The Salary Scale For Truck Drivers

Long drives, big trucks, and truck stop food are just some of the things that go along with being a truck driver today. For a truck driver, however, the biggest incentive is their paycheck.

The average truck driver salary varies by location, experience & company.

2016 OTR Salary Update

2016 Update: Median Pay is Up $2,000 – Source:


The 2017 Average Truck Driver Salary Guide

It can mean the difference between a happy driver and a delivery that is never completed.

Understanding the right path for a success career in trucking before you get started can help you get the salary and security you deserve.

The salary scale typically begins around $28,000 and can go as high as $68,000 as reported by Truck drivers who work for shipping companies and distribution centers can expect to earn a fairly decent salary based on these figures.

However, if the driver is an independent contractor, the salary depends on a number of factors.

An independent truck driver is his or her own boss and therefore can negotiate the rates they will accept for the delivery of cargo. Often, independent drivers will add travel accommodations to their rates as a part of their negotiations with their clients. This is especially true of independent drivers who travel distances further than 700 miles in a day to make a delivery. Fatigue is a danger to truck drivers and therefore the need to have a place to sleep comfortably overnight is very important when they take on a long haul.

Pay Per Hour

Often, truck drivers will negotiate their salaries around a rate that is based on mileage and not on hours. For an experienced independent truck driver, the rate per mile could be as high as 60 cents a mile. This means for an experienced independent truck driver traveling an average of 70 miles an hour on the interstate can make an average of 42 dollars an hour. If the haul, or trip, equals out to 800 miles then the driver will make $480. This of course does not include his or her rates for accommodations.


Experience and Reputation

The average truck driver salary is also based on experience and reputation. A reputable truck driver is often going to get paid a higher rate because he or she is in high demand. Until a driver builds a reputation as a professional and reliable truck driver they will have to be satisfied with a lower pay rate. Just like many other job professions out there, a truck driver salary will depend on a person’s ability to perform at or above the client’s expectations.

Truck Owner Operators

tow truck driver pay

Ownership of a truck can also make a difference in the salary amount that a truck driver earns. Often, truck drivers will use a truck that belongs to a distribution company. This can reduce the amount of money that a driver earns as the company will often withhold a portion of what they are being paid by the client to cover the cost of the maintenance of the truck.

As an independent owner, the driver can account for this difference by charging a little more and therefore keep the cost of truck maintenance from interfering with his overall profit. There are also tax advantages for owner operators, you can read more about trucking tax info here.

Many drivers enter into the profession of being a truck driver after seeing commercials on televisions promising salaries as high as $100,000 a year. It’s important to remember that this, although possible, is extremely rare. In addition to being rare, the time it will take to become a truck driver who earns a salary as high as this is longer than a few months or even a few years. It may take more than a decade before a driver sees a salary close to $60,000 a year. Most truck drivers will retire before they begin to earn $100,000. This is not to say that a truck driver salary isn’t good. On the contrary, it is a decent and honest living.

Distribution or Shipping Company Advantages

The best way to become a truck driver who earns a six figure income before hitting retirement age is to not only own his or her own truck, but to also own a distribution or shipping company. A truck driver who has developed a respected reputation has a good probability of owning a successful shipping company and therefore making a $100,000 a year or more. By becoming a business owner and therefore evolving from an independent contractor, a truck driver can increase his or her chances of making a substantial truck driver salary.

Working as truck driver can provide a salary that a person can rely on to make a living. How much they’ll earn depends on the abilities, reputation, and amount of experience that the driver gains.

Most importantly, when asking how much does a truck driver make, keep in mind that a truck driver salary is always negotiable.

Truck Driver Salary


Getting Started In The Trucking Industry

get startedIf the salary scale and quick career options are enticing to you, we want to give you a grain of salt to consider before getting started. OTR trucking careers are not for just anyone. To have a successful career, drivers require expert knowledge of commercial driving regulations in several different specialties. From refrigerated goods, to livestock to hazardous materials- the industry is heavily regulated and for good reason.

They must know how to stay focused for long periods of time, be alert and maneuver the truck into the unloading and loading positions at docks.

Truck drivers must maintain a log according to I.C.C. regulations. The log is presented to any law enforcement that requests it or to an employer. Some only drive during the day on short haul trips. Others may drive cross-country and take many days to get there. They are only allowed to drive 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty.

Truck drivers must navigate through big cities, small towns, rain and snow. Knowledge of how to drive in any weather condition is a must. Truck drivers have to go to school to get the special license. They must complete a CDL (Commercial Driver License) class. They must have a CDL-A in order to drive a heavy truck. Tests and classes are given at a truck driving school. Truck driving must be taken very seriously. Truck drivers put their own lives and other people’s lives in the line of fire by being careless. Safety is essential for this job and the major players in the industry (CRST, YRC, Celadon) all require detailed safety regulations to be maintained.

Keep all of these points in mind as you consider the salary guideline too. Money is not everything, but for those who are committed and can pass the requirements, a career in the trucking industry can be very rewarding.

What Are The Top Paying Trucking Companies?

Trucking Company Pay Rankings