How Much do Truck Drivers Make a Year?

The booming economy and persistent driver shortages have truckers firmly in the pay raise driver’s seat. To answer the question about “how much do drivers get paid per year?” …


Skilled, CDL-licensed truck drivers are in high demand. If you have seen headlines about national wages starting to climb by fractions, disregard those numbers. The men and women who transport America’s goods and materials are outpacing many industries in terms of excellent salaries and benefits. If you want to be a top earner, check out these tips on how to make more as a truck driver.

In 2018, the American Trucking Association conducted its Driver Compensation Study collecting data from upwards of 100,000 professional drivers. The published findings pointed to irregular route drivers enjoying a 15 percent pay hike over the last five years. Private fleet drivers garnered a pay increase of almost 18 percent. Doubling down on that success, freight-hauler salaries are expected to spike up between 7-10 percent by the end of 2019, according to experts at the National Transportation Institute.

Although the robust economy and low unemployment rates are finally helping to push up wages across sectors, trucking companies are competing over qualified drivers. At Southwest Truck Driver Training, we provide you with the tools you need to earn a good-paying trucking driving position that includes benefits and the ultimate job security.

What You Should Know About Truck Driver Salaries

Jobs in the trucking industry are considerably different from construction, retail or selling insurance. That’s because most professional drivers are not necessarily 9-to-5ers. It’s common for truckers to earn by the mile and rates vary from region to region. Most freight outfits pay somewhere between $0.27 and $0.40 per mile. Many companies are jacking up their mileage pay rates in the face of the ever-growing worker shortage. And, many companies are enticing new hires with bonuses, solid healthcare packages, and other incentives.

It’s not uncommon for long-haul drivers to rack up 2,000 to 3,000 miles weekly on average. As you roll down the highway, every odometer click equals money in your bank account. On the other end of the spectrum, plenty of trucking outfits are comfortable paying hourly rates. In 2017, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) put the average pay at more than $20 per hour. In today’s competitive freight hauling environment, employer bonuses are becoming a lucrative added value for dedicated truckers.

As we mentioned, driving for a living is not just one type of job. The first image that pops into people’s head is often the Class A CDL, long-haul drivers who crisscross the country. However, there is a wide range of trucking jobs, and Southwest Truck Driver Training has programs that can help you gain the qualifications and licensing to get your suitable trucking position. Consider these positions and what you can expect in terms of compensation.

  • Training Pay: Freight companies routinely require beginner drivers to undergo a training and orientation period. This generally comes with a standard salary that can run $450 and up. Keep in mind that this introductory salary is the company investing in you. They will likely assign an experienced driver to show you the ropes, so to speak. After the company feels you have a grasp on their setup, protocols, and expectations, you will start earning a full-fledged truck driver’s salary.

  • Solo OTR Truckers: This class of driver makes up the industry’s largest demographic. According to the BLS, solo over-the-road drivers earned more than $42,000 in 2017, and those numbers are up. Today’s solo OTR drivers are enjoying improved benefits and bonuses. It’s a golden age for qualified truckers.
  • Tandem OTR Truckers: Because the government regulates driver work-hours, the idea of teams has become increasingly popular. Besides having someone to talk to and share the experience, tandem drivers are able to ramp up their annual salaries significantly. Some are splitting incomes as high as $150,000 and more through combined mileage. This type of partner driving has also become attractive to couples who want to share life on the road together.
  • Dedicated Route Drivers: The rise of superstores has created a phenomenon that is highly beneficial for CDL-licensed drivers. Dedicated route drivers are typically people who work for a corporation and run goods and materials to outlets such as retail stores. These jobs are trending, big time, with retail giants slugging it out to fully staff their fleets with qualified people. Walmart, for example, has been making plenty of splashy headlines as it competes for qualified drivers. Recent news articles indicate that the retail giant is paying salaries upwards of $90,000 per year to its fleet drivers.
  • Owner-Operator Outfits: Some people just have a natural desire to be their own boss. Trucking has plenty of opportunities for experienced drivers to buy their own rig and work for themselves. It’s not uncommon for owner-operators to earn salaries of more than $100,000 annually. And when that becomes a family business with spouses working together, owner-operators have the ability to negotiate lucrative deals and lead the industry in earnings independently.

In terms of making a good living without having to get a four-year college degree and take on massive student loan debt, truck driver training ranks among the best career opportunities. On top of the promising annual salary, truckers can earn substantial bonuses.

Types of Bonuses Truck Drivers Enjoy

Depending on the kind of job you secure after earning a CDL license, bonuses are becoming a common practice. The extra cash may be related to meeting mileage goals, fitness reports, industry-related successes or recognition for completing delivers on time and on budget for the company. While bonuses are generally company specific, these are some common ones.

  • Mileage Goals: Freight outfits are currently under a great deal of pressure to keep pace with delivery orders. Slipping drivers extra money for meeting monthly mileage goals is a relatively common incentive.
  • Signing Bonus: If trucking and professional sports have anything in common, it’s the signing bonuses. Companies are handing drivers straight out of trucking school bonuses for your services.
  • Safety Incentives: Companies place a high value on worker and public safety. When accidents happen, people’s lives are at stake, and the company is also on the hook for civil lawsuits. Safety bonuses help deter injury and save money.
  • DOT Inspection Bonuses: Freight hauling companies like to stay in the good graces of government inspectors. The alternative is paying hefty fines and suffering a poor reputation. Many organizations feel that bonuses for clean inspections offer employees an added incentive to be vigilant about the government’s expectations.

Contact Southwest Truck Driver Training to Earn a High-Salary CDL Job

Along with a good-paying, secure job, qualified drivers enjoy excellent health insurance and other benefits. The current driver shortage is expected to grow, and that means salaries are likely to continue to rise. There has never been a better time for you to learn how to be a professional driver, get your CDL license and position yourself for a career in the trucking industry. Contact one of Southwest Truck Driver Training’s convenient facilities in Tucson, Phoenix, and North Las Vegas about how to get started in this high-paying industry.