Average Starting Pay, Years One Through Three?

Topic 4705 | Page 1

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Vinny's Comment
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I am new here and considering a career in OTR. I am about to turn 35 years old and have been married for eight years. The marriage and time away from home is no concern to me at all, as I have traveled for work for months at a time before with no problems at all, so the time away would be nothing new. I currently reside in Northern Indiana and I am having a difficult time finding steady work that pays enough to not only pay the bills, but to plan for the future. In 2013 I worked harder than I ever have before, and my net income was the lowest it has ever been while working a skilled trade. So the big question is, how much can a new driver expect to make on average in years one through three? I have read that after your first year most typically make more money, so is it fair to believe that the pay increases with experience? All I want is to work hard and provide the best life possible for my family, is it possible to do this in this industry with intelligence and proper training? I nearly killed myself to make 18 last year, I am working poor and just want more for the lady and I. Thanks for your time in reading this, and I hope I posted this in the right area. :-) Be safe. -Vince


Over The Road

OTR driving normally means you'll be hauling freight to various customers throughout your company's hauling region. It often entails being gone from home for two to three weeks at a time.

Brian D.'s Comment
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I have no experience and don't even have a CDL but Prime is starting me out at 0.44/mile hauling a tanker once I obtain my CDL through them. I start August 18th.


Commercial Driver's License (CDL)

A CDL is required to drive any of the following vehicles:

  • Any combination of vehicles with a gross combined weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 or more pounds, providing the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the vehicle being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds, or any such vehicle towing another not in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any vehicle, regardless of size, designed to transport 16 or more persons, including the driver.
  • Any vehicle required by federal regulations to be placarded while transporting hazardous materials.
Steve C.'s Comment
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General consensus tends to be around $30,000 first year, maybe around $40,000-$50,000 beyond that. It really does depend on who you work for and how much you work. At my first company I was able to make ~$1100 every week, but that was always running up against my legal hours and never going home.

So in short: $30,000+ depending on where you work, how you work, and what your priorities are with hometime vs. revenue.

Rolling Thunder's Comment
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Hey Vinny and welcome

Like Steve said, it would generally be in that range. I just completed my first year and I grossed around the lower $30k area. (what the heck does the "k" mean anyway)? Sorry, back on topic...

This year will be better based on my improvements and raises that were earned plus my company just raised its starting pay for newbs. If all else being the same, it would put me in the upper $30k area.

Hope that helps.

James R.'s Comment
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K means kilo silly duck.

Rolling Thunder's Comment
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K means kilo silly duck.

Ah, so 30,000 kilo dollars? Or 30,000 dollar kilos?


James R.'s Comment
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Hahah 30 kilodollars.

Kai's Comment
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FFE (Frozen Food Express):

On the job training last about 6 weeks and you receive a flat rate salary of $455 per week which is above average. Companies such as Swift and Knight start with $300 per week.

As an experienced driver you should expect about $600 to $750 per week.

If you choose to join their oilfield in Odessa/Midland, Tx, you will be paid hourly $22. They have 10 hour shifts available. You can earn $60000 to $75000 annually.

If you have one experience experience with the first company or even more, then you might choose a company that does not train. Check out companies such as Crete/Shaffer, Heartland, or Averitt.

The more difficult the job the more you actually make. Reefers make more than dry van. Hazmat drivers earn more money than those who don't haul hazmat.


Hazardous Materials

Explosive, flammable, poisonous or otherwise potentially dangerous cargo. Large amounts of especially hazardous cargo are required to be placarded under HAZMAT regulations

Dry Van:

A trailer or truck that that requires no special attention, such as refrigeration, that hauls regular palletted, boxed, or floor-loaded freight. The most common type of trailer in trucking.


A refrigerated trailer.


Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.


When a violation by either a driver or company is confirmed, an out-of-service order removes either the driver or the vehicle from the roadway until the violation is corrected.

Chris L.'s Comment
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If you don't mind physical work I made 55k working for Sygma my first year. You will unload the whole trailer by hand truck through a side door and ramp. They also put you up in hotels when your out on route, and I was home two days a week. The only reason I left is because I wanted the OTR lifestyle.


Over The Road

OTR driving normally means you'll be hauling freight to various customers throughout your company's hauling region. It often entails being gone from home for two to three weeks at a time.

6 string rhythm's Comment
member avatar

Hey Vince, welcome to the forum. From what I've gathered reading your post, you're looking to maximize your income, not necessarily wanting to choose OTR for the lifestyle, correct? I saw you're willing to be away from home to do the job, that's great, you'd need that to go OTR.

If you're looking for the max income to not only provide for you now, but as you mentioned, plan for the future, then give LTL a hard look. Lots of new drivers aren't even aware of LTL, since truckload was typically the only way for a new driver to gain entry into the industry a few years ago. A lot of OTR drivers would pay their dues and hope they could land in a LTL company to retire from. Fact of the matter is that you don't need 1 year OTR experience for companies to consider you - some still do require this, usually other OTR companies. Another fact is that LTL companies are now hiring student drivers, sometimes right off the street (provided they have their own school or trainers). You don't need to settle for 30-35K for a rookie's salary, like in OTR or truckload companies.

If we're just talking about making a bigger paycheck, LTL pays better than truckload, period. But there's nothing wrong with choosing a truckload company and going OTR for your trucking career. Some drivers simply prefer the lifestyle. And the industry needs OTR drivers, everybody has their role. There's no right or wrong decision, only what's best for you and your family. I'm just making sure you're aware of your options.

I will make over 50K my rookie year, and will top out between 85-90K in two years once I hit top pay scale with my LTL company. I'll be home at least twice a week, and eventually home every day plus two days off a week. I don't know of any company driver for a truckload company that makes that much. Again, it's not a competition, but since you made it clear you want to make the most amount of money that you can, I'm showing you another option that will pay better than going OTR, and you'll be home more frequently.

You can check out my thread where I talk in depth about the LTL world. I'll provide the link below. Best wishes to you!

LTL Trucking - My linehaul job


Less Than Truckload

Refers to carriers that make a lot of smaller pickups and deliveries for multiple customers as opposed to hauling one big load of freight for one customer. This type of hauling is normally done by companies with terminals scattered throughout the country where freight is sorted before being moved on to its destination.

LTL carriers include:

  • FedEx Freight
  • Con-way
  • YRC Freight
  • UPS
  • Old Dominion
  • Estes
  • Yellow-Roadway
  • ABF Freight
  • R+L Carrier


Over The Road

OTR driving normally means you'll be hauling freight to various customers throughout your company's hauling region. It often entails being gone from home for two to three weeks at a time.


Linehaul drivers will normally run loads from terminal to terminal for LTL (Less than Truckload) companies.

LTL (Less Than Truckload) carriers will have Linehaul drivers and P&D drivers. The P&D drivers will deliver loads locally from the terminal and pick up loads returning them to the terminal. Linehaul drivers will then run truckloads from terminal to terminal.


Transportation Worker Identification Credential

Truck drivers who regularly pick up from or deliver to the shipping ports will often be required to carry a TWIC card.

Your TWIC is a tamper-resistant biometric card which acts as both your identification in secure areas, as well as an indicator of you having passed the necessary security clearance. TWIC cards are valid for five years. The issuance of TWIC cards is overseen by the Transportation Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security.


Operating While Intoxicated


When a violation by either a driver or company is confirmed, an out-of-service order removes either the driver or the vehicle from the roadway until the violation is corrected.

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