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Making money as a truck driver: How much can you earn?

https://www.gobankingrates.com/money/jobs/how-much-do-truck-drivers-make/

 

If you’ve been in the trucking industry for the last couple of years, you’ve probably seen a lot of news about a driver shortage and a whole lot of raises being offered by carriers. According to a report by the Los Angeles Times, truck drivers and heavy machinery operators are among some of the most in-demand jobs in the United States.

 

There are a lot of perks that come with being a truck driver including flexible hours, apprenticeships to learn the trade without spending thousands on college tuition and a potentially high salary. But many new truck drivers and potential truck drivers wonder if they really can make good money. According to GoBankingRates.com, which educates its audience about making money and managing finances, here is a breakdown of typical earnings and some ways to boost your bank account.

 

How Much Do Truck Drivers Make?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, truck drivers’ annual mean wage in 2021 was $52,240 with full-time employment — but depending on the employer and role, truck driver salaries can be over $200,000 per year. How can you get your salary closer to that top end? It depends on several factors:

 

  • Location — A truck driver’s base location determines what routes the driver has access to and the average job value they can accept. For example, truck drivers residing in Washington, Alaska, New Jersey and New York had higher salaries in 2021 when compared to those living in other states.
  • Hauling Type — Truck drivers who operate full-load hauls earn more than drivers who carry partial loads similar distances.
  • Certifications & endorsements — Truck drivers who operate specialized vehicles or have special endorsements can earn more than drivers who do not. This includes hazmat, doubles, tanker and other endorsements. As for certifications, that can raise salaries as well. For example, reefer truck drivers are paid more because they operate vehicles that must maintain a lower internal temperature.
  • Experience — The more years of experience a truck driver has on the road, the more money they are likely to earn per mile. As truck drivers gain more years of experience, they often have the opportunity to apply to specialized licensure programs to improve their pay rates.

 

Which Truck Drivers Get Paid The Most?

Truck drivers who want to earn more money can do so by specializing in their hauling type or how they structure their business. GoBankingRates.com cites the following trucking specializations as ways to earn the most money on average.

 

Owner-Operators — Owner-operators are self-employed truck drivers who run their own independent small business. The average annual income of an owner-operator in the trucking industry is about $147,000 in 2022, according to Indeed. While owner-operators enjoy the most freedom in the industry, they also have a higher upfront cost when compared to company drivers.  Owner-operators must cover the cost of their own commercial driver’s license (CDL) training and certification. They must also own or lease their own vehicles and any commercial space the company’s headquarters uses to operate.

 

Team Drivers — As most people know, truck drivers earn money when the wheels are turning. That’s why team driving can be attractive because team members can take turns driving and sleeping, which increases efficiency and the money earned. Teams make a lot more money than solo drivers but they also have to split their earnings. In 2022, the average full-time team driver earns around $83,000 annually according to Glassdoor.

 

Specialty Vehicle Haulers — Specialty vehicle haulers must be able to load and secure multiple types of vehicles to their hauler. They must be experts in operating with and without an additional load. According to Glassdoor, the average annual income for a truck driver specializing in car and specialty vehicle hauling is about $83,000.

 

Beyond the bucks: Deciding to drive or not to drive

While being a truck driver can provide high earnings, it may not be the right choice for everyone. On the plus side, U.S. truck drivers can expect to have a long-lasting career as the need for freight remains high. On the downside, you may have to spend long hours away from home, drive in bad weather or deal with difficult cargo. The key is being well informed about all the pros and cons of a truck driving career so you can make the right decision for you.