Many jobs pay by the hour, but few pay by the mile. In 2018, truck drivers logged 304.9 billion miles, according to the American Trucking Associations (ATA). Truck drivers deliver essential goods nationwide. In addition to spotting mechanical problems before they become problems, they’re also responsible for providing customer service.
The salary and pay potential of truck drivers and other ways professionals in the industry make money can help you determine if this is the career for you.
How much does a truck driver make?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) revealed that the national average salary for all occupations was $53,770 in 2020, higher than the national average salary for truck drivers. Depending on what they transport and where they are employed, truck drivers can earn various incomes. It is common for commercial freight drivers to be paid hourly, by weight, or by miles instead of on a salary.
As a truck driver, pay-by-mile is one of the most common methods of earning income. Imagine earning $0.50 per mile. You will earn around $1,800 a week before taxes if you drive 60 hours a week at 60 miles per hour or about $90,000 per year. You’re more likely to drive around 100,000 miles a year as a truck driver, which places you near the national average salary of around $50,000.
Whether you would handle the demanding schedule a truck driver has, including long hours, strict deadlines, and possible extended time away from home, should be your first consideration before you become a truck driver.
While you are still in training, you probably won’t earn income. A private driving school might cost you tens of thousands of dollars. The cost of community college programs is also high, but you may qualify for financial aid. You may be eligible to receive reimbursement for training. Several large transportation and logistics companies, like C.R. England and Swift, provide tuition reimbursements to veterans and military discounts and scholarships.
Job Growth and Career Opportunities for truck drivers
Until 2029, the employment of truck drivers is projected to grow at a 2% rate by the BLS. The number of truck drivers fluctuates with economic conditions. As growing industries need transportation for equipment, goods, and resources, the number of truck drivers increases.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, trucking jobs are concentrated in these states:
Top paying states for those in the 90th percentile are:
- Alaska: $87,086
- New York: $81,990
- Oklahoma: $79,160
The following cities have the highest average salaries:
- Barnstable, MA: $65,170
- Danville, IL: $63,230
- Lewiston, ID-WA: $62,230
Benefits of becoming a truck driver
Transportation companies or major retailers may offer you the following benefits if you work full-time for them:
- Health care, dental care, and vision care
- Vacation pay
- The ability to contribute to a retirement plan
- Training reimbursement in whole or in part
- Reward for tenure and referring others
- Additional money for extra loads or miles
Join the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) if you are an independent contractor or owner-operator and take advantage of the benefits it offers:
- Health and life insurance
- Insurance against car accidents
- Insurance against truck accidents
- Discounts on gas
- Assistance with business operations
Independent contractor’s salary
As a commercial freight contractor, you can work for yourself in several ways. The option to own your own trucking company or contract with a carrier independently is also available.
A company called TBS Factoring offers technology to independent truckers and owner-operators. Independent truckers charge $1.50 to $3.00 more per mile than company drivers. This is about three to six times more than company drivers make per mile.
In addition to your gross pay, you will have to spend a significant amount of this income on additional expenses, which include:
- Your truck, along with truck insurance, fuel, and maintenance
- An insurance policy for possible damage to the freight you transport
- IRS reports that the self-employment tax in 2020 will be 15.3%
- License plates and permits
- Health insurance and retirement plans
What is the cost of becoming a truck driver?
You usually need a high school diploma or GED to become a truck driver. GED tests typically cost between $80 and $140, and you can earn your GED in around four months.
CDL training is also required. There are many CDL training programs available, and they may last a week, a month, or a year. Programs at private trucking schools and community colleges can cost between $1,000 and $10,000. Accredited programs typically cost between $5,000 and $8,000.
Transport companies offer programs that cost about $6,000. Graduates are often reimbursed after they have worked for the company for a period. CDL training may include these costs, depending on your state:
- Obtaining a regular driver’s license
- Cost of applying for a CDL
- Fee for taking the CDL test
- Fee for obtaining the license itself
This is usually the most expensive part. You will usually have to pay between $20 and $120.