How Do Truck Drivers Get Paid?
Truck drivers earn a good living, but for many new drivers, one of the main questions they have is how do truck drivers get paid? Quite a few ways. The trucking company that you work for will outline the payment terms for you, but we’re going to cover the multiple ways that truckers are paid.
While many of the payment methods we’re going to list are offered to all truckers, keep in mind that you may be offered:
- Pay per hour
- Percentage per load
- Pay per hour if you don’t hit a certain CPM threshold
However, you won’t receive all three of these main payment methods. Instead, your contract will outline how you’ll be paid. After point three in the list below, you may be paid for each item separately on top of your normal pay.
How Truckers Are Paid? 9 Payment Methods to Know as a Driver
While there are many ways to get paid as a truck driver, these nine payment methods are the most common.
1. Pay Per Mile (CPM)
If you ask most people “how are truck drivers paid,” they’ll often say per mile or CPM. While this is not entirely accurate, it’s one of the most common forms of payment.
Paid CPM means: pay per mile driven.
However, CPM isn’t as simple as driving X miles and being paid for some drivers. Instead, there are really three per mile pay rates that you need to know about:
- Practical mileage. Driving “practical” miles means that you’ve driven the most practical route to your destination. Dispatch will calculate this using the electronic logging device on the rig. You can compare this mileage to what you would expect on Google Maps or something similar.
- Hub mileage. The hub mileage is based on the total miles driven on the vehicle and is recorded using the truck’s odometer.
- Household goods. Also known as HHG miles, this calculation is used for trips with short mileage and will calculate the distance from one location to another, such as from the hub to drop off.
Practical mileage is the most common form of payment because it’s considered “fair.” Truckers cannot take the longest route to reach a destination to try and inflate their pay. Additionally, if you do need to reroute for some reason, you can alert dispatch of the issue and can be sure that you’ll be compensated for the miles.
2. Percentage Per Load
Truck driver pay per load is often for an owner-operator and is when you negotiate the payment based on the net revenue of the load. For example, you may log into a load board and see that the revenue of the load is $4,000.
You can negotiate a 30% cut of the revenue, or $1,200 for delivering the load.
Both parties will need to agree on the percentage of the load before any freight begins to move. Truckers that use percentage per load can make substantial money if they stick to short length loads or even medium length loads.
3. Per Hour
Pay per hour is the final “standard pay,” and it’s one of the less-common ways truckers get paid.
Generally, hourly pay is only given to drivers who do:
- Intrastate routes
- Drive in a radius of 150 miles or less
Hourly pay is common with delivery and courier drivers, like those working for UPS, FEDEX or grocery chains.
In many cases, drivers who are paid hourly have busy schedules. They are often responsible for loading and unloading freight, and they have multiple stops along their route. Drivers will also typically interact with customers on a regular basis and be responsible for lifting heavy items.
Hourly pay rates can vary greatly depending on the level of experience and the work involved.
Additional Pay for Truckers
The five methods above are the standard ways truckers get paid for their work. However, truckers may also receive additional pay in certain situations or for achieving certain milestones. From safety bonuses to detention pay, truckers can receive additional pay in many ways.
4. Per Diem Pay
Per diem pay, or pay per day, is a daily allowance given to drivers to cover the cost of food and other expenses while on the road. Per diem pay will vary from one company to another.
Although per diem pay appears on a trucker’s paycheck, the IRS does not consider it taxable income. In fact, drivers that don’t receive per diem pay can take the standard per diem deduction when filing their taxes.
5. Detention Pay
Drivers have a schedule to follow and deadlines to meet. They also have to remain within their hours of service requirements. So, when a shipper causes delays or a drop-off is delayed, drivers receive compensation with detention pay.
Pick-ups and drop-offs typically have a two-hour buffer window. If loads are held up for any longer than this, detention pay typically kicks in. Some companies may have their own policies for when detention pay starts accumulating, so it’s important to get these details when being hired.
Detention pay may be fixed or hourly, depending on company policy.
6. Stop Pay
If drivers have to make multiple stops between the pickup location and the final destination, they may be paid for those in-between stops. The pay does not include the pickup location or the final stop. Rather, this pay is simply to compensate the driver for their additional time to make these stops.
7. Accessorial Pay
Trucking companies may use accessorial pay to compensate drivers for any services they perform that are above and beyond their scope of work.
Accessorial pay may include:
- Shrink wrapping pallets
- Loading and unloading
- After-hour deliveries
- Operating equipment such as a pallet jack or a forklift
- Non-dock deliveries
- Tolls and border crossing fees
When companies offer this type of pay, they typically pass the cost onto the customer, and then the driver gets paid from there.
8. Safety and Fuel Bonuses
Drivers may also receive safety and fuel bonuses for improving their miles per gallon (MPG) or driving safely on the road.
Fuel costs are a major consideration for trucking companies. Fuel bonuses give drivers an incentive to improve their MPG, which also saves the company money.
Safety bonuses are also an incentive for truckers to drive safely while on the road. Proper and safe handling of a load prevents costly losses and helps protect the trucking company’s reputation.
Bonuses may be calculated based on the number of miles driven or other factors.
9. Breakdown Pay for Truck Drivers
Truckers may also be paid when their trucks break down and they are unable to work. The start period for breakdown pay and the amount paid will depend on the employer.
For example, some companies will start paying breakdown pay immediately once the breakdown is reported. At other companies, breakdown pay doesn’t kick in until two hours or even a day after the breakdown is reported.
It’s important to note that there is no standard rate for breakdown pay, nor are there any set-in-stone rules for how it works. Each company will have its own policies and rules. For example, breakdown pay may only apply if you are out on the road when the breakdown occurs.
Do Truck Drivers Get Paid Hourly?
Although not as common as other payment methods like CPM, some truck drivers do get paid hourly.
Hourly pay tends to be more common with drivers with local routes or those who are working part-time.
How Often Do Truck Drivers Get Paid?
How often a trucker gets paid will depend on their employer or whether they work as an owner operator.
Drivers may be paid:
- Twice a week
- After a completed delivery
Most drivers are paid once a week, but you will find some companies offering twice-weekly pay to attract more truckers.
Owner operators and some company drivers may be paid after completing a delivery.
How To Pay Truck Drivers?
Now that you know the payment structures for truckers, you may be wondering how they receive their pay. Truckers can get paid in a few different ways:
- Standard check
- Direct deposit
- Payment cards, like Comdata or Tcheck Cards
- Digital wallets (e.g. PayPal)
Direct deposit is the most common method of payment for truckers, and often, it’s the most preferred. Drivers don’t have to go through the extra step of going to the bank to deposit their checks. Their pay is waiting for them in their bank accounts on payday.
However, many trucking companies are starting to rely on payment cards like Comdata to pay their drivers. These cards may also be used for fueling, making it easier to manage accounts for both truckers and their employers.
These are the most common ways truckers are paid and the most common payment structures. CPM is still the standard for paying truckers, but it ultimately depends on the position. Local drivers and part-time workers, for example, may be paid per hour. Owner operators, on the other hand, are generally paid by a percentage of the load.