How Much Can You Earn Your 1st Year As A Trucker?

Truckers can make a lot of money per year depending on what company they work for. When you first start in the industry, you’ll be making less than your peers that have years of experience. But, the first year truck driver salary is respectable, and you move quickly up through the company and start earning more money usually in six months.



What Is The First Year Truck Driver Salary?

first year truck driver salary

First and foremost, it’s a lot easier to find a job at an entry-level position when you go through the trucking company’s driving school. This allows you to typically go to school for “free” on the basis that you’ll work for the company for at least a year.

The highest paying trucking company for new drivers is Swift Transportation. New drivers can go to the company school, and your tuition will be fully repaid after working with the company for 26 months.

On average, these drivers will earn $41,000 a year.

But, every company is different. If you choose to work in a regional or nationwide position, you’ll earn far more than your counterparts that work locally.

Let’s take a look at some of the highest paying trucking companies for people just starting out in the industry:

Con-way Freight

New drivers will be reimbursed up to $4,000 if they’ve recently earned their CDL. The company will also pay your tuition to go to driving school if you do not have the correct license.

When starting, you’ll be considered a student driver. Student drivers are paid on the following pay scale:

  • $.26 per mile up to 10,000 miles.
  • $.31 per mile if you drive between 10,001 and 59,999 miles.
  • $.33 per mile if you drive between 60,000 and 89,999 miles.
  • $.35 per mile if you drive between 90,000 miles and 119,999 miles.
  • $.38 per mile for all drivers that have driven 120,000 miles to 124,999 miles.

Experienced drivers, can earn as high as $.44 a mile working with the company. There are also bonuses offered.

J.B. Hunt

J.B. Hunt’s pay will vary depending on the state you live in and the position you enter. According to data on payscale.com, first-year drivers can earn up to $50,000 a year. This is based off of 10 salaries submitted by users.

The company itself does not divulge how much they pay drivers.

The average van driver for the company will earn between $800 and $1000 per week. But, bonuses and compensation will boost the average salary of $40,000 a year up to the $50,000 a year mark.

Average Truck Driver Pay

Indeed.com provides a good sample of salaries for all experience levels. What we can note from the company’s website is the following:

  • Student truck drivers earn $41,000 a year on average.
  • CDL truck drivers can expect to earn $66,000 a year on average.
  • OTR CDL truck drivers earn the most, with salaries averaging $82,000 a year.
  • Team truck drivers earn an average of $71,000 each per year.
  • The average owner operator can earn $270,000 year, but they are responsible for all of their truck repairs and maintenance, which is very costly.

Interestingly, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers earning just $38,200 per year.

This equates to just over $18 per hour, but this is far below the industry average.

When looking at the general freight trucking statistics offered by BLS, the agency has these drivers earning $43,180 per year, or just over $20 an hour.

So, this greatly conflicts with what most driving companies like Yellow Freight publish for their pay rates.

Glassdoor has data based on 923 salaries. Updated as recently as September 25, 2015, the data shows that truck drivers earn between $32,000 a year and $73,000.

And, the average truck driver earns $48,563.

We can also see data based on different companies, which includes:

  • J.B. Hunt drivers earning an average of $52,100 per year.
  • Schneider truck drivers earning $47,300 per year
  • Con-way drivers earn the most at $56,000 per year.
  • Swift transportation drivers earn an average of $41,200 per year.

But, the data does not indicate if bonuses and other compensation is included. A total salary does not reflect the benefit packages or other perks you get for working with the company.

Several states also pay higher than their counterparts. But, these are also states known for difficult driving conditions. For example, driving in hectic traffic in New York will result in a higher salary even for rookie drivers because most drivers will not be able to maintain high mileage per hour.

Mississippi and West Virginia also pay higher than the national average for rookie drivers.

Pay Per Mile Vs. Per Hour

Pay Per Mile Vs. Per Hour

When you enter the industry, you’ll notice that there are two different pay opportunities: per hour and per mile.

Many of the pay by hour opportunities will be with companies, such as:

  • Local distribution outfits
  • UPS
  • FedEx

Being paid by the hour will normally be a position where you’ll drive locally. This means you’ll drive less and will receive home time, which is great for drivers that have families and want to spend time with their loved ones.

Freight drivers that work regionally or nationally are lucky to receive 1 to 2 days of home time per week. This means that you won’t be able to go home, and will sleep on the road.

Drivers that are paid by the mile have the opportunity to make more money. For example, most drivers will drive 700 or more miles per day. Based on a $.30 per mile pay scale, this driver would earn $210 a day. And, they may be paid for drop-offs and pickups, depending on the company.


When working as a team driver, you can cover over 1,000 miles per day. But, team drivers are normally paid a lower per-mile wage because they have the advantage of driving longer distances. With that said, team drivers make more money than solo drivers, and team drivers have the benefit of having somebody to talk to while on the road.

Unfortunately, a first-year truck driver will normally not be allowed to be a team driver.

Many trucking companies want to see that you’re dedicated and willing to stay in the industry. As you advance in your career, you’ll find that many companies will boost your salary after three months, six months and nine months of experience. This allows you to start earning a competitive wage faster than most other industries.

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