What New Drivers Need To Know About Truck Drivers Pay:
Most over-the-road (OTR)/long-haul truck drivers will get paid cents-per-mile. (CPM)
Driver pay can vary wildly from company-to-company, and various types of trailers and freight. Hauling more specialized freight (flatbed, oversized, etc.) generally pays better.
There are countless perks, bonuses, and financial incentives that trucking companies offer to drivers who meet certain goals.
What Are The Various Ways Truck Drivers Get Paid?
Hourly pay would normally affect local, and sometimes regional , truck drivers. Hourly positions will generally require more actual "hands-on" unloading of the freight during deliveries.
Local and regional truck driving jobs, at least Class A, will most often go to experienced drivers, or very lucky ones. Most new Class A CDL drivers can expect to drive over-the-road for a while before getting a chance at regional routes with most carriers.
Cents Per Mile (CPM):
Typically, this is how most over-the-road (OTL) drivers get paid, and CPM pay falls into several categories:
The miles on the most practical legal route from origin to destination.
All miles driven. Odometer miles. Not many companies pay drivers this way, anymore, as it includes ALL miles you drive, even if your GPS lies to you, or you go 40 miles out of your way to your special burger joint. Not many OTR companies use this method.
Household Goods Miles (Household Movers Guide, HHG):
Most companies pay according to "household goods miles", which is another way of saying "as the crow flies". In other words, the shortest, legal route from point "A" to point "B". Typically, this pay rate runs about 5-10% LESS than actual miles driven.
Sliding Scales Pay:
A type of pay in which shorter hauls pay more per mile than longer trips. For example a 1-500 mile load may pay $.50/mile, while 501 miles and up may pay $.45 per mile.
Generally, the pay difference is to give drivers who draw the short hauls a chance to make the same amount of money as they would normally.
Generally this is how owner/operators make their money. Usually the more ambitious/veteran/business-minded drivers, while grossing 100% for the load, they are assuming all of the risk and all of the expenses. Not for newbies or the faint-of-heart.
How Do Team Drivers Get Paid?
Most companies will pay a driver team a set per-mile rate for the team as a whole (which will be split evenly between the drivers), regardless of how many miles each drives, while some will split the miles driven per team and pay each driver a specific per-mile rate (which may be different amounts).
Team drivers, while typically being paid less per-mile than solo drivers, can make more money by being able to keep the truck rolling and rack up more mileage, where a solo driver is idled more often due to hours-of-service (HOS) regulations.
Team Mileage Bonus Pay: Teams are paid a bonus for productivity for driving a specific number of miles in a week, and earn additional mileage pay for any miles over that.
Extra Or Additional Pay Types For Truck Drivers:
Aside from their regular salary, there are many other extras, perks, or compensation, that drivers can earn on top of their salary, which vary by company. All trucking companies and types of driving jobs will be different, so it's important for the drivers to choose the opportunity which best fits their needs. Some of the most common examples of additional items that drivers can get paid for include:
Many companies will pay a lump-sum cash bonus JUST to take a job with them, usually dependent on experience and what division they join. Often will depend on minimum length of service, miles driven, safety record, etc.
Tarp Pay (for flatbedders):
Some companies will pay an extra per-load amount to drivers hauling cargo that must be tarped first. Like wrapping a Christmas present, but way bigger, and you get paid for it.
The carrier will pay a driver if he is delayed due to a truck breakdown, ensuring that a driver gets paid while stranded.
Drivers who have a wait or delay between loads may get paid by their company if the delay is beyond the drivers control.
Paid when a driver is waiting around at a shipper or receiver to get loaded or unloaded. Policies vary, but many times carriers will charge the shipper/receiver in cases of specific appointment times.
Since driving a truck in New York City is such a pain, many companies will pay extra to drivers willing to pick up and deliver in the boroughs of The Big Apple.
Over-dimensional load pay:
Pertaining only to flatbed trailers, oversize (or over-dimensional in height, width, or weight) loads generally require another level of attention from the driver, as there are often specialized routes, rules, restrictions and permits involved, as well as "pilot cars" leading the way. Some companies will pay an incentive to drivers willing to take on the responsibility.
Fuel Efficiency Bonuses:
Fuel normally being one of the top 2 expenses for trucking companies, many carriers will reward drivers who use less of it. Maintaining proper air pressure, avoiding "over-revving" and unnecessary idling, using cruise control, and practicing proper shifting techniques are examples of ways drivers can reduce fuel consumption.
Safe Driving Bonus Incentives:
Many companies will pay flat bonuses, or per-mile bonuses to truck drivers who avoid preventable accidents or loss, or maintain a minimum CSA score. Your CSA score will include crash history and roadside inspection results. See Pre-Employment Screening Program for more information on how that works.
Extra Stop Pay:
Extra pay given to drivers for each stop they make on a load with multiple delivery locations. Usually applies to local or regional truck drivers, and often excludes the first and last stop.
Driver Unload Pay:
Extra bonus paid to truck drivers who are required to physically handle the freight during unloading. Common among local/regional delivery drivers. Could be per stop, per pallet, etc., depending on company.
Some companies offer extra per-mile pay if the load takes them into, or through, our neighbor to the north, for the hassle of an international border-crossing. As a reminder, these types of routes would require a valid passport for the driver.
There is extra attention to be paid hauling a refrigerated trailer, and some carriers will compensate a driver extra for doing it.
Some companies will give a driver a per mile bonus for hauling HAZMAT cargo, as well as additional Hazmat safety bonuses.
Driver Referral Bonuses:
Many carriers will give drivers a bonus for recruiting other drivers into the company. It usually depends on the new driver staying with the company for a minimum time period.
Clean Inspection Bonuses:
Increasingly popular since the new CSA program went into effect, drivers who generate "No Violation Found" roadside inspections are awarded cash bonuses by their employer.
On-Time Delivery Bonus:
While all deliveries are expected to be made on-time, all the time, some companies offer an incentive to drivers who can achieve exceptionally high rates of on-time deliveries.
What Is Per Diem Pay?
Per Diem pay for truck drivers is an interesting style of pay in which the "per diem" amount (generally a specific percentage or dollar amount) is paid to the driver tax-free, putting more money in his/her pocket every week. Read more about Per Diem Truck Driver Pay.
What Kind Of Truck Driving Jobs Pay The Most Money?
Different pay for hauling different types of freight can vary wildly between carrier, and may also depend heavily on location and current economic conditions.
Generally, hauling the more specialized classes of freight, or niche market, will tend to pay more. For OTR drivers, dry van loads will normally pay the least, but require the least amount of hassle, experience, and/or risk. The more specialized or lucrative the position, the more experience and and work will generally be required.
Specific examples of the types of truck driving jobs that may tend to pay higher rates include:
Drivers on dedicated routes will typically run the same route on a daily or weekly basis. These are often accounts with major retailers like WalMart, Home Depot, Dollar General, etc. These types of jobs require high levels of reliability and professionalism, along with a more specialized set of skills. Drivers who land these jobs will normally have OTR experience and often benefit from more home time and higher pay on dedicated routes.
Ice Road Trucking:
Ignoring the unrealistic portrayal of truck drivers in the "documentary" series of the same name, ice road truckers will face a 400+ mile route through the Arctic Circle, in extremely hazardous and dangerous conditions (white-outs, temperatures of -40 Celsius, killer penquins, etc.), but stand to clear over $100,000 for a 3-month race against time.
Less-Than-Truckload (LTL) Jobs:
Self-explanatory, LTL jobs are normally local or regional in nature, generally driving set routes, with drivers hauling to and from a central hub, while picking up or making deliveries around the general vicinity.
LTL freight gives carriers higher profit margins, as they make more for small pickups than full-load hauls. Combined with low turnover rate, due in part to the drivers achieving better work/life balance by being home every day or every other day, LTL driving jobs are some of the most sought-after and lucrative in the industry.
Even when not handling HAZMAT loads (Fuel, propane, etc.), hauling tankers requires special handling that includes the responsibility for pumping their cargo out of the tank, as well as arranging for and waiting for the empty trailer to be professionally washed out. Driving a tank full of sloshing liquid is a lot different than hauling a dry load.
Drivers hauling flatbed trailers will need to pay special attention to how their load is secured, and spend extra time and energy ensuring that their cargo will not move while on the road. Some companies will require you to have your own specific tie-down equipment, and may reimburse you for it.
Also known as "wide loads". In addition to being way bigger and heavier than is reasonable, oversized load regulations vary from state-to-state, and a driver will have to be familiar with all that apply for his particular route. Over-width, over-height, and over-weight loads may all require separate permits to haul, depending on state.
Specialty Auto Haulers/Car Transport:
Most times will be hauling the trailers with a dozen or so cars racked on them that you see rolling down the highway. Involves a higher level of attention to the details of securing your load and checking/double-checking the restraints used. More work for the truck driver hauling cars translates into better pay.
Even more specialized jobs include single-car hauling, for auctions or classic/antique collectors, and hauling trailers for NASCAR teams (though we're pretty sure that a dream job like that is something that requires someone dying and leaving it to you in their will.)
Cattle Haulers or Bull Haulers:
Hauling trailer specifically designed to carry cattle or livestock, these types of runs require getting a trailer full of living animals to their destination in one piece. Specific health requirements vary from state-to-state regarding hauling animals, so extra attention by the driver to preparation is needed, as well as a special set of equipment for loading and off-loading the livestock.
- Alabama - $52,000
- Alaska - $37,000
- Arizona - $42,000
- Arkansas - $52,000
- California - $55,000
- Colorado - $45,000
- Connecticut - $59,000
- Delaware - $45,000
- D.C. - $64,000
- Florida - $47,000
- Georgia - $58,000
- Hawaii - $31,000
- Idaho - $33,000
- Illinois - $58,000
- Indiana - $49,000
- Iowa - $50,000
- Kansas - $47,000
- Kentucky - $44,000
- Louisiana - $46,000
- Maine - $45,000
- Maryland - $52,000
- Massachusetts - $51,000
- Michigan - $52,000
- Minnesota - $45,000
- Mississippi - $53,000
- Missouri - $50,000
- Montana - $43,000
- Nebraska - $37,000
- Nevada - $39,000
- N. Hampshire - $50,000
- New Jersey - $55,000
- New Mexico - $44,000
- New York - $62,000
- North Carolina - $49,000
- North Dakota - $45,000
- Ohio - $49,000
- Oklahoma - $47,000
- Oregon - $49,000
- Pennsylvania - $49,000
- Rhode Island - $46,000
- South Carolina - $50,000
- South Dakota - $38,000
- Tennessee - $47,000
- Texas - $49,000
- Utah - $40,000
- Vermont - $45,000
- Virginia - $51,000
- Washington - $53,000
- West Virginia - $48,000
- Wisconsin - $45,000
- Wyoming - $42,000
Truck Driver Salary By State:
While there are many other factors to consider than raw numbers when choosing where to work (cost-of-living, climate, family location, etc.), for comparison sake income by state may be one place to start your decision-making.
Below are the most recent median "Median" meaning that half of the driver salaries are above that amount, while half are below. salaries for truck drivers, by state. Again, with no other considerations, you should expect to make the most money as a truck driver living in Washington, D.C., and the least in Hawaii.