivers to 11 hours per day. 

How Much Do Truck Drivers Make Per Week

How much truck drivers make per week depends on several factors including: how many miles per week they drive and their per mile rates.  Here are some facts to consider:

  • On the low end, if a truck driver drives 2,000 miles per week and is paid $0.28 per mile, they would make $560 per week.
  • On the high end, if a truck driver drives 3,000 miles per week and is paid $0.40 per mile, they would make $1200 per week. 

CDL Salary Bonuses 

In addition to the base ‘per mile’ compensation, a truck driver has additional earnings opportunities. Carriers offer bonuses that include -

  • The Sign-On Bonus– Trucking companies often choose to offer a sign-on bonus as a means to attract truck drivers to job openings. Each sign-on bonus differs from company to company. They can be delivered as a one-time payment or a partial scheduled payment spread over time. 
  • The Fuel Efficiency Bonus – Truck drivers who opt to employ the many techniques to reduce fuel expenditures are financially rewarded by the carrier company.  
  • The Monthly Mileage Bonus – Each trucking company sets mileage thresholds for which drivers must meet for the bonus to be paid. When a driver hits a threshold, the event triggers some agreed-upon mileage bonus payment. 
  • The Safety Pay Bonus– Safety is of the utmost importance to trucking companies. Employers prefer safe drivers with proven safe driving records. Safe drivers save lives and reduce liability insurance costs.
  • The Layover Pay Bonus – When truckers are delayed by circumstances beyond their control, a Layover Bonus would be triggered to compensate drivers for productive time lost. 
  • The Clean DOT Inspections – Maintaining regular, clean vehicle inspections with Department of Transportation benefits the carrier, who then pays it forward to the trucker in terms of a bonus. 

Incentives

Trucking companies operate with the philosophy that quality truck drivers (reliable, hard-working, safe) are hard to find and that these exceptional truck drivers should remain a part of the team for as long as possible. To accomplish this, a carrier company might incentivize a truck driver by offering– 

  • A Higher Pay Rate 
  • A Retirement Plan
  • A Stock-Purchase Plan
  • Additional paid-time-off, aka - PTO
  • And other perks!

Experience

A truck driver's reputation is built through years of experience and proven competency. Seasoned truckers often receive superior pay rates and/or upgraded benefit packages.

By Location/State

Truck driver salaries vary by state. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the state of Alaska offers the highest average (mean) yearly wage for truck drivers. Check out each state’s employment, hourly and annual wages in the table below.

CDL Truck Driver Salary By State

Location Employment Hourly mean wage Annual mean wage
Alabama 32,170 $19.51 $40,580
Alaska 2,380 $27.71 $57,630
Arizona 25,450 $21.84 $45,430
Arkansas 34,700 $20.18 $41,980
California 138,380 $22.74 $47,300
Colorado 22,880 $23.48 $48,840
Connecticut 12,560 $23.98 $49,880
Delaware 4,370 $21.23 $44,160
District of Columbia 530 $25.37 $52,760
Florida 87,960 $20.20 $42,020
Georgia 62,500 $20.80 $43,260
Guam 320 $13.96 $29,050
Hawaii 3,300 $23.51 $48,910
Idaho 11,940 $20.20 $42,010
Illinois 70,380 $23.39 $48,650
Indiana 54,560 $22.22 $46,210
Iowa 38,470 $21.07 $43,820
Kansas 20,370 $22.20 $46,180
Kentucky 24,850 $21.90 $45,550
Louisiana 21,070 $20.24 $42,090
Maine 8,830 $19.25 $40,040
Maryland 23,320 $23.05 $47,940
Massachusetts 27,650 $24.19 $50,310
Michigan 55,940 $20.89 $43,450
Minnesota 34,860 $23.42 $48,710
Mississippi 22,710 $20.15 $41,900
Missouri 44,470 $21.67 $45,070
Montana 6,440 $22.16 $46,100
Nebraska 26,360 $21.49 $44,710
Nevada 11,760 $24.48 $50,920
New Hampshire 6,870 $21.65 $45,030
New Jersey 48,760 $23.60 $49,080
New Mexico 10,970 $21.37 $44,460
New York 62,360 $24.26 $50,460
North Carolina 58,110 $21.17 $44,030
North Dakota 10,560 $25.04 $52,080
Ohio 74,090 $21.64 $45,010
Oklahoma 25,750 $21.10 $43,880
Oregon 23,300 $22.79 $47,410
Pennsylvania 82,330 $22.43 $46,650
Puerto Rico 8,480 $9.57 $19,910
Rhode Island 3,200 $23.25 $48,360
South Carolina 29,620 $21.28 $44,270
South Dakota 7,880 $19.99 $41,590
Tennessee 63,030 $20.99 $43,660
Texas 191,490 $21.76 $45,260
Utah 24,760 $21.92 $45,600
Vermont 3,440 $21.76 $45,250
Virgin Islands 310 $17.19 $35,750
Virginia 42,820 $20.51 $42,660
Washington 31,610 $23.37 $48,620
West Virginia 12,110 $19.00 $39,520
Wisconsin 49,760 $22.09 $45,950
Wyoming 6,340 $24.13 $50,200

Source: BLS Occupational Employment Statistics (May 2018)

CDL Job Outlook

Last year, the Washington Post released a narrative regarding an impending truck driver shortage that soon may impact the many business and consumer sectors of the economy. 

While trucking industry pundits tend to differ about the intensity and breadth of the truck driver shortage, most concur that a truck driver shortage has been building for many years. 

The simple economic principle of Supply & Demand signifies that a shortage of workers will likely create a strong demand for the worker. Strong demand raises the price of that good or service. As such, a shortage of truck drivers would imply that pay rates might rise for truck drivers in the near future.

According to the BLS statisticians, the number of truck driving jobs is anticipated to grow at a 6% rate through 2026 – about the same average pace of all industries. 

The Bottom-Line on How Much Truck Driver's Make

The trucking industry’s economic indicators remain quite positive. With the explosion of online shopping, the trucking industry has and will likely continue its healthy financial progress. 

If a truck driver’s lifestyle meets your career objectives, now is a great time to join the trucking industry as a professional driver. 

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