Truck drivers with a commercial driver’s license (CDL) can often make a good income, no matter where they work. Those with specialized endorsements and skills stand to make even more money working in this in-demand career.
Read on to learn about average truck driver salaries, pay for various driving positions, and how you can increase your salary as a truck driver.
Average Truck Driver Salary in U.S. (Heavy and Tractor-Trailer Driver Salary)
In 2022, the average annual salary for heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers in the U.S. was $53,090, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This equates to an average hourly pay of $25.52 per hour.
How Much Can Truck Drivers Make?
While average trucking salaries are below the annual mean wage for all occupations in the U.S. ($61,900), drivers can earn significantly more based on the type of job, years of experience, endorsements, and more. For instance, BLS figures show that the highest 10% of heavy and tractor-trailer drivers earned more than $ 75,220 in 2022, while the lowest 10% earned less than $35,300.
Truck driver salaries can also vary significantly from the national average, depending on a driver’s location. As of 2022, these are the top-paying states for truck drivers:
Large cities also tend to pay higher salaries. In several of the 10 most populated cities in the U.S., truck drivers can earn well above the national average:
|Omaha-Council Bluffs, NE-IA
|San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA
|La Crosse-Onalaska, WI-MN
|San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA
If a nonmetropolitan area is more your speed, there are several where you can earn more than the national average. Here are a few:
|Alaska nonmetropolitan area
|Western Washington nonmetropolitan area
|Eastern Washington nonmetropolitan area
|Massachusetts nonmetropolitan area
Top-Paying Truck Driving Jobs
No matter where you live, some types of trucking jobs pay more than others, usually because they require additional endorsements, skills, and experience.
OTR Truck Driver Pay
OTR (over-the-road) truck drivers haul goods over long distances, usually with significant time away from home. OTR drivers can expect to drive hundreds of miles per day, spending weeks sleeping in their truck’s berth. These demanding work conditions often come with a higher pay rate, with an average reported salary of $77,916 per year.
Many trucking carriers calculate OTR drivers’ pay using CPM (cents per mile). Although the CPM rate varies by company, the most recent data from the Department of Transportation–from 2016–said pay averaged 52.3 CPM. Driving an average of 2,500 miles/week and earning $0.60 CPM, an OTR driver can earn around $57,990/year, not including bonuses and other pay. And remember: Pay has gone up across the board since 2016.
HAZMAT Driver Pay
Drivers with an H (HAZMAT) or X (tanker/HAZMAT) endorsement on their CDL can transport hazardous materials, including explosives, radioactive materials, flammable goods, and corrosive materials. The increased risk and training for HAZMAT driving also usually come with a higher pay rate
HAZMAT drivers earn an average annual salary of $70,680, with the top 10% earning $89,095 or more a year.
Tanker Truck Driver Pay
Tanker drivers transporting liquids must also have additional endorsements—either an N endorsement for tankers or an X endorsement. These additional certifications, along with the challenges of hauling liquids, make this type of driving more lucrative than regular truck driving.
Truck drivers who haul tankers can earn more than non-tanker drivers, with average annual salaries of $48,000 to $103,000. The higher wages are usually associated with fuel tanker drivers or tanker drivers who transport HAZMAT.
Flatbed Driver Pay
Flatbed trucking involves towing an open platform trailer designed to carry large or odd-shaped materials that wouldn’t fit in a traditional enclosed trailer. An essential aspect of the job for flatbed truck drivers is knowing how to secure cargo properly and safely transport oversized loads. This unique set of skills often means flatbed truckers earn higher salaries.
The average yearly salary for a flatbed truck driver is $65,497, with more experienced drivers potentially making more then $93,000.
Average Pay for Other Trucking Jobs
While some truck drivers, particularly OTR drivers and owner-operators, can make well into the six figures, nearly all trucking jobs may come with a healthy salary and great long-term earning potential—including these popular driving jobs.
Local Truck Driver Pay
Local truck drivers generally have set schedules and transport cargo and goods to nearby locations. They may be responsible for loading and unloading at several stops throughout the day and are usually paid per hour. Although some local drivers may operate large tractor-trailers, those who drive light trucks make an average annual salary of $45,020. Other local drivers make around $61,891 per year, according to 2022 data from ZipRecruiter.
LTL Driver Pay
LTL (less-than-truckload) drivers transport freight from multiple clients at once and, like local truck drivers, often make several stops to load and unload cargo during a shift. Often paid by the hour or by drop-off and pickup, LTL drivers can make an average annual income of around $53,361.
Regional Truck Driver Pay
Regional drivers haul freight over a regional area of the country, generally within 1,000 miles of their home base. With regular home time and fairly consistent schedules, regional truck drivers are usually paid by the mile, with annual earnings of around $89,250. Per-mile pay rates vary widely.
Refrigerated Truck Driver Pay
Refrigerated truck drivers, sometimes called reefer drivers, transport various goods that must be kept cold or frozen. Due to the perishable nature of the cargo, refrigerated deliveries are often on an expedited delivery timeline and may require special handling. The median base salary for reefer truck drivers is $67,000 per year.
Car Hauler Truck Driver Pay
Because auto haulers must have certain skill sets and experience to maneuver and transport multiple large vehicles on their truck and trailer, they often earn a higher rate. Average yearly salaries are around $79,579 for car hauler drivers in the U.S.
How to Increase Truck Driver Salary
Besides focusing on some of the higher-paying trucking jobs above, there are ways to increase your salary to earn higher-than-average wages.
First, consider getting CDL endorsements that can increase your earning potential. Endorsements for HAZMAT, doubles/triples, and tanker can all give you access to well-paying jobs.
Before you commit to a company, do your research to find those that pay the best rates and offer sign-on, mileage, and safety bonuses—all of which can significantly increase your overall pay. You can also look into team driving, which enables you to drive more miles and potentially earn more money.
Once you’ve got some experience under your belt, becoming an owner-operator could raise your annual salary to over $300,000!
The good news is that SWTDT graduates often make higher-than-average salaries in trucking.
|Type of Truck Driving
|Varies, usually a salary or % of load