The Factors of Pay: How Much Do Truck Drivers Make?
The Factors of Pay: How Much Do Truck Drivers Make? -

The Factors of Pay: How Much Do Truck Drivers Make?

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Making money plays a big role in selecting a job. That’s a given. But for truck drivers, the amount of money that they make can be affected by several different factors. These factors can range from the region that the driver lives in, to the type of freight they are driving, to their years of experience. So, how much do truck drivers make? That’s the question that we’ll discuss below!

how much do truck drivers make

The Average Salaries of the Industry

With such a wide range of salaries, it’s hard to pinpoint an exact minimum, average, and maximum salary within the trucking industry. But according to, the national salary starting base was $37,000 in 2019. The max salary was $77,000 and the average salary for truck drivers was $57,062.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) found numbers similar to these. The BLS reported that the average salary for a truck driver in 2018 was $43,680 or $21.00 per hour.

Many of the salary statistics found for truck drivers are calculated from the pay of first-year drivers. But once they have at least a year of driving under their belts, a lot of opportunities open up for better pay. These opportunities can include team truck driving or being an owner-operator. Roles like these influence the factors that affect a driver’s pay and will be discussed in detail later in this blog.

Salaries are also affected by several other factors, most of which a driver can change throughout the duration of their career. Here are some of the factors that play into the big question: how much do truck drivers make?

How Much Do Truck Drivers Make: Factors That Impact Pay


This factor is as simple as it sounds. If you are willing to drive longer distances, then you will typically earn more money as a truck driver. Though assignments with shorter distances may seem more convenient, they result in lower pay rates than longer hauls.

Mileage also matters if you’re working for a company that pays a cent-per-mile rate. In this case, the more miles you drive, the more money you will earn. The only problem is the traffic. Slow traffic will lessen the number of miles you can cover and will decrease the amount of money you make.

Freight Type

How much do truck drivers make? The type of freight that you haul will affect your salaries as a truck driver. In trucking, there are several different types of basic freight that can affect a driver’s income.

Flatbed Trucks: These trucks are truck freight with a leveled off and open (no sides or top) trailer. The design of these trucks makes it easy to load and unload freight that is too large to fit inside of a standard trailer. Typically, these types of trucks are used to transport construction goods, large manufactured items, and various oversized loads.

Step Deck Trucks: Similar to flatbeds, these trucks’ trailers are flat and open. The only difference is that the step deck truck will have a lower part closer to the ground. Having this section allows taller items to be lower in order to avoid hazards such as bridge clearances.

Reefer Trucks: Known also as refrigerated trucks, reefers have a temperature-controlled trailer. This allows truckers to transport goods that need to remain at a certain temperature. These goods can include foods, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, and other medical materials.

Dry Vans: These are the majority of tractor-trailers that people see every day. They are the standard 53-foot trailers that contain consumer products, home goods, electronics, and so many other items. The trailer, in this case, is simply enclosed to protect the goods from the elements.

Auto Carriers: Freight trucks of this kind are hauling automobiles or other vehicles.

Dump Trailers: Just as it sounds, this type of freight truck has a trailer that can be lifted to an incline in order for loads to be dumped.

Tanker: This type of freight truck has a cylindrical trailer shape and is hauling liquids, such as fuel.

Driving any of these different freight types can directly affect your income as some of the trucks have to be handled with more care, such as flatbed trucks or auto carriers. For instance, a dry van driver may be paid less than a reefer truck driver due to the fact that dry vans are the most common trailer on the road.

Driver Type

Certain types of drivers are paid more than others. The different types of drivers include local truck drivers, team drivers, OTR drivers, and owner-operators. Of course, there are plenty of other types, but these are the main four to focus on when it comes to salary.

Local Drivers: Local truck drivers transport goods over a short distance and usually go home for the night. Deliveries for these drivers are assigned at a terminal or warehouse. Also, salaries of this type of driver are usually on the lower end because they aren’t driving long distances.

Team Drivers: This means that you are driving in tandem with another driver. No more lonely hauls! Team driving also means that you will most likely get paid more because you can cover larger distances in a shorter amount of time. With team driving, you also receive compensation for the total mileage, not just the part that you drove. Get ready to bring in the big bucks!

OTR Drivers: Solo OTR drivers are drivers that go for long distances and have to sleep in states that they do not reside in normally. This means that they will be away from home for weeks at a time. The salary of an OTR driver is typically around the national average but can increase depending on the other factors that play into salary.

Owner-Operators: Truck drivers of this type own their own trucks and work as a small business. They might even own a small fleet and employ several other drivers. Being this type of truck driver could earn you more than $100,000 a year.


Another factor affecting truck drivers’ salaries is the location or region that they live in. For instance, a truck driver working in New York City makes a higher salary than a driver in the middle of the country. This is based on the fact that truck drivers in cities are dealing with more difficult traffic situations and oversized loads. The high-stress nature of the location and the higher cost of living calls for higher pay.

Besides the pay, you should also consider how driving in certain regions of the country might affect your way of life.

Driver Experience

Experience behind the wheel directly impacts the amount of money a truck driver can make. This includes the years of experience they have, as well as their safety record as a driver. If you have many years of experience and almost no safety blemishes, then you will start to see your pay increase.

With great ranking also comes the ability to directly influence how much money you are making. Seniority is a great thing!

Education and Licensing

Education is a simple factor of truck driver salaries. Drivers with a CDL or a Commercial Driver’s License will earn more money than those without one. For example, CDL drivers make an average of $62,752 per year, whereas the average for all truck drivers was around $57,000. It’s easy to see that having your CDL can make a difference in your salary.

In the United States, CDLs are required for truck drivers to drive different types of vehicles or a single vehicle that has a combined weight of 26,001 or more pounds (i.e. tractor-trailers). This means that you aren’t supposed to be driving a truck at all if you don’t have a CDL.

So, the question of how much do truck drivers make is also impacted by an individual’s licensing and education.


Lastly, bonuses can also impact your salary. Different companies can offer different bonuses that only serve to enhance your earnings. These bonuses can be based on anything from performance, safety, fuel-saving, referrals, and even hiring. Hiring bonuses, also known as sign-on bonuses, can be as much as $6,000!

There are so many opportunities to benefit from company bonuses, so make sure to check out what your company may have to offer.

Now That You Know…

Knowing the factors that will affect your potential salary can help you make informed decisions about the occupation that you want to commit to. This is especially true for truck drivers since there are so many different factors that come into play. Therefore the question of “how much do truck drivers make” cannot be directly answered with one number. Truck driver salaries are dependent on so many factors, but one factor seems to reign true: Experience.

Experience is key!

To learn more about this topic, check out the Big Rig Banter podcast on how much truck drivers make!

Have you noticed any other factors that play into trucker’s salaries? Let us know in the comments below…

Author: Hit The Road Jack

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