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How Much Does a Truck Driver Make?

Chad Green
30/11/2023

Gone are the days when truckers operated behind the scenes, quietly ensuring the smooth functioning of the world. In the current landscape of persistent supply chain shortages, the profession of trucking has stepped into the spotlight, gaining both visibility and prominence across North America.

Table of Contents
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  • What Factors Influence A Truck Driver’S Salary?
  • What Is The Average Income For A Truck Driver?
  • Description Of PPM Method (Pay Per Mile)
  • Where Truck Drivers Earn More In The Us (By States)
    • Top States For Truck Drivers
  • Truck Driver Salaries Based On Trailer Type
    • Requiring Special Endorsement
    • Trucks Without Special Endorsement
  • Truck Driver Salary Based On Operating Modes
    • Solo Truck Driver’s Salary
    • Team Truck Drivers’ Salary
    • Owner-Operator Salary
    • Lease Operator Salary
  • How Can We Help Owner-Operators Earn More?

For those contemplating a career as a truck driver but grappling with the ubiquitous question of ‘how much does a truck driver make?’ — this article is tailored for you. We will delve into the socioeconomic significance of the trucking and logistics industry, examining how each element contributes to shaping the earnings of drivers. Join us as we uncover the intricacies of truck driver compensation in the United States, considering factors such as location, routes, experience, company size, and vehicle type.

While some assert that truck drivers earn uniform salaries nationwide, the truth is that a truck driver’s income is influenced by a myriad of internal and external factors.

What Factors Influence A Truck Driver’S Salary?

When considering truck drivers’ weekly pay, several factors come into play. One crucial determinant is the driver’s location, with companies in the West and South often offering lower salaries compared to counterparts in other regions. Despite this regional disparity, the wage gap for Over-The-Road (OTR) carriers remains relatively narrow, regardless of the state of operation or headquarters.

The nature of the routes taken also significantly influences trucking money. Earnings differ based on whether a driver operates on local, regional, or OTR routes. OTR drivers, who endure extended periods away from home, generally command higher pay compared to regional drivers. Likewise, regional drivers typically enjoy higher salaries than their local counterparts, who typically return home daily.

Beyond location and routes, understanding how to calculate truck driver pay involves considering the type of trailer used. The choice of trailer contributes to variations in payment. For example, dry van drivers may earn less than reefer truckers, and in turn, reefer truckers may earn less than flatbed drivers.

Considering these factors, individuals often wonder, “Does trucking pay well?” The answer lies in the interplay of location, routes, and trailer type. Ultimately, the weekly pay for truck drivers is a nuanced calculation influenced by various variables within the dynamic trucking industry.

Experience is another pivotal factor; drivers with limited or no experience generally earn less than their seasoned counterparts. This is partly due to carriers incurring higher insurance costs when working with less experienced drivers.

Furthermore, the size of the company has a direct impact on a driver’s earnings. Working for a smaller company may result in higher wages compared to drivers at larger, more prominent companies. Smaller companies often exhibit agility in adjusting to market dynamics and increasing driver pay promptly. However, this potential positive aspect might be offset by potential drawbacks; larger carriers can offer the stability of a consistent workload and an experienced management team, advantages that smaller, independent carriers may struggle to provide.

So, for those wondering about ‘how much make truck driver,’ it’s evident that various factors such as location, routes, type of trailer, experience, and company size all contribute to the nuanced landscape of driver pay per mile and average truck driver salary per mile. In the world of trucking salaries, drivers get paid based on a complex interplay of these elements, making it essential for aspiring truckers to understand the multifaceted nature of their potential earnings.

What Is The Average Income For A Truck Driver?

Based on estimates from Indeed (bearing in mind that estimates are just that—approximations and may vary from week to week or month to month), the average salary breakdown for a truck driver in the United States, considering the 11-hour driving limit, is as follows:

  • $28.05 per hour.
  • $320 per day.
  • $1,544 per week.
  • $5,780 per month.
  • $84,377 per year.

Additional benefits and bonuses may be applicable depending on internal company policies or external factors such as adverse weather conditions, economic fluctuations, increased demand due to supply chain issues, and more.

Description Of PPM Method (Pay Per Mile)

The Pay Per Mile (PPM) method is favored by most truckers as it is perceived as equitable compensation for their services. However, the cents per mile (CPM) rate is contingent on the previously mentioned factors. According to Statista, the median CPM for truckers in 2020 was estimated at $0.57 per mile.

Where Truck Drivers Earn More In The Us (By States)

We’ve previously discussed how certain regions in the country are more economically favorable for truckers. Now, let’s categorize and rank these areas by state, considering both CPM and annual income.

Top States For Truck Drivers

Seek Capital, a financial services firm that has assisted over 500 companies in launching or expanding their businesses, has compiled a dataset and chart specifically tailored to the trucking industry. This chart has been adopted and shared by various trucker pay websites as a benchmark for understanding wages at the state level relative to non-trucking professions. 

Although the data is from 2019 (pre-pandemic) and trucker wages are subject to fluctuations, it’s important to note that, largely due to the pandemic, there has never been a higher demand for qualified truckers, resulting in improved pay.

Here are the top states for truck drivers, assessed in terms of annual income and CPM in comparison to the average per capita income of those employed in non-trucking occupations within the same states. To illustrate, earning $50K annually in Nevada is 20% higher than the average non-trucking job in that state. However, the same $50K is 25% lower than the average per capita income in Connecticut. (Annual income figures are sourced from Seek Capital, while cents per mile statistics are Indeed estimates.)

map states to be a truck driver

Truck Driver Salaries Based On Trailer Type

Commercial trucking involves various types of trucks and trailers tailored to specific applications. While truck specifications often revolve around performance, the diversity in trailer types is driven by the unique requirements of transporting different goods, ranging from consumer products and farm produce to hazardous chemicals and mineral resources.

Earnings for truck drivers vary based on the type of trailer and the need for special endorsements, which enhance their qualifications and income. Here’s a breakdown:

Requiring Special Endorsement

Obtaining a special endorsement, an addition to a regular commercial driver’s license (CDL), allows drivers to carry specialized loads, thereby increasing their earning potential. For instance, drivers transporting hazardous materials may need special endorsements, reflecting the elevated risk and specialized skills required.

HAZMAT TRUCKS (H ENDORSEMENT)

  • CPM Range: $0.60 to $0.80
  • Annual Salary Range: $68,750 to $100,000
  • Additional Requirement: TSA-issued HazMat endorsement

DOUBLES/TRIPLES (T ENDORSEMENT)

  • Annual Salary Range: $62,500 to $93,750
  • CPM Range: 50 to 75
  • Additional Requirement: T endorsement, covering knowledge of preventing rollovers and proper trailer coupling and decoupling.

TANKERS (N ENDORSEMENT)

  • Annual Salary Range: $75,000 to $106,250
  • CPM Range: 60 to 85
  • Additional Requirement: N endorsement, specific to driving tank vehicles

HAZMAT AND TANKER (X ENDORSEMENT)

  • Annual Salary Range: $68,750 to $106,250
  • CPM Range: $0.60 to $0.85
  • Additional Requirement: X endorsement (Tanker/Hazmat Combo), allowing the operation of tankers carrying hazardous materials

Trucks Without Special Endorsement

FLATBED TRUCK DRIVER SALARY

  • Annual Salary Range: $80,000 to $90,000
  • CPM Range: $0.50 to $0.60
  • Weekly Pay (approx.): $1,250 to $1,500
  • Additional Earnings: Bonus pay for tarping ($200 to $350 weekly)

DRY VAN DRIVER SALARY

  • Annual Salary Range: $60,000 to $65,000
  • CPM Range: 48 to 52
  • Weekly Pay (approx.): $1,200 to $1,300
  • Daily Pay (approx.): $250 to $270

REFRIGERATED TRUCK DRIVER SALARY

  • Annual Salary: Around $65,000
  • Weekly Pay (approx.): $1,300 (at $0.52 per mile)

OVERSIZED LOAD TRUCK DRIVER SALARY

  • Annual Salary: $118,750
  • Weekly Pay (approx.): $2,375
  • CPM: $0.95

Truck Driver Salary Based On Operating Modes

Here are the prevailing operating models for truckers.

Solo Truck Driver’s Salary

When completing a trip independently, you operate as a solo driver. While solo journeys may bring moments of solitude, they offer the advantage of retaining your earnings without having to split them. The average annual salary for solo truck drivers is approximately $81,249, according to Ziprecruiter.

Team Truck Drivers’ Salary

Truckers can opt for team operations instead of solo endeavors. In team trucking, partnerships can be formed with a spouse, friend, or colleague. Team operations often prove more efficient, delivering freight in half the time compared to solo trips. For two-person partnerships, team drivers can expect a pay per mile range of $0.75 to $0.90, split between them. According to Ziprecruiter, the annual salary range for team truck drivers is approximately $119,000.

While most teams typically divide expenses and returns equally, members may choose to distribute earnings based on their initial contributions. Explore our article on team truck driving to determine if this career path aligns with your preferences.

Owner-Operator Salary

Solo owners who prefer a hands-on approach often take on the dual roles of operators and owners. However, a notable drawback is that personally handling the transportation of goods may limit attention to administrative tasks. The salary range for owner-operators, driving an average of 500 miles daily, is approximately $85,000 to $100,000, excluding maintenance expenses. As the primary negotiator for every job, your salary largely depends on factors such as route preferences, load types, and more.

Lease Operator Salary

Calculating the average lease operator salary proves challenging due to significant variations in job volume and covered distance, as reported by Indeed. Nevertheless, the average pay for lease operators is estimated to be in the range of $90,000 to $120,000.

How Can We Help Owner-Operators Earn More?

Logity Dispatch can significantly enhance the earning potential of owner-operators in the trucking industry. By leveraging their expertise in route optimization, load planning, and industry insights, Logity Dispatch ensures that owner-operators are efficiently matched with high-paying freight opportunities. The service excels in navigating the complexities of the logistics landscape, identifying lucrative contracts, and minimizing downtime.

Contact us today to boost your income!