California Truck Driver Salary
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How Much Do Truck Drivers Make in California?

California’s large size and coastal location make it a hub for the shipping industry.

Not surprisingly, California ranks second for having the most truck drivers in the country. The state has more than 130,000 drivers.

Truckers are in high demand in California and with an overall higher cost of living, truckers in the state earn higher-than-average salaries. But how much do truck drivers make in California exactly? What factors will affect your salary as a driver in the state?

What is the Average California Truck Driver Salary?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for a trucker in the United States is $47,130 per year or $22.66 per hour. How does California compare to the national average?

Data from Indeed.com shows that California truckers make:

  • An average overall salary of $70,508 per year.
  • $0.49-$0.75/mile as a team driver.
  • $0.37-$0.60/mile as a solo driver.
  • $1.22-$1.75/mile as an owner operator.

According to Salary.com, California truckers earn:

  • $54,452-$70,680 per year

Truckers are in high demand in the state. According to California’s Employment Development Department, this occupation is expected to grow much faster than all other occupations. Jobs are expected to increase by 15.2% between 2018 and 2028, adding 24,400 jobs in the process.

4 Factors Affect Trucker Pay in California?

There are several factors that can affect your salary as a trucker in California, including:

#1 – Experience

In the trucking industry, experience will play a significant role in your pay rate. For drivers in California, this rule is no different.

According to Indeed.com, here’s how much drivers make based on their experience level:

  • Less than 1 year: $66,204 per year
  • 6-9 years: $75,281 per year
  • 10+ years: $79,614 per year

Staying in the business for more than a decade will reward you with an excellent salary and solid benefits, including health insurance and vacation time.

#2 – Location

Along with experience, your location within the state will also affect your salary. Some of the highest paying cities include:

  • Bakersfield, CA: $71,794/year
  • Stockton, CA: $71,093/year
  • Fontana, CA: $70,747/year
  • Fresno, CA: $70,603/year
  • Visalia, CA: $70,000-$80,000/year
  • San Diego, CA: $70,000-$80,000/year

#3 – Type of Route

The route type can also affect your pay. Generally, over-the-road (OTR) drivers are paid a higher wage because they spend most of their time on the road. The risk is higher (greater chance of accidents or complications) and they receive less home time. A local driver may get home every night, so the pay may be lower.

Data shows that in California:

  • OTR drivers earn $0.39-$0.55/mile on average
  • Regional drivers earn $0.37-$0.55/mile on average
  • Local drivers earn $0.43-$0.66/mile on average

It may seem like local drivers get paid more. Their pay per mile is higher, but they don’t log as many miles per week as an OTR driver.

For example, the average local driver in California does about 2,500 miles per week. An OTR driver, on the other hand, does about 3,000 miles per week.

  • If an OTR driver earns $0.39/mile driving 3,000 miles per week, they will earn $1,170/week before taxes.
  • If a local driver earns $0.43/mile driving 2,500 miles per week, they will earn $1,075 per week before taxes.

The difference isn’t too significant, but overall OTR drivers still earn more.

#4 – Employer

If you plan to work as a company driver, your pay will also be dependent on your employer. So, naturally, some employers pay higher salaries than others. In addition, higher-paying carriers may require more experience or have more stringent requirements overall.

Some of the highest-paying carriers in California pay their drivers $96,000-$100,000+ per year. Other companies may only pay $75,000-$80,000 per year.

Owner Operator Trucker Pay in California

You know by now that owner-operators have higher gross salaries, but after expenses are taken out they often earn just as much as a company driver when all is said and done. Owner-operators run their own businesses, so they’re responsible for the cost of:

  • Maintenance
  • Taxes
  • Fuel
  • Other expenses

Still, you have the opportunity to earn more than a company driver because you are your own boss.

There’s no limit to how much you can earn, and if you can keep your expenses low, you can make significantly more than the average driver.

According to data from Indeed.com, owner-operators in California make $1.22-$1.75/mile, which is more than double what a solo company driver makes ($0.37-$0.60/mile).

Data from ZipRecruiter shows that owner operators make an average of $204,344/year or about $89/hour. Some owner operators make more, depending on their location. The cities with the highest-earning owner operators include:

  • San Mateo: $232,279/year
  • Berkeley: $223,418/year
  • Santa Monica: $223,102/year
  • Daly City: $222,787/year

If you live in California and you’re looking for a career that offers a great outlook and the chance to travel, working as a trucker may be an excellent fit for you. Drivers are in high demand in California, and the average pay is much higher than the national average.

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