Truck Driver Salary: Average Truck Driver Pay Per Mile

I get a lot of email from truck drivers asking about pay. As soon as they find out I have been trucking for 25+ years, they want to know what is considered good pay, yearly salary, or average pay per mile. So, I decided to break it down into below average pay, average pay, and above average pay. Unfortunately, for a lot of trucking companies, pay hasn’t changed much over the past 25 years. But with many companies, it has. You have to dig deep to find the good jobs. That has always been the case.

In a nutshell, this is how I see it- Pay per mile, and average miles, to me, isn’t the issue. It’s weekly pay, or yearly pay. In other words, how much money do you really make, never mind all the jargon about miles, money and home-time that a lot of companies throw at you.

Some trucking companies will work you hard for low pay, work you hard for good pay, work you easy for low pay, and work you easy for good pay.

In case you are new to my website, I have had over 100 jobs in those 25 years. Of course, only about 20 of them were OTR companies, which, based on my emails is the main type of job drivers are wondering about. So that’s what I’ll get into here. But you can always leave a comment, and I do respond to them all (after I moderate the spam out).

In the late 80’s and early 90’s, most decent trucking companies paid about .32 cents per mile. And in those days, it was easy to run over 3000 miles per week. So, if you do the math, a decent driver working for a decent company should make 45,000+ in those days.

When I see trucking companies these days talking about making $40,000, I cringe. This is 2012. Most of life’s expenses are twice what they were back then. Of course, pay isn’t twice what it was, with any company.

Here’s how I see it in 2012…

Below average truck driver pay- anything under .40 cents per mile, or $40,000 per year.

Average truck driver pay- about .40 to .45 cents per mile, or $50,000 to $60,000 per year.

Above average truck driver pay- close to .50 cents per mile, and over $60,000 per year.

Of course, what you haul matters. Flatbed, step-deck and heavy-haul drivers add a little to that pay scale. (Or, a lot in some cases.)

There are thousands of truck drivers out there making $70k+. (Especially owner operators- most of them should be doing at least $100,000.)

If you have at least one year of recent, OTR experience, you should be able to find a job where you can make at least $60,000 per year. That’s the bottom line as I see it.

I saw an ad the other day, for a heavy-haul company driver that only paid .40 cents per mile! Is any experienced heavy haul driver really going to take that job? I wouldn’t think so, but apparently some do.

These figures vary a little according to the US government, but all the numbers I gave above are based on reality, from a drivers perspective, according to the real world.



BIO:
Google-PlusKen Skaggs is a 30-year veteran trucker and safety professional, who has always been a writer, and an entrepreneur at heart. Since 2000, he’s had 150+ articles published by Ten-Four Magazine, Careers in Gear, Skaggmo Magazine, and dozens of websites.

251 comments for “Truck Driver Salary: Average Truck Driver Pay Per Mile

  1. Sam
    December 3, 2014 at 1:34 am

    My dad has been a truck driver for the past 15 years and loves it. Instead of him trading his old truck in for a new one, we decided to get a new truck and put a driver on it, while he remains on his old truck and I dispatch. This was 2 years ago and currently we have 5 new trucks 2014/2015 models, 2 old ones and my dad drives an old Schneider truck while I dispatch. We start our drivers off at .36 cents on all miles for the first 3 months and then .38 cents with stop pay, detentions pay and a .02 cent bonus for safe driving per month. We do hire them on 1099 and give a raise of .02 cents per year with holiday pay, and more bonus as I see fit, depending on how the driver is doing. I am now close to managing 11 trucks (3 o/o) and it is one of the toughest jobs ever.

    My point is that as a small company we try to pay our drivers the best we can and stay on top of all regulations but, in my opinion, it is one of the most regulated industries out there and one of the toughest. Currently I start working at 4-5 am and am not done till 7-8 pm. With the introduction of the Electronic Log, I know for a fact that our revenue will drop 15-20 percent, not because we are doing illegal driving, etc, but because of their cost and impact. I eventually want to turn this company into an employee owned company so that the drivers will feel like they are working to for themselves, but with the way government is regulating this industry I am really thinking about quitting this business.

    I was just reading online about how other much other drivers make and what is fair and Since this article was about driver pay, our drivers make a minimum of $4000/ month driving about 2700-3200 miles a week.We have drivers making close to 6-7 who stay on the road for 3-5 weeks at a time. If the taxes and regulation could drop just a little, but not be eliminated, I know for a fact we can pay drivers more then .45 cpm starting, its the big company lobbyists and the government that is truly contributing to this stalemate. It truly sickens me what the stereotype has become of truckers and how they are considered filthy and uneducated. I just hope we can maybe come together once and rise up to the occasion to show the FMCSA, DOT, EPA, IRS, and Congress that we are not something that can be taxed more and more every time they need money to fill their pockets and regulated more and more for no reason.

    A person working hard should be able to make enough to feed his family and I see how that is not the case with most drivers we hire (mostly from big companies) who are working a lot, but that really needs to change in my opinion rather than more taxation and regulation.

    • December 3, 2014 at 7:43 am

      Wow. Thanks for all that Sam.
      Trucking is super-regulated, and very a difficult business to last long in, as an owner. It sounds like you are doing it though. Don’t give up! You have it mastered. You sound like a nice guy to work for who really wants his drivers to do well. And that is why you will succeed.
      Your pay is good enough. Maybe they can make a few more dollars somewhere else. But they will be a lot happier working for a cool guy like you.
      Drivers are a loyal group of individuals for the most part. Treat them well and they will stay, even if they could make a few more dollars somewhere else.
      As for all of your hard work and long hours… You’ll get better too. We all learn as we go along. I think you will find a way eventually, to lessen your work load. Try booking loads in advance, so they know where their next stop is after they empty out. I used to go to a health club at lunch time when I had my own company. That relieved the stress, kept me in shape, and helped me stay focused.
      Your heart is in the right place. Hang in there- it gets better. Good luck!
      Ken

      • Jason
        February 26, 2015 at 6:34 pm

        Hey ken how are you this afternoon ? Was just wondering what’s the industry on hourly pay ? People n companies are going lower lowere everyday ! Some companies only wana pay 13/15 dollars an hour that’s horrible I been driving for 10 years almost ! And when they ask u how much you want and you tell them 17/19 dollars an hour they freak out

        • February 27, 2015 at 3:45 am

          Hi Jason,

          Here’s what the government says average hourly pay is (about $18 to $20 an hour)- http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes533032.htm (There’s some nice area maps there too if you click around the site.)

          It’s been my experience that it depends on where you live. On the low end you have FL, AL, MS, AR. On the high end is IL, OH, PA, TX, WY.

          CA varies a lot- Northern CA pays better than southern CA. NY pays better outside of NYC. But most other cities pay more than their country areas.

          That’s how I see it. Thanks for stopping by.

          Ken

    • mike
      January 19, 2015 at 8:35 pm

      You are so right they feel we should pay more for every thing even when we run the county and without trucking the will Stop everything here we should be treated better than this we should ba less for fuel and insurance and helth insurance .if we stick together.for this we will do alot for truck driver who works hard everyday.

    • brandi
      January 22, 2015 at 7:26 pm

      so whats the name of your company… and do you hire drivers from other states

    • Scott
      September 1, 2015 at 8:48 pm

      What company

  2. Stephen
    December 3, 2014 at 11:17 pm

    Props to Sam for trying to do the right thing. Ken’s right, pay is just part of the equation… especially if the eventual goal is extending company ownership and profit-sharing (I think TMC offers something similar). Company atmosphere, relations with dispatch, detention pay, the types of loads, pet policy, and more can all factor in to job satisfaction.

    As for regulation, there must be more flexibility introduced into HOS so drivers can sleep when they need to and drive when they are rested. But overall, we need to be careful what we wish for… many argue the “deregulation” associated with the 1980 Motor Carrier Act played a part in the race-to-the-bottom pay rates for freight (and thus drivers) we see today.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motor_Carrier_Act_of_1980

  3. January 19, 2015 at 9:09 am

    Sam
    This is a tough business with lots of regulations. I work with the regulations end to make them easier to deal with and “level the playing field” so that drivers and small companies like yourself get a fair chance of making a good wage. Contact me if you would like to know more.Good luck and safe driving!

    • Dave
      June 3, 2015 at 7:56 pm

      Keith, I was interviewed to drive a 24 ft stakebed truck for a big company. What should I ask for per hour? So. Cal. Experienced driver.

      • June 3, 2015 at 9:08 pm

        This question is really a personal one. Everybody is different, and every company is too. If I had to pick a number, I’d say $20 an hour. But if I thought they were union, I’d say $28. Don’t ever be afraid to say what you really need. If you can’t survive on $14 an hour, and that’s what they pay, it wasn’t going to work out for you anyway, so just tell the truth- what do you really want or need to make? If you said $25, and they said all they can do is $15, you will still likely get the job as long as they like you (and if you really want it.)

        Good luck!

  4. Sean
    February 2, 2015 at 4:08 pm

    Thanks for all the info, Ken. I lease a few trucks to a great independent company based in Nashville, TN specializing in OTR hauls. It is run by a good friend of mine who is a good man, treats his drivers fairly, gives them as many miles as they want (3,000-3,500 per week is the norm) within the law, and runs his business very similar to the way Sam described. We are growing rapidly and are always looking for dependable drivers who want to build their business with us, and I am a firm believer in treating people well and rewarding loyalty and dependability. I would much rather build a thriving business around integrity and mutual respect and keep drivers for years than just be a revolving door like so many companies seem to be, and many drivers seem to expect. If I’m making a good living then my drivers should be, too. If any drivers looking for a good place to call home, please feel free to shoot me a message. Individuals or teams welcome. I don’t mean to spam your board, so feel free to remove the message if it comes off that way.

    • February 2, 2015 at 7:00 pm

      Thanks Sean. I’m sure some readers would appreciate that. You email is not public. Anyone can reply to your comment here though.

    • Bobby
      March 18, 2015 at 7:40 pm

      sean,
      i am in school right now and want to ask who is your company ,what do you start graduates at if you do,what are you hauling and what kind of trucks are you driving,how is the scale of pay? percentage of cpm. i have found out that TMC company gives you the option of pay choice. driver gets a percentage of the load and makes what is equaled to 42-45cents per flatbed load.Ken can you say something on the percentage pay??

      please respond !

      • March 18, 2015 at 8:36 pm

        Hi Bobby,

        I’ll be happy to talk about percentage. There’s an important question to ask in the percentage-pay business… “Percent of what?” In other words, one guy night make 30% of $1.05 a mile. (He’s making 31.5 cents per mile.) While the next guy is getting 28% of $2.50 a mile. (He’s making .70 a mile.) Do you see what I mean? Less percentage of more money can equal more pay.

        I can’t really say what is better- percentage or mileage, because it depends on a lot of things. I have made good money with percentage at one company and bad money at the next. Most of the big companies (like TMC) pay percentage for a reason. And that reason usually is, to share the losses. In other words, when TMC has a bad week, so do you. Of course, when they have a good week, so do you too. I don’t know enough about TMC to comment on them specifically.

        All I can say is, give it a try. You have to earn your miles somewhere. It may as well be with them. You could try talking to some TMC drivers who have been there a while. They’ll fill you in on what’s what.

        Good luck,
        Ken

      • Sean
        March 19, 2015 at 3:55 pm

        Hi Bobby,

        The company is Tennessee Transportation. I don’t think we’ve got any graduates working for us right now, but if you are interested I can see if that would be a possibility. Most of our drivers with 2+ years of experience are earning in the 35-40 cents per mile range. We do not pay on percentage mainly for the reasons that Ken described – we think the drivers should be paid for the amount they are driving regardless of how we might be doing. A lot of the drivers that end up driving for us tell us they were lured into driving with some of the larger companies via some deceptively high price per mile promises that come with a lot of conditions (also known as loopholes) and say they end up making more with us in the long run. We just shoot straight from the beginning and then reward consistency and dependability with higher mileage rates.

        I hope that helps!

        Sean

    • chris
      July 28, 2015 at 10:18 pm

      Hello Sean my name is chris And I’ve been driving trucks sense 2000 I have drove everything from log trucks, refers, dry, some flat bed, rolls .I have also drove for the oilfield for 4 years hauling some containers, equipment, pipe, generators etc in general I would love to get back into moving equipment again and doing heavy haul you can email me at richardson.chris41@yahoo.com or call me at 501-764-8552 thanks

  5. Greg Coyle
    May 6, 2015 at 6:58 pm

    33 years driving, done or tried it all!
    Forget OTR. Forget owning a truck unless you like long hours, all the headache, chasing down your money, and robbing Peter to pay Paul!
    Go work for an established LTL company that has benefits. IE old dominion. Yellow freight(YRC) saia, UPS, or one of the many companies that pay well and let you get home. Yes, you will need hazmat, doubles, and possibly tanker endorsements. BUT these companies pay a rate that NONE of the OTR companies can match. For example: Old dominion, and Saia are up to or over .59 cent a mile now for line drivers and over $24. An hour for local. Union companies can be even more. Plus LTL has the best benefits in trucking. Just my advice.
    But if you really want all that independence of being your own boss, and you can stand to work for little compensation go buy a truck!!

    • May 7, 2015 at 4:41 am

      That’s some good advice Greg. I agree with everything you said, but there are a few exceptions. The best money I ever made trucking was when I was an owner operator for Sammons (that was OTR, heavy hauling). I made $109,000 one year. But all of my next best years were with local companies and unions. 7up in Chicago I made $75,000 and I was home every day, sometimes early too. (I busted my ass humping all that pop though.) And a union asphalt company (I drove a dump truck local), I made $50,000 from March to November, and had winter off.

      I wrote an article about that too- http://bigcitydriver.com/2015/01/how-to-find-a-good-paying-local-truck-driver-job/

      I didn’t even think about LTL, but that’s definitely some good advice. Thanks for the tip.

      Ken

  6. Patrick M. P.
    July 30, 2015 at 11:21 pm

    hello Ken
    I just wanted to say reading your blog has helped me open my eyes to the roads ahead of me, I am 53 i live 35 minutes west of chicago and i am currently in attending trucking school 1 more week and i am done. I have been approached by many recruits and your blog helps on what ? to ask. I would like to drive for a company who can get me home evry week for at least 2 days home maybe 2 Weekends home a month 2 would be nice. i also want a good 401 k and at least 32-34 cpm. i am looking for a company that hires new drivers. i have a lot of miles under my belt pulling trailers and straight trucks not cdl. . parts delivery in calif. your right about TMC. they gaurantee $1000 a week to start and 26- 36% plus bonus and are employee owned. the only thing is Tarping your load and i think thats a young mans game.they do get you home every weekend if thats what you want.
    I would like to know what swift pays cpm because thats who i am training thru at eagle trucking. would also like to know about companies where i can get lower state runs in winter and upper in summer. i dont like the winters here i am from calif. well thanks again Ken.
    MLAR Patrick.

    • July 31, 2015 at 7:15 am

      Hi Patrick,

      35 minutes west of Chicago- there are a lot of good paying jobs around there, not only to get you home every week, but even every day. You should think about driving a dump truck locally. There are some big paying union asphalt jobs around there- Arrow Road in Mt Prospect, Plote in Elgin comes to mind. Some of these will take a new CDL driver with years of safe driving like you. They’ll pay about $28 an hour and you’ll be home every afternoon.

      If you really want to do long haul and only be home on weekends, there are a lot of choice there too. You should check Craigslist. I remember seeing some really good paying OTR jobs on there in that area. (I’m in NW Indiana and lived in Chicago for many years myself.)

      Take your time looking. Ask a lot of questions. The most important thing is- know what you want. because that is exactly what you’ll find. If good pay is more important that home time, if OTR is more important, if hometime on weekends is- whatever you want, really write it down and ask them all.

      I did a few winters with CFI (very similar to Celadon), they go to Laredo a lot. Most companies that go to Laredo a lot will have you going north and south most of the time. This will be the mild way to face winter. You’ll be in and out of the bad weather.

      Yeah, forget TMC and tarping. That’s a young mans game. Drive a dry van. You won’t work as hard (unless you are delivering meat or tires.)

      Good luck,
      Ken

  7. Patrick M. P.
    July 31, 2015 at 4:34 pm

    thank you Ken that was helpful

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