How Much Does a Commercial Truck Driver Make?

An article in the New York Times last August pointed out the increasing pressure in the trucking industry to pay its drivers more. What one side of the discussion called a “driver shortage” is identified by others as “lagging pay.” In this atmosphere, well-trained commercial truck drivers are already seeing increases in wages as companies struggle to fill tractor seats and get loads moving. For newcomers to the industry, commercial trucking may seem confusing or even mysterious. Most drivers, though, can earn a comfortable living from operating in a variety of trucking services, providing steady, year-round income for themselves and their families. Exactly how much a truck driver makes, however, depends on a number of factors.

Commercial Truck Drivers Work Everywhere

Pay in the trucking industry is directly related to the type of driving you do. Over-the-road trailer-load (OTR TL) drivers take full trailers of goods from state to state, often sleeping in their tractors (the cabs). Day-cab operators also roll over the interstates but begin and end their runs in a single shift, so they have no need to sleep in their cabs.

Delivery vans carry cargo within cities and towns, with their drivers home at the end of each shift. Movers, waste haulers and other specialists carry particular kinds of loads. Most cargo in the U.S. goes by dry van, but refrigerated units (reefers), flatbed and tankers also run all 50 states.

Keep in mind, of course, that we have no interstate trucking from the continental United States to Hawaii. Commercial truck drivers in Hawaii do run on Interstate Highways H1, H2 and H3, which sounds like a joke but simply means federal highway money helped pave the way, so to speak.

For each type of driving, pay rates differ. A single trucking company may have drivers hauling dry vans, other drivers specializing in flatbed loads—which requires knowledge in tying down and adjusting the load—and still other drivers who carry liquids in tank trucks. Not every liquid is milk, however; wine, industrial chemicals and orange juice are all loads a tanker driver could carry. Because liquids slosh from side to side and front to back in a tanker, these drivers are financially rewarded for their special training in handling moving loads.

America Depends on Commercial Truck Drivers

Setting aside a long tradition of country songs related to trucking, many drivers do find the romance of the open road compelling. That’s a good thing, since nearly everything we eat, drink, wear, watch or buy comes to us, at some point, by truck. America depends on its nearly two million commercial truck drivers to keep us all fed, housed, clothed and comfortable.

Most OTR drivers follow irregular routes, where their dispatchers send them anywhere based on the load they carry. Other OTR drivers follow dedicated routes, carrying flowers from Miami up the east coast, or wine from California to Chicago. Some commercial truck drivers choose to work for a large company, some lease their tractors from those companies, and some decide to be independent operators.

Commercial Truck Driver Salary & Pay Rates

OTR drivers are paid by the mile, with most companies offering bonuses for fuel efficiency and teaming (driving with two in the cab to keep the truck rolling day and night).

Truck driver salaryThe United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that, in May 2014—some months before the New York Times article—median annual income for heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers was $39,520.

It’s clear that pay rates for trucking vary widely. The BLS indicates that while the lowest 10 percent earned less than $25,110, the top 10 percent of earners in the industry earned an average annual wage of $58,910.

Benefits Provided
Tied into the climbing pay rates due to the increased demand for commercial truckers, benefits for drivers are increasing. Most large companies offer complete benefits packages, important for drivers working hard to support families:

  • Paid holidays
  • Paid leave
  • Paid lodging, meals and incidentals
  • Retirement plans
  • Health insurance
  • Life insurance

Truck Driving Training

Commercial truck driving could be a fun, financially rewarding career. By attending a commercial driving school, you gain the special training you need to operate a 53-foot trailer and a cab that could be another 27 feet long. Once you have your Commercial Driver License (CDL) you are eligible for many possible career paths, including cruising Hawaii’s Interstates.

How to Become a Truck Driver

We could describe the elaborate process a commercial truck driver must follow to transport a wind turbine’s 150-foot blade from highway up a mountain top to its fabrication site, but we don’t want to sound long-winded. If you’re interested in commercial truck driving training, contact Advanced Technology Institute today to learn more about our about our No-CIP Tractor-Trailer Driving program could be completed in as little as 3 months. Contact us at 800-468-1093 or request information today.

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