How Much Do OTR Truck Drivers Make

The call of the open road can be a tempting career choice. Many people have made an excellent living as an over the road (OTR) truck driver. There are several benefits to truck driving, including a variety of career paths, dedicated routes, and trailer types, with many new opportunities available every day. Truck drivers have job stability, too, as the demand for truck drivers continues to grow.

The career path of a truck driver is not restricted to the road. You can become a trainer or aspire to own your own fleet as an owner-operator. Truck drivers are often their own boss, with choices for the routes they drive, the hours they keep, and the types of loads they haul. In fact, many large, multi-million dollar trucking companies started with just one truck.

Another incentive to become a truck driver is the potential to earn a very comfortable living. If this sounds like a promising career, here is an overview of how truck driver pay works.

Factors That Impact Driver Pay

As with any career, several factors will affect your driver pay, including:

Education

Truck drivers have to go to truck driving school. The cost to get your license can range from $3,000 to $7,000. Although this might sound like a lot of money, you will complete your course and find a job to help you pay off your tuition quickly. Unlike many other careers, where your education can find you in debt, you will be able to pay off your education and then be ready to enjoy all your earnings.

You also have the option to take a company-sponsored program. However, you will be required to work with the company for at least a year. Once complete, you will begin driving with the company, but some of your payment goes towards your training. 

All things considered, both company-sponsored and independent training schools offer the same opportunities when it comes down to the money. The main difference is that when you go the independent route, you won’t be tied to one company when your training is finished.

CDL vs. non-CDL Income

Commercial driver’s license training (or CDL training) will prepare you to become a commercial truck driver. Although you might want to skip this step, it is in your best interest to get your licensing. 

First, CDL truck drivers make an average of $62,752 per year compared to the national average of $43,464. You can also be fined if you drive without a CDL.

Experience

As with any job, the average driver pay is also based on experience. As you build your reputation as a truck driver, you will become better qualified to get paid a higher rate. Experienced truck drivers are always in high demand and can expect to be paid better than their less experienced counterparts.

Based on experience, you can expect:

Year One: You can expect a lower salary when you first get your license. However, you might also get a better rate of pay if you are willing to do some of the less desirable jobs. This can be based on the routes you drive, how far you are willing to drive and, sometimes, what you haul. On average, solo OTR drivers can expect to earn from $40,000 to $45,000.

A willingness to relocate can also get you higher wages. If you don’t have any ties to your community, this can present a good opportunity. In some cases, you might have a better chance of earning your experience at a larger company. You will probably be paid less, but you have to start somewhere. This can be a good option if you just want to get experience before moving on to bigger and better opportunities. 

As with any job, this will be the year you learn the ropes of the industry. If you are willing to learn, you will find more and more opportunities open up to safe, committed drivers. 

Year Two: Many drivers report that they make an additional $1,000 per year as they progress in their career. This would usually be based on staying with the same company. There are also a lot of factors at play, including how you are being paid, benefits, and bonuses. 

Long Term: Most truckers will find that they can earn more if they transition to better positions throughout their career. Again, it is all based on how you are paid, the benefits and bonuses you receive, and of course, the company and routes you drive. 

Earning Potential by Type of Driver

One of the best things about truck driving is that you do have different opportunities available. You can decide which type of driving job suits your lifestyle best, including:

  • Solo OTR Driver: As a solo driver, you are more or less a freelance driver who can pick and choose to work with the companies you wish. 
  • Dedicated Driver: In this position, you will work for a specific company moving their particular merchandise. An example of this would be a department store. In this job, you would typically be running the same routes every trip.
  • Trainer: Once you get a good number of years under your belt, you can begin training drivers. 
  • Specialized Driver: This position covers a number of different opportunities in higher-risk industries. This can include hazmat, tank, and oversized hauls as well as ice-road trucking. You are making higher earnings due to the risk associated with the job. 
  • Team OTR Driver: Team driving allows you to take on longer hauls as you work with a second driver. You can share the driving. While one person drives, the other can rest, allowing you to cover more ground in less time. You both get paid for the total mileage covered, which means your earning potential can be quite high. 
  • Owner-Operator: As an owner-operator, you own your own trucking business and can even decide to purchase a fleet as you take on bigger and better contracts. Eventually, you can develop a transportation company and hire your own group of drivers. 

Annual Salary for an OTR Truck Driver

Each type of driver will have different earning potential. Here are some average salaries based on the type of driving:

  • Solo OTR Driver: Solo drivers can earn from $40,000 to $45,000 in the first year. This can increase as you gain more work experience. 
  • Dedicated Driver: Depending on the company, you can earn about $65,000 a year.
  • Specialized Driver: This varies considerably based on the area of work. A line haul driver makes about $80,000 per year. Plus, the more dangerous jobs such as hazmat, tank, oversized loads, and ice-road trucking can earn as much as $250,000 per year for part-time work.
  • Team OTR Driver: Because you get paid for all of the acquired mileage between you and your partner, you can earn from $100,000 to $150,000 per year.
  • Trainer: In this job, you can earn up to $80,000 per year.
  • Owner-Operator:  Owner-operators can earn upwards of $100,000 per year. 

Average Pay Per Mile

Truck driving jobs can be paid in a number of ways. You can be paid by the hour, by the mile, or in rarer a set, by salary. Companies that pay per hour tend to be larger or local distribution companies such as UPS and FedEx. Being paid by the mile is more common for freight drivers. 

In most cases, you can make more money when you are paid by the mile. If you are driving a fair clip every day, you can make as much as $210 per day depending on your mileage rate. You can consider the different elements of pay, including:

  • Type of Driving: As mentioned, the type of driving that you do will affect how much you get paid. This can include what you haul, the type of route, the type of truck (specialized trucks pay more), and of course, the type of company. 
  • Mileage: When it comes to mileage, you will typically make more when you are willing to drive longer distances. The more you drive, the more you will be able to earn. Many companies will provide bonuses based on meeting mileage milestones.
  • Experience: The more experience you have, the higher the rate per mile you can negotiate. 

Because truck driving tends to be a bit more flexible, you will often have a choice for your preferred type of payment so that you can work on your own terms.

What Are the Average Miles Per Week for Truck Drivers?

When you are paid per mile, the hours you work are not calculated. Instead, it is based strictly on the miles you travel. How much you are paid per mile will vary based on a number of factors, such as:

  • Your years of experience
  • The region where you are driving
  • The type of company
  • The type of license you have

You will usually be paid between $0.37 to $0.55 per mile with an average of 2,000 to 3,000 miles per week. Your earnings are calculated by your odometer, so you can easily and accurately track your payment.

 

Other Pay Incentives to Consider

One of the benefits of being a truck driver is that you will often find opportunities to earn bonuses on top of your pay. Like any other industry, this will vary greatly depending on the company you work for, where you work, and the type of driver you become. 

Common bonuses include:  

  • Monthly mileage: This allows you to earn more pay by driving longer distances. In some cases, you will be given bonuses when you hit company mileage goals. 
  • Sign-on bonus: Because drivers are in high demand, many companies will offer new truck drivers incentives to sign on with their company. This will vary from company to company and can sometimes come in a lump sum or be added to your wages. 
  • Fuel efficiency: With the cost of fuel being so high, some companies will reward you for fuel-saving. You can learn about fuel-saving practices and use them to become a cost-conscious truck driver. This benefits the carrier who might offer a reward for fuel-efficiency. 
  • Safety pay: Safe drivers with clean records are often rewarded when they help a carrier reach new safe-driving goals. 
  • Layover pay: This is compensation paid should you run into issues on your trip. Usually, the carrier will pay for lost time. 
  • Clean DOT Inspections: Some companies will pay for passing a Clean Department of Transportation inspection.

Benefits

Many people choose truck driving as a career as carriers often offer excellent benefits, including: 

  • Paid vacation
  • Paid sick time
  • Medical and dental insurance
  • Life insurance
  • Job security
  • 401k retirement plans and more
  • Incentive pay

All of these things can really add up when you consider how much they cost you over time. Some companies will also offer incentives that can make work more enjoyable, such as a ride-along policy that allows you to travel with a friend, family, or pets. 

Additional Incentives

Keeping truck drivers on board is always a benefit to carriers. Many will offer additional incentives to help retain their drivers, including:

  • Wage increases
  • Premiums for 401k plans 
  • Company stock
  • More paid vacation time
  • Inexpensive rider policy rates

You never know what incentives might be offered to good, long-term drivers. 

 

Great Plains Transport is Now Hiring Company Drivers

New Base SALARY – $65,000+ Annually!
Up to $1,000 Per Month in Additional Bonuses
New Equipment
Medical, Dental, & Life Insurance
401k With Company Match
& More!

What Great Plains Transport Offers

At Great Plains Transport, we value our drivers. We offer our OTR truck drivers the unique choice of a salary to keep your cash flow steady. Many drivers prefer this option as they always know what to expect for their pay. 

We offer many additional benefits and incentives, including: 

  • Base Salary of $65,000
  • Bonus Programs – Up to $1,000 Per Month
  • Pets Allowed
  • Riders Allowed
  • Detention Paid
  • Downtime & Layover Paid
  • Paid Holiday
  • Paid Birthday
  • Paid Vacation
  • Medical, Dental, & Life Insurance
  • Aflac
  • 401k With Company Match

We also welcome owner-operators to our team with fair 85% revenue to truck work and 100% fuel surcharge. Other incentives include:

  • Fleet Fuel Discount of 15-50 Cents Per Gal
  • New Trailers
  • Pre-Plan Dispatch
  • 1,300-Mile Average Trip Length

The best news is that new truck drivers will find competitive wages and incentives due to the current high demand in the industry. It is never too late to consider getting your CDL to begin an exciting career as a truck driver. 

 

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