How Much Does Being A Truck Driver Pay? How to Make Bank

Every truck driver should know what kind of pay they’ll be receiving for their services. We’ll show you what type of salary truckers make and some other types of comp

By

Jacob Lee
April 27, 2023
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How much does being a truck driver pay? Many new commercial driver license (CDL) holders don’t have the answer to this question. However, given the intense training and the challenges that come with the career, many rookie truckers wonder if the compensation of this profession is worth the effort. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average pay of a truck driver is $48,310 a year. How much being a truck driver pays can vary based on many factors. Drivers with more experience are likely to get a higher paying job. Transporting certain types of freight and endorsements can increase a trucker’s salary.

CDL holders should research how much being a truck driver pays before sending an application to an employer. 

How Much Does Being A Truck Driver Pay? Factors to Consider

While the average salary for a truck driver in the U.S. is $48,310 a year, annual wages can vary widely. The lowest 10 percent in this profession earn $35,300 while the highest 10 percent $75,220.

There are many trucking jobs that place different requirements on drivers. Annual income can vary based on the distance freight has to be transported and what type of load is being hauled. We’ve included data on average truck driving salaries for different jobs.

Truck Driver Wages 

Trucking JobAverage Salary
Dry Van67,044
Hazmat Tanker$67,096
Refrigerated$61,946
Oversize$71,091

Owner operators make the largest average wage for truck drivers. According to Salary.com, these types of transportation providers earn around $160,960. Despite the high pay, owner operators have many expenses that company drivers don’t have to worry about. 

This includes:

  • Health insurance
  • Vehicle insurance
  • Equipment
  • Fuel
  • Tolls
  • Personal/corporate taxes

While there are many variations in pay across trucking jobs, drivers can count on making good money as either company employees or owner operators. 

A truck driver gripping their steering wheel

What is A First Year Trucker Salary?

A first year trucker salary is the amount of money a CDL holder will make during their first year working in the transportation industry. New drivers shouldn’t expect an average salary during this amount of time. Transportation companies typically offer a lower trucker pay rate for new and inexperienced employees. 

Besides lower than average over-the-road (OTR) pay, new drivers usually have additional expenses once they land their first job. This can include paying loans to a CDL school or purchasing work equipment. Fortunately, the salary of a truck driver will rise as they gain experience and better job opportunities become available. 

If you just landed your first job, check out our article on rookie truck driver mistakes to find out what you should avoid when you’re on the road. 

How Truck Drivers Can Increase Their Pay

There are few methods that drivers can use to increase their trucker annual salary. Some of these techniques are simple, while others will take time to accomplish. 

Methods that new drivers can use to earn better pay include:

  • Working for companies with incentives and sign on bonuses
  • Obtaining more endorsements and certifications
  • Transporting high value cargo
  • Gaining more experience

CDL holders that want to increase their truck driver earnings should understand each of these thoroughly. 

1. Earn Incentives and Bonuses

One way to increase truck driver payment is to work for a company that offers incentives and bonuses. Many businesses offer perks like these to recruit new employees and keep current workers happy. Given that there’s a shortage of truck drivers, many companies are using these techniques to attract talent to their business. 

Incentives and bonuses offered by transportation businesses are fairly similar. Both provide additional pay to a truck driver’s salary. However, incentives are decided on and offered before payment, while bonuses are paid as a reward for past achievements. 

Transportation providers offer some of the following bonuses:

  • Sign-on
  • Safety
  • Performance
  • Referral
  • Fuel efficiency 
  • Mileage
  • Holiday

Trucking companies might offer incentives for challenging loads. This could include traveling over borders or performing less common driver duties. Incentives and bonuses will allow truckers to earn more money than what their salary already offers.  

2. Obtain Endorsements and Certifications

CDL holders can also increase their truck driver income by obtaining additional endorsements and certifications. Certain jobs might require these qualifications to be eligible for employment. 

A trucking company that wants drivers with endorsements will pay more than other businesses. Even if a transportation company doesn’t require one, CDL holders have a better chance at earning a higher salary because they have these qualifications. 

Some of the endorsements that truckers can get include:

  • (H) Hazardous Materials
  • (N) Tank Vehicles
  • (X) Tanker/Hazmat combination
  • (T) Doubles/Triples
  • (S) School bus
  • (P) Passenger transport

A hazardous materials’ endorsement allows a CDL holder to haul materials such as gas, oil and other chemicals that are extremely dangerous. Obtaining this qualification is very time-consuming. 

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is responsible for issuing the hazardous materials’ endorsement. This government agency wants to ensure that every trucker who applies can meet their standards and receives the proper amount of training. 

Drivers can also obtain a tank vehicle endorsement. Truckers with this achievement will be permitted to operate trucks that have a removable or permanent tank attached. 

This endorsement is held by drivers that transport:

  • Milk
  • Gas
  • Chemicals
  • Water

The tanker/Hazmat combination essentially fuses the two previous endorsements. Truckers that have this qualification can transport hazardous products and are allowed to operate tanker vehicles. 

Another endorsement that can increase the average salary of a driver is the double/triple endorsement. Truckers with this designation on their license can haul two or three trailers at once. While double/triple endorsement is very beneficial, some states don’t allow vehicles transporting multiple trailers on their roads.  

The passenger transport and school bus endorsement won’t be applicable to transporting freight. That said, trucking companies might find these qualifications appealing. A driver with the skill to transport children and people will also have the ability to safely transport freight. 

3. Seek Out Hazardous and High-Value Loads

Trucking jobs can vary based on the type of freight that is being transported. A CDL holder can earn more money based on the type of goods they’re hired to move. Typically, jobs that require the movement of high value cargo or dangerous products will result in a higher truck driver annual income.

Some of the most profitable types of freight to transport includes:

  • Hazardous materials
  • Oversized loads
  • Perishable goods
  • Specialized cargo (medical equipment, aerospace parts, etc.)

Hazardous goods can raise a truck driver’s earnings due to the dangers associated with transporting this kind of cargo. Oversize freight shipments also pay well due to all the regulations that must be followed and the preparations that have to be completed. 

Perishable goods are another commodity that has a high average over-the road (OTR) driver pay. Shipments like these usually consist of fresh foods and medicine. These types of commodities are in constant demand. 

Additionally, perishable products must arrive at the final destination before expiration. Due to the demand for these commodities and time constraints when transporting them, the average OTR driver pay that comes with this type of driving job is often higher.  

Specialized transportation jobs can also yield in high truck driver wages. This kind of freight requires special attention and care. Therefore, drivers that transport this kind of cargo are likely to make more than the average salary of a trucker.

Drivers in the United States that want to earn good money should try to obtain jobs that will require to move high value or dangerous cargo. 

4. Gain More Experience

The final way a trucker can increase their salary is by gaining more experience. Many transportation companies want seasoned drivers on their roster because of the skills they’ve obtained during their career. 

These skills include:

  • Time management
  • Customer service
  • Problem-solving 
  • Vehicle knowledge 

By honing these skills, truckers can find a job that will increase their annual salary. Some transportation businesses have different experience requirements. Therefore, drivers should look for a company that wants someone with their level of industry knowledge. 

There are many things to consider when you look for a trucking job in the transportation business. Our article on the features of the best trucking company to drive for will show you what factors to focus on. 

A truck driver in the cab of their vehicle

Other Types of Trucker Compensation

Knowing how much being a truck driver pays is very important. However, there are other types of compensation available in this profession. Many transportation companies provide excellent benefits to their drivers. 

This can include:

  • Health insurance
  • Retirement plans
  • Paid time off (PTO)
  • Sick time
  • Training 

Companies that provide a good truck driver salary usually offer great benefits. Therefore, CDL holders should judge companies based on salary and the other types of benefits.  

Our article on truck driver benefits will give you more information about the compensation you’ll receive in this profession. 

Drive With ABCO to Earn a Salary That You Deserve

At ABCO, we make sure that our drivers are paid well and have access to the best benefits. New drivers have access to competitive pay and per mile options, depending on route type. 

The benefits package we provide has many perks. ABCO drivers can spend their vacation at one of our many resorts around the country. You’ll also have access to superb medical insurance that will help you stay healthy.

Fill out your application today if you’re ready to take your trucking career to the next level. You can also call our team at (866) 980-2710 for more information about job opportunities.  

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