How much money do truck drivers make per year? When you’re considering a job, perhaps the most important question of all is how much money you will make. The same goes for the trucking industry, and the answer is a little less straightforward than a simple salary amount.
There are about 3.5 million truck drivers in the United States right now, a number that is rapidly growing. That means that almost one in one hundred people are truck drivers. With statistics like that, it’s safe to say truckers make a decent amount of money, at least.
How much money truck drivers make depends on the amount of time they’ve been driving, who they drive for, the state they’re driving in, and more. If you’re considering a career in trucking, this is a question that you can’t miss. Even if you’re already a truck driver, it could be time to assess if you’re making the right amount of money compared with the industry standard for the work that you’re doing.
How Much Money Do Truck Drivers Make?
If you want the very short answer for how much money truck drivers make, it’s this: $43,680 a year. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported this as the average truck driver salary in May 2018. However, this number can be taken with a grain of salt.
The top ten percent of drivers make $65,260 and above. The bottom ten percent make $28,160 on average. With such discrepancies, it’s difficult to answer in one simple statement just how much truck drivers make.
Pay by the Mile
In other jobs, you’re looking at an average salary that’s fairly set in stone. Or, you get an hourly wage. With driving, it’s typical to get paid by the mile, which is different than what most people are used to.
Even when getting paid per mile, the amount isn’t always clear. Your rate likely depends on several variables, such as the trucking company you’re driving for, the area you’re driving in, what driving you do, the material you’re hauling, your certifications, and the number of years of experience you have.
The BLS reports that drivers can expect a rate of about $0.27 through $.40 cents per mile after this has been calculated. Some companies might also offer more pay than this to Class A licensed truck drivers.
To track the amount you’re making, you look at your odometer and report the number of miles you’ve driven at the end of the week. Most drivers go between two and three thousand miles each week. It’s possible that instead of getting paid by the mile you’ll receive an hourly wage or a salary, but it’s less likely than this standard method of paying by the mile.
Different Types of Driving
Sure, everyone is essentially doing the same task: you’re driving a transport vehicle from one place to another. But not all driving is created equal, and there are various different types of truck driving that differentiate the potential for your salary.
Owner-operators aren’t necessarily truck drivers, but many were during at least one point in their careers. After getting years of driving experience under your belt, it’s common that someone might choose to take the path of running their own business.
Essentially as an owner-operator, you’re getting rid of the middleman because now you directly sign contracts with the companies that you want to work with. You might want to have your own fleet of drivers or a smaller force. Owner-operator potential earning is high, on the range of $100,000 and beyond.
As far as actual truck driving goes, solo OTR truck drivers are the majority of the workforce. Again, their salaries or earnings can widely vary depending on the number of different factors mentioned. In the first year of driving as solo OTR driver, you can expect to make about $45,000.
If you don’t want to go solo, you can be a team OTR driver. Having a partner means you’ll have the ability to log more miles because you can switch off with one another. One person drives while the other person rests, and the shifts continue fluidly. This allows you to clock more miles, team OTR drivers can expect to make anywhere from $100,000 to $150,000.
Team drivers are typically more experienced drivers, so it could take a few years before you’re approved to work in a team.
Being a trainer is a position that you can apply for once you’ve logged your time working as a truck driver for several years. Trainers, unsurprisingly, train drivers that are new to the job. You’ll be looking at a salary of about $60,000 to $80,000 a year, and need to have enough knowledge to train new drivers to a T in what the company will be expected of them.
What Bonuses Are Offered?
In addition to getting paid per mile, or potentially getting paid hourly or salary, many drivers also have the option to earn benefits and bonuses. These benefits will vary from company to company, but it’s the norm to offer them. So no matter what, you’ll likely be looking at the possibility of earning extra on top of your anticipated salary.
The incentives usually look similar from company to company, even though some companies might have their own unique set of bonuses. You’re likely looking at a set of bonuses that are fairly normal, however.
Some companies will pay you for mileage milestone achievements. The more you drive, the more bonuses you might receive. You could also earn a fuel-efficiency bonus if you drive those miles well and use your fuel-saving practices. The company will recognize that you’re a skilled driver and want to reward your good work so you’ll continue to drive consciously.
Many companies also offer a bonus just for signing on. This is usually put into place to make their company more attractive and encourage new drivers to sign up.
Safety pay is another bonus you could get if you are, in fact, a safe driver. A company is always looking for safety-conscious drivers, and they reward you accordingly if you fall in those parameters.
If you have time lost in your delivery process, you’ll be looking at layover pay as a bonus. In the chain of delivery events, there may be a stalling incident that’s not actually your fault. Many carriers will recognize this and compensate you for the time you spent.
The Clean Department of Transportation might also inspect your truck. If they do and you pass, your company may reward you for getting a clean inspection.
Which States Offer the Most Money?
No matter where you go, your home base is the place that’s going to determine your salary. And it really does matter what state you’re working in. The BLS reports that the difference between drivers working in the lowest-paying state and the drivers working in the high paying state is $18,000.
Your best bet is to work out West. The average is $48,662. States like Hawaii and Alaska are partially responsible for driving this number up, but on average, Western states are above average when it comes to average trucking rates in the United States.
The place that you might want to avoid is the South Central and Southeast sections of the country. There, you’re looking at making about $42,000 instead.
The highest paying state? Alaska. There, you’ll see an average of $57,460. Because of the weather and treacherous roads, this makes sense from multiple angles.
It’s also a state that’s not particularly chosen as a popular area when it comes to relocation. From there, it goes North Dakota at $52,080, Nevada at $50,920, and New York at $50,460.
If you live in West Virginia, unfortunately, you live in the lowest paying state. Truck drivers in West Virginia earn $39,520 on average. If you’re willing to relocate in order to pursue a career in trucking, it’s important to analyze all of the different regions and consider what weather conditions you’d be comfortable driving in, anticipating the cost of living.
You can’t necessarily put your finger on a specific amount of money when it comes to benefits, but it’s something to think about when you’re considering your salary. Look carefully at different companies. Some might offer better benefits than others even though the pay might be slightly lower. In the long run, this could average out to you earning more money through benefits.
You should be looking for paid time off, including paid vacation time and paid sick time. Medical and dental insurance are huge factors to look for, and especially take into consideration if the plans are good ones or not. You can also look for ride-along policies that allow you to bring a friend along when you drive or a pet. Don’t skip out on companies with life insurance, job security, or 401k plans.
What’s the Drawback?
Seeing salaries that are this high might make you want to say “sign me up” right away when it comes to being a driver. At the same time, you should consider wage differentials. Trucking is not an easy job, which is necessary to keep in mind.
The work can be lonely, and long hours of driving can cause you a lot of stress. The nature of the job might also keep someone away from their family for longer hours than they’d like.
The Truck Driver Shortage
The most positive takeaway from trucking salaries is that truck drivers are currently in high demand. Trucking is the most popular career in most of the 50 states, and that’s not set to change very soon.
Right now, it’s estimated that there is a shortage in the industry of over 100,000 drivers. If you want to be a truck driver, there has never been a better time to start. Drivers that have been lifelong truckers are nearing retirement age, and new blood is needed to fill their place.
If you don’t mind long periods of time by yourself, you’re an independent person, and you particularly love road trips, trucking just might be the job for you. Now that you know the general salary and the bonuses you can earn, you might realize why so many people choose to jump in and become drivers.
Most companies are also offering incentives on top of the incentives that they already offered. Because of this, the general salary is going up. When there’s more demand, there’s a higher pay rate. Companies are also competing with one another to pull drivers to their ranks, so you could be looking at some exceptional bonuses you might not get at any other time where there isn’t such a high demand for drivers.
Are you interested in starting a career as a truck driver? Is please read our article about How to Become a Truck Driver
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