Before you become a truck driver, it’s good to know truck driver salary ranges.
We are going to explore various aspects of this so that you will understand.
However, we maintain (as we say on our home page), “It’s not just how much you earn that counts; it’s also how much you keep!” So, let’s begin…
Advertising Truck Driving Jobs
Visit just about any truck stop, you will see a trucking magazine rack or display like the one shown at right.
You may see some outside the door and another inside (sometimes near the showers or lounge area).
The ads may list such things as the hiring area, trucking experience required and benefits.
But most especially, some drivers look at the pay scale!
The pay rate — which can be roughly calculated toward a potential truck driver salary — is almost always expressed in cents per
mile (sometimes abbreviated as “cpm”).
We say “roughly” because irregular route carriers usually don’t offer exactly the same number of miles per week.
So, paychecks vary.
The pay rate stated may be for newly hired drivers, owner operators or teams, so you have to pay attention to the details.
But that is usually only part of the total pay “package” that a potential driver looks for.
Besides the Truck Driver Salary…
Although not part of truck driver salary (what you are paid), these things can benefit you.
Employees in all different occupations have been known to either stay or leave a job or employer based upon benefits received.
There are also some benefits that aren’t tangible — like the facilities that a trucking company provides for its employees.
A yard with numerous pot holes, ill kept fuel islands and a poorly maintained driver lounge all have an impact on driver morale.
But back to truck driver salaries, here are rules of thumb that impact take home pay…
- Obviously, experienced drivers earn more than rookies and those with specialized training earn even more.
- Teams may be required to split mileage pay regardless of who is driving. The way this works is that the “truck” earns a certain income per mile and the two team members split the rate. So, if the truck earns $0.40/mile, each team member may earn $0.20/mile each.
Split Pay for Truck Driving Teams
When we were in truck driver training school, we were thinking about hiring on with Swift.
At the time, the “first seat driver” earned $0.21/mile and the “second seat driver” earned $0.20/mile.
We were individually teased by our fellow student drivers about who was going to be “first” versus “second” seat driver and earn that penny more per mile.
“Vicki, you’ll be equally qualified with Mike to drive the truck. Are you going to let him earn a penny a mile more than you?” they would ask.
Then, they would turn around and use the same argument on Mike from his perspective.
What we ended up telling them was that to us, it didn’t matter who got paid “more” of a truck driver salary because we were going to keep “all that lovely money in the family”!
However, this situation can be a serious bone of contention between two truckers who don’t share a common account or who have widely different amounts of trucking experience.
The truck driver salary of one may not be anywhere near the other, so bear split pay in mind if you team drive.
If you have doubts about who will be paid what, ask your trucking company so that there are no misunderstandings or hard feelings.
Should That Term Even Be Used?
We feel that the term “truck driver salary” is a bit of a misnomer because when one thinks “salary,” one is apt to think of getting paid no matter how many or how few hours of work are completed.
This is simply not the case with professional truck drivers (at least none that we know of).
Among the reasons why truck driver salaries vary or are “capped” are these:
- Truckers are limited by the number of hours they can work in a week by the “Hours of Service” regulations.
- Truckers are usually limited by the loads that are assigned to them and whether or not their trucking companies truly utilize them or their trucks. Depending on where you deliver your load, freight may not be available (that is, freight that your trucking company wants to haul, for the price being paid per mile).
- Truckers are limited in the number of miles they can cover in a day by a number of factors beyond their control like weather, road construction, heavy traffic around rush hour, accidents, breakdowns, the routes they drive, etc. Every delay chews up time you could be rolling down the road earning your truck driver salary.
- Each trucker has his or her own level of motivation for wanting to do a good job. Lazy drivers seldom last long in trucking.
Tables of Potential Truck Driver Salaries
So, let’s look at potential truck driver salaries (before taxes are taken out) at various pay rates in 5 cent per mile intervals.
We’ve arbitrarily selected a weekly average of 2500 paid miles per week (or 500 miles per day, 5 days a week) loaded and deadhead.
We’ve also used 52 weeks per year even though some drivers may take a week or two of vacation per year.
Your calculations may be different.
Drivers with local truck driving jobs or who work for less-than-truckload carriers may be paid on an hourly rate, so for them we have a different table of calculations for truck driver salaries.
Truck Driver Salary Ranges for Top Trucking Companies
We are taking the liberty of pasting below links from PayScale.com to the truck driver salary ranges for those who drive for
- 5 top truckload trucking companies and
- 5 less-than-truckload trucking companies.
Please bear in mind that these are truck driver salary “ranges” (meaning that some drivers will be paid more and some will be paid less).
|Schneider National Company||FedEx Freight|
|Swift Transportation Corporation||Con-Way Freight|
|Werner Enterprises||YRC Worldwide|
|U.S. Xpress||UPS Freight (United Parcel Service)|
|J.B. Hunt||ABF Freight System|
When this article was originally written (August 2011), there were 237 salaries for 135 companies listed for “truck driver” through Glassdoor.com.
As of January 2013, there were 420 truck driver salaries for 216 companies listed.
To give a comparison between what truck driver salaries used to be like, you may be interested in a 2006 resource.
Money saving tip: When you go shopping for a trucking company, do not merely look at the base pay rate in cents per mile. Also look for
- potential bonuses that you can earn (performance bonus, safety bonus, etc.),
- equipment that will protect your health (such as auxiliary power units or APUs) and
- time savers (such as automatic toll paying systems like PrePass).
Not only will certain features allow you to save time, but they protect your wallet and lower the risk you take of having large sums of cash with you.
Visit trucking forums to read about potential trucking companies so that you can learn from insiders the good, the bad and the ugly.
See if you can talk face-to-face with drivers currently employed with the company you are targeting.
Don’t forget to ask some of the important questions that we have on our recruiters page.
Bear in mind that while a good truck driver salary is important, there are things that should be more important to you like family.
How will the trucking company take care of you when you need to get home for a family emergency or crisis situation?
How well does the company take care of its equipment and how long will you have to wait while equipment is being serviced?
If a company’s driver turnover is high, find out why and if you can handle whatever is causing drivers to leave.
If a company’s driver turnover is low, you may have to wait until a driving position becomes available.
Be careful about grumbling about not getting annual raises, especially in a down economy.
Most trucking companies try to give a penny-per-mile increase each year on the anniversary of your hire date.
But if they don’t, consider the pros and cons of staying where you are.
Consider the impact of every change in employment on your work history and DAC report.
Remember that every time you change companies, you may have to start over on insurance coverage and other employee benefits.
Consider the changes in coverage amounts before you switch.
There may be a 90-day probationary period during which you aren’t covered!
If you have a catastrophic accident, you need to have finances in place to cover your health care needs.
The same goes for members of your family, your home support team.