The road stretching out ahead of you, the music blasting and the security of knowing there’s always demand for your work: there’s a lot to like about being a truck driver. You get independence and an ever-changing view from your window. Job prospects are strong, and wages also tend to be attractive, even if they vary from month to month.
If you’re considering applying for truck driver work but wondering how much you’ll actually earn, keep reading. We’ll break down how much a truck driver makes, including common bonuses and benefits.
Most truck drivers are paid by the mile plus bonuses, rather than by the hour or shift. This means it can be hard to estimate how much you’ll be paid, even after you’ve signed the contract and started the job.
Fortunately, there are plenty of surveys that will give you an insight into how much truck drivers make each year. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is a go-to resource for learning how much Americans really earn. Its website reports that the average yearly wage is $47,130, with most truck drivers making between $30,660 and $69,480.
However, the BLS’ most recent data is from 2020. More recent surveys and reports point to wage inflation driven by driver shortages. For example, Indeed.com surveyed 522,837 truck drivers over three years and found that a truck driver in the US made $74,773 a year on average, not including benefits.
Meanwhile, on jobs site Truck Driver Jobs in America, several listings advertise average yearly earnings of over $70,000 or minimum weekly rates of over $1,000.
If knowing a truck driver’s yearly page is hard, estimating the monthly or weekly rates is even trickier. Although some truck driving jobs guarantee a minimum weekly pay-out, you could easily exceed that. It all depends on which routes you’re assigned and how many miles you’re assigned, as well as when bonuses are paid out (more on that to come!).
A November 2021 survey by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) showed that truck drivers made an average of $0.566 per mile in wages, not including benefits.
There can be a huge variation in truck drivers’ per-mile rates, however, depending on the company and route. The longer the route and the more specialized the fleet, the higher your per-mile rate will likely be.
If you’re a private-fleet driver, you’re also likely to benefit from a higher per-mile rate. In fact, the ATRI found that private-fleet drivers earned twice as much per mile in wages and benefits as truck drivers in per-hire fleets.
Don’t overlook the importance of benefits, either: the ATRI’s research indicated that large carriers often offer lower wages but higher benefits than small carriers.
Bonuses aren’t just for white-collar workers and sales staff. They’re also increasingly common in the trucking industry. The ATRI’s 2021 survey showed that the most common bonuses trucking firms pay are related to starting/new hires, safety and retention.
The amount paid in bonuses has also grown significantly over the past two years, with starting bonuses averaging $1,662, safety bonuses averaging $1,597 (annual total) and retention bonuses averaging $1,391.
While starting and retention bonuses are one-off, safety bonuses tend to be recurring and paid monthly, quarterly or annually. This means they can significantly boost your income.
Some of the most common benefits truck drivers receive are health and dental insurance, paid vacation, 401k, vision insurance, life insurance and paid sick leave.
According to the ATRI’s 2021 survey, slightly under half of all trucking firms also give drivers per-diem allowances. This means they pay up a fixed amount per day of work to cover costs such as food and accommodation. Unlike your regular pay and bonuses, you won’t have to pay taxes on this.
Less common benefits may include tuition fee reimbursement or passenger or rider policies that allow you to take a family member, friend or pet with you.
Truck drivers have very few expenses, but there are some things you should be aware of. Before you can begin working, you’ll need to get your Commercial Driver License (CDL). The cost will depend on the class (A, B or C), as well as whether or not you need to take a training course beforehand. You’ll also need to renew your license periodically.
If you’re hired by a company to drive their fleet, the only other expenses you’ll have to pay are what you spend on the route, e.g. food, coffee and perhaps accommodation. Even then, you might get a per-diem allowance that would cover these costs.
Fuel, insurance, tolls, tires and permits will all be paid for by the company hiring you (unless, of course, you decide to one day set up your own trucking business as an owner-operator). You’ll normally receive a company fuel card that you can use to purchase gas when needed. Depending on the company policy, you may also use this card for routine truck maintenance and repairs.
Truck driving isn’t just well-paid work. It’s also a rewarding job particularly suited to independent people with a sense of adventure. You’ll get to travel the country and help keep the economy growing strong — and you’ll never have to wear a tie or download Zoom, either.
The first step to becoming a truck driver is updating your resume and applying for jobs. A well-designed resume will help you stand out from other applicants, get invited to interview and potentially even negotiate better bonuses or benefits, so it’s worth spending time on this.
Here at Rocket Resume, we’ve got plenty of truck driver resume templates that will help you highlight your best features. They’re all ATS-readable and easy to customize to different specific trucking companies. Plus, you can build them in minutes.
Create your resume, and start applying for truck driver roles.