Today, we will answer a question that many aspiring truck drivers want to know about truck driver pay and salary.
Do truck drivers make a lot of money?
The average salary of a company driver in the United States, according to ZipRecruiter, is $50,909 per year. However, this number varies based on many factors, including:
- Driver type – Company drivers (dedicated, regional, over-the-road (OTR, and team), owner-operator truck driver, student truck driver,
- Freight type – Specifically, endorsements and certifications,
- Years of experience, and
- Incentives, bonuses, and hiring bonuses.
The average pay for a trucking job in the United States generally ranges from $21,500 to $82,000.
Factors that Affect Professional Truck Drivers Pay
As we noted above, several factors directly impact how much money a professional truck driver makes.
Let’s discuss them in detail.
Trucking Jobs Base Pay – Cents Per Mile
Company driver pay is unique because drivers are not usually paid an hourly wage. Instead, compensation is based on cents per mile (CPM). But, what are cents per mile?
What are cents per mile?
Cents per mile is what it sounds like.
Professional truck drivers are paid a certain amount of cents per mile that they drive. So, for example, if a trucker drives 2,000-3,000 miles per week and is paid $0.50 per mile, they make $1,000-$1,500 per week.
Cents per mile is the most common pay scale in the trucking industry because it encourages truck drivers to drive as much as they can (because they are getting paid for every mile they drive) while still resulting in a take-home good wage.
Why are truck drivers paid cents per mile?
According to TruckerTruth.com, cents per mile became common in the trucking industry during the Great Depression when truck drivers were driving 24 hours or more to haul as much food as they could across the country.
Because they were working around the clock, truck drivers saw minimum wage as a cap on wages. So, instead, truck drivers earned pay per mile.
President FDR wasn’t opposed to this because people across the country were starving and needed food, so he wanted the trucks to run as much as possible. Thus, he gave truck drivers an exception to the Fair Labor Standards Act (the minimum wage law).
And, ever since 1938, cents per mile has been the standard pay scale in the trucking industry.
However, hourly pay rates and salaries are another common way to describe pay.
What are the average cents per mile for truck drivers?
For company drivers, the cents per mile rate depends on the size of the company you work for.
Small trucking companies usually dish out around $0.35-0.50 cents per mile, while larger companies range between $0.23-0.60 cents per mile.
Now that we’ve talked about what cents per mile is and where it came from. Let’s talk about the different rates for cents per mile based on driver type.
Dedicated driver hourly and salary pay
According to ZipRecruiter.com, the average starting salary for dedicated truck drivers is $62,253 per year or roughly $30/per hour.
The lowest truck driver salary for a dedicated driver is $31,500, while the highest salary is $81,000.
Currently, the highest paying truck driving jobs with dedicated routes are in San Francisco, California.
Regional hourly and salary pay
According to ZipRecruiter.com, the average starting salary for regional drivers is $60,939 per year or roughly $29/per hour.
The lowest truck driver salary for a regional driver is $33,500, while the highest is $83,000.
Currently, the highest paying jobs with regional routes are in New York City, NY.
OTR hourly and salary pay
According to ZipRecruiter.com, the national truck driver salary for OTR drivers is $63,888 per year or roughly $31/per hour.
The lowest truck driver salary for an OTR driver is $34,000, while the highest salary is $94,500.
Currently, the highest paying jobs with OTR routes are in Sunnyvale, CA.
Team hourly and salary pay
According to ZipRecruiter.com, the national average salary for team drivers is $80,674 per year or roughly $39/per hour.
The lowest salary for a team driver is $60,500, while the highest salary is $110,000.
The highest paying team driver jobs are in Richmond, CA.
Owner-operator hourly and salary pay
According to ZipRecruiter.com, the national average salary for owner-operator jobs is $199,616 per year or roughly $96/per hour.
An owner-operator’s lowest truck driver salary is $41,500, while the highest salary is $382,500.
Currently, the highest paying jobs for owner-operators are in New York City, NY.
Freight Type & Driver Pay
What is freight type?
The next factor that directly affects pay for truck drivers is the type of freight they haul.
Freight type is the type of goods transported or hauled in the truck. The most common types of freight are:
- Car hauler
- Dry bulk
- Dry van
- Reefer, and
Freight type affects driver pay because it is directly correlated with the experience level and skill set required to perform the job successfully.
Next up on our list of factors that affect pay include endorsements.
What is an endorsement?
According to FMCSA, a commercial driver’s license endorsement in the trucking industry is obtained when a driver passes specific tests to operate certain commercial motor vehicles.
Here is a list of the different endorsement types available:
- Double/Triple Trailers
- Tank vehicle
- Hazardous materials
- Combination of tank vehicle and hazardous materials
- And, school bus
While passenger and school bus endorsements don’t factor into truck driving, the other endorsement types are all things that a truck driver can get added to their license that will help to increase pay.
Let’s discuss this in more detail.
The first endorsement we will discuss is the double/triple trailer endorsement.
A double/triple truck endorsement is, as it sounds, it’s a single truck engine pulling two or three trailers at once.
One of the essential aspects of earning a double/triple endorsement is the state regulations surrounding this endorsement type.
For example, length and weight limits may vary by state, and many restrictions limit double/triple trailers to highways or turnpikes.
How much do double/triple trailer endorsements drivers make?
According to ZipRecruiter.com, the national average salary for double/triple drivers is $58,856 per year or roughly $28/per hour.
The lowest truck driver salary for a double/triple driver is $22,000, while the highest salary is $82,500.
Currently, the highest paying jobs for double/triple drivers are in San Mateo, CA.
Tank Truck Driver
Next up on our endorsement list is a tanker truck driver.
A tanker truck driver delivers liquids in bulk, such as water or sand, in a tank trailer. The process of loading and unloading the tanker trailer involves pumps and hoses.
Driving this truck requires an endorsement because of the different processes needed for loading and unloading the truck.
How much do tanker truck drivers make?
According to ZipRecruiter.com, the national average salary for tanker drivers is $53,687 per year or roughly $26/per hour.
The lowest truck driver salary for a tanker driver is $31,000, while the highest salary is $86,000.
Currently, the highest paying tanker jobs are in San Mateo, CA.
Hazmat Truck Driver
Just like it sounds, hazmat truck drivers haul hazardous materials such as dangerous or toxic liquids.
Because of the dangerous aspects of these materials, truck drivers with this endorsement must adhere to strict processes and procedures to ensure safe transport of the materials and for the health and safety of the public.
How much do hazmat truck drivers make?
According to ZipRecruiter.com, the national average salary for hazmat drivers is 54,731 per year or roughly $26/per hour.
The lowest truck driver salary for a hazmat is $36,000, while the highest salary is $118,500.
Currently, the highest paying jobs for hazmat drivers are in San Mateo, CA.
Last up on our list of trucking endorsements is the hazmat/tanker combination endorsement.
Hazmat/tanker combination endorsements allow a truck driver to transport hazardous materials in a tanker truck.
Similar to the hazmat endorsement, because of the safety of the public and the products involved, only truck drivers with this endorsement can transport hazardous materials in a tanker.
How much do hazmat/tanker combination drivers make?
According to ZipRecruiter.com, the national average salary for a hazmat/tanker combination is $57,530 per year or roughly $28/per hour.
The lowest truck driver salary for a hazmat/tanker combination is $32,000, while the highest salary is $81,500.
Currently, the highest paying jobs for hazmat/tanker combination drivers are in San Francisco, CA.
Another factor that can directly impact the amount of money a truck driver makes is their location.
Simply put, like all jobs, salaries for truck drivers vary significantly by state and city.
According to TruckDriverSalary.com, here are the top 11 states that pay the highest salaries.
- North Dakota
- District of Columbia
- New York
- New Jersey
So, for those truck drivers looking to make the most money out of their CDL training, it might be advantageous to live or work for a trucking company in any of those states.
Truck Driving Experience: New Drivers vs. Seasoned Driver
The next factor that directly affects truck driving pay is experience.
In general, and similar to most industries, experienced truck drivers tend to make more money than new truck drivers that are just starting.
However, once you get some experience under your belt, you’ll have the negotiating power to demand a higher truck driver pay.
So, while being an inexperienced truck driver can be challenging, know that truck driver demand is high and that getting a few years of experience in the industry is all you need to take your job to the next level and advance your career.
Below is a chart provided by, BigRigPros.com that does a great job of showcasing a truck driver’s experience level comparative to pay.
Incentives, Bonuses, and Hiring Bonuses
Last on our list of factors that directly impact truck driver pay are incentives, bonuses, and hiring bonuses.
If you’re starting as a truck driver or a long-time veteran, you have probably noticed that many trucking companies offer incentives, bonuses, and hiring bonuses to not only attract truck drivers but keep them.
Because truck drivers are in high demand, small companies and large companies are willing to provide truck drivers with these types of incentives and bonuses to set their company apart from others and encourage truck drivers to work for them.
However, keep in mind that while incentives, bonuses, and hiring bonuses greatly benefit a trucking job, there may be contingencies attached to them.
Read the fine print and make sure you understand when and how you will receive the incentives, bonuses, or hiring bonuses and that the trade-off is something you’re willing to do.
Don’t get distracted by the shiny dollar signs!
Lastly, performance bonuses are another way to earn more money in this industry. Whether the bonus is for safety or miles traveled. These bonuses are another type of bonus you can expect in this industry.
Where Does This Leave You?
So, what’s the takeaway? How much do truck drivers make?
As you can see, the answer isn’t straightforward since it varies significantly by the factors outlined above.
And, while a truck driver can make a lot of money (say a 6-figure salary), it’s not that common because the jobs with higher pay often come with a significant amount of risk and danger which can be a turn-off for many truck drivers.
But that doesn’t mean truck driving isn’t an honest job with the ability to make good money. In the end, the best way to make the most money is to advance your skillset and put in your time.
What are your thoughts on truck driver pay? How much have you made as a truck driver?
We’d love to hear about your experiences and pay in the comments below!