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.

OTR Truck Driver Salary / Pay Per Mile

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.


Ken Skaggs Big City DriverKen 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, Driver Story Magazine, and dozens of websites.

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

  1. Pnutbutta
    February 2, 2017 at 11:00 pm

    Hi, Ken! My husband is looking for a home, every day driving OTR job with maybe a 500 mile radius but earning about $120,000/year. He currently is contracted to drive for a railroad company making about $5000-$6000/month and home everyday. We know most owner operators do NOT make this kind of money but the manager/dispatcher likes to “even out the money” for all of the drivers when my husband is one of the ones who don’t mind working on weekends. They will slow down his earning potential during the week to average out what he makes with the weekend pay because they are assuming they can make it up to him which is not fair. Do you know of any railway company in the south who lets drivers “run wide open” with that radius who do not try to slow down your earning potential to make it “fair” for everyone? Some drivers do NOT want to work weekends and will not do lay down runs (one night) but my husband will do those occasionally. It just pisses him off when he’s had a “good first few days of running” and here comes the latter part of the week where they want to slow him down to put the brakes on his earning potential OR they’ll run him on small runs to surrounding cities the first of the week and expect to make it up on the weekend when he sometimes do not want to work the weekend. Has to since the weekly runs sucked…. Just would like to know if there are other options with other railway companies who don’t watch the driver’s earning potential and get them home everyday. The do receive detention pay, drop/hook pay and have a 500 mile radius limit to work.

  2. Jerry
    January 3, 2017 at 1:26 pm

    Hi Richard

    I don’t know how you got .38 per mile but everyone I talked to at swift and myself got .36 a mile. and they pay great but with these big companies they let their drivers sit for an amazing amount of time waiting on loads.

    I was sitting one time with this company and it was amazing that when I Calle dup the company and spoke up for myself they just happened to have a load going toward my home time. I find it hard to believe if Swift is the largest fleet in America which is what they claim how easy it is for them to allow their so precious driver to sit for more than a 24 hour period. I agree with the latter comment it would have been smarter for me to go to a local Community college do the training for about 2300 dollars and then find a company on my terms. These major companies recruit literally out of holes shelters as long as you are not completely gone and have a valid license they will dump you in their program and after three days they have you sign a contract. If you flunk out of their school they don’t care because you signed that contract. I had 11 people in my class and one person in that class remains at Swift and he is ready to go.

    I would assume it is the way that they recruit people is why they get the outcome they get with their employees. When I was recruited I was told on Average A driver with their fleet can get anywhere between 2800- 3200 miles weekly but really the way that they are set up it is impossible to do consistently. The first four months I worked for Swift I made on Average about 350 – 650 a week. Then I went to Teams, it took them three weeks to get us the designation on teams then We were doing about 900 – 1100 a week at .25 cpm. Then I made the ultimate retarded decision to go O/O with this company and on Average I at making 1.11 a mile I was cleared 60,000.00 in revenue in four months with a whopping 12,000.00 in pay and that was before the government came in and took another 22%. So no Swift does not pay .38 cents a mile to new drivers out the door and if they did they would ultimately cut you miles to make up the difference.

    • NomadicVeteran
      January 15, 2017 at 4:34 pm

      MTC (May trucking company) doesnt have a school program, but once u get ur cdl, and if they accept you, youll start making 32-34cpm, then once u get ur own truck (after training, its not team training either, so about 1-2months of being in someone elses truck teaching u), youll start making 36cpm, after 6 months 39cpm, after 1 year 41cpm and after that, 1cpm a year increase.

      Now i might have my numbers wrong with them, to. So make sure, i know they are around there. Avg 2k-2.5k miles a week. Ur dm knows u by name, not truck number. And busy, busy, busy. O the trucks are govered at 59mph, pedel, 61mph cruise.

  3. James Costello
    June 9, 2016 at 6:05 pm

    I’m looking at getting my CDL and wondering if team driving is the way to go. And if so what is the best method to use when team driving? (driving schedule)

    • Ken Skaggs
      June 10, 2016 at 6:54 am

      Hi James,

      Team driving is nearly impossible when a company finds your teammate. But if you already have a driving partner- someone you don’t mind spending all day and night with- you’ll be just fine. I know teams make a few more pennies per mile, but there’s nothing like the freedom of having your on truck. You can start or stop whenever you want to. And the truck isn’t bouncing while you’re trying to sleep.

      Good luck!

      • Richard Hovermale
        June 30, 2016 at 10:08 am

        Hi ken im from wv studying to get my cdl permit i applied with swift they offered .38 cents/mile plus paid school for 4 weeks in indy with a paid ticket there and shelter….cost of course was 4k but if u stay for 13 months u only pay 2k and if u stay a total of 26 months they reinburse ur 2k is this a good deal or should i keep checking out other companies….also i have a vocational school 20 mins away from me that offers a course but i was unsure of job placement…ive drove a rollback and was a mechanic for 12 yrs im almost 30 now and done with living paycheck to check and killing myself for small potatoes….i have a clean record only a seat belt ticket 6 yrs ago…..

        • Ken Skaggs
          June 30, 2016 at 3:14 pm

          Hi Richard,

          You should read the fine-print on that deal. I find it highly unlikely that Swift will pay .38 CPM right after school. If you are absolutely certain of that, it is not really that bad of a deal. However, you’ll still be stuck there for 13 or 26 months. What if you don’t like it after a month or two? That 26 months will seem like an eternity.

          It would be a lot better for you if you could get your training from that vocational school, or any independent truck driver school. All of the same companies that offer “free” training are the same ones that will hire anyone right out of any truck driving school, so there will be nothing lost as far as options once you get done training. And if you do it that way, you can quit any time and get another job within days.

          The only good thing about training at a trucking company (like Swift) is you can get working sooner. But remember- you can’t leave or you will lose some money. That’s the tough part.

          Good luck!

  4. Andrew
    February 20, 2016 at 4:15 pm

    I’m so disgruntled with the trucking industry, I may never drive again… I just did a quick calculation.. .45 cents a mile (apparently this is good pay, what a joke Lol) a guy can make about 1350/week (legally) and if you work at McDonald’s, you can earn 1275/week if you worked the same hours. So tell me, why should anyone be a truck driver with pay like this? You’re away from home… loaded with responsibilities and working these hours sitting all day in a truck is detrimental to a person’s health. It doesn’t make any sense… I had wanted my own truck for quite some time, but that’s just not an option unless you go into some Shit trucking company that turns you into a slave and you end up making the same damn amount, or even less, than you would if you were on Welfare or working at McDonald’s. I honestly think I’m done after 8 years of this nonsense.. you’re either, working for next to nothing, or breaking your back as a lumper and either way, you’re at the company’s beckoning call. Where the hell are the good paying trucking jobs that actually treat their employees with respect and as a valued part of their company? It doesn’t exist anymore.
    For the record, my last company paid 34 cents per km.. that’s about 54.5 cents per mile.. sounds good, but work was inconsistent… could get called in at any time or be off some day when you want to be working. Then, and this is the part I really hate, any traffic delays or whatever, you’re sitting there for FREE. Oh.. and I supposedly “quit” when the economy took a shit this past fall to boot. Ya.. good career to get into Lol.. Although I’d probably still be working there if our gov’t didn’t turn their backs on the oil n gas industry, but that’s what happens when you have a shitty corrupt gov’t in power. But let’s add on more rules n regulations to trucks n trucking companies because big trucks = big bucks. /smh
    Guess I’ll go drive taxi or something Lol

    • Ken Skaggs
      February 20, 2016 at 5:36 pm

      I totally understand your frustration. Benn there done that myself. It’s not easy finding a steady company. Trucking is up and down with the economy.

      Have you ever tried Heartland? They have a lot of easy runs, drop and hook, and they pay around .45 cpm. They average about 2500 miles a week, which is about $1350 a week. And it’s a laid back atmosphere running only 2500 miles a week. I did that when I worked there around 2008.

      However, your McDonalds analogy isn’t actually true. If you are making .45 cents per mile, when you are going 60 MPH you are making $27 an hour. I know there is sometimes a lot of time wasted at docks and in traffic. But if you get on with a company that pays detention pay (and many do) that will make up for your dock time.

      Good luck!

  5. January 9, 2016 at 12:50 am

    I work for Mcleod, I’m paid 50 cent s mile but this company sucks.. I mean one drop and hook a week and everything else is live loads or unloads, I can’t make money off that. I also can’t make money if I’m driving regional miles and I’m a OTR driver, what am I going to do with 250 mile loads? This sucks

    • Ken Skaggs
      January 9, 2016 at 7:33 am

      I’m sorry to hear that Mike. It just goes to show you, CPM isn’t everything. I’d rather have less pay per mile, but a steady 600 miles a day. There is something better out there for you.
      Good luck.

      • Rick
        January 11, 2016 at 12:45 am

        So, I came to this blog looking for some info about pay about a year and half ago when I got my cdl. Now seems like a good time to update on how it’s been. For me, being a company driver was disappointing. I mean it was ok. But the pay was just not worth it. Most weeks I brought home $400-$600… For 60+ hours in a 7 day work week. Not nearly the money I was expecting. Occasionally I’d have a really good week and hit $800-$900 but those weeks were few and far between. I learned CPM means nothing. So often I’d get stuck in the north east for weeks. Doing short runs in heavy traffic. ALWAYS being late for home time. Only being home 2-3 days a month. After 8 months I was seriously disappointed with the lack of miles and money and was ready to just call it quits and go back to a regular job.

        But, being out on the road gave me the opportunity to talk to a lot of guys. I’m a friendly guy anyway so I spent a lot of my spare time talking to guys around the truck stops. I took a special interest in the owner operators. For my 8 months of being a company driver I really tried to get as much info as I could from all the owner operators that I met. Most were eager to offer the info. So it wasn’t too difficult.

        So, I bought my own truck. I got it back in April. Honestly, I was seriously worried at first because I never owned a truck and didn’t really know what I was doing. But in the end, it’s the smartest thing I’ve ever done. It hasent been that hard. Ive been averaging $4200 a week with about $2000 a week in expenses. now I know that’s not the best and many owners make a lot more than that. But personally I don’t think it’s too bad for a new guy like me that’s still in his first year of being an owner. Hell I haven’t been driving for even 2 years yet so I can’t complain. More importantly than the money though, I’m so happy with how it’s been going. Now I book my own loads. Now I’m in control of how much I work and how much I make. Yea I have a lot of bills now. Plus have to save as much as possible for maintenance. But now it’s easy for me to book loads through home and I go home 2-3 nights a week. I don’t really take many days off… But just being able to stop home 2-3 nights a week is really nice for me. I still work 7 days a week 60+ hours most weeks. But now I’m home a lot more and still getting $2000+ AFTER expenses every week… Yes I have to pay taxes out of that… Yes I have to save for maintenance. So it’s not like that’s all just money to spend. But I do have more money even after taxes and saving… AND, most importantly the quality of my life is way better than it was before.

        • Ken Skaggs
          January 11, 2016 at 11:30 am

          Hey that’s great Rick. Thanks for the update!

  6. December 31, 2015 at 6:51 pm

    if I start working for a Mc donnald 70 hours a week, in 2016 in California I `ll be making $850 a week . But as a truck driver 70 hours is about $1000 per week.

    • dan
      January 1, 2016 at 12:44 am

      @ 70 hrs a week…
      mc Donald’s 850.00
      trucking 1k
      what’s wrong with that picture, BS!
      Wish I could find regional no touch, home every weekend, layover pay and paid by the hour with OT. I don’t think that job exist.

  7. dan
    December 29, 2015 at 10:44 pm

    And why do I keep hearing about drivers make good money in Mississippi VS the average family income? I haven’t seen anything promising when I search that way. Do you know anything about Mississippi driving, I would consider regional or local only. Thanks again!

    • Ken Skaggs
      December 30, 2015 at 8:46 am

      Hi Dan,

      I hear there is a lot of dump truck driving jobs around there. Maybe some log hauling too. Both of those are good paying and local. If you don’t mind physically hard work, you could look into driving for soda companies. They’re always hiring and they pay well. If there is an industrial area near you, you could just drive around there and look for a day-cab truck making a stop, and talk to the driver. You can also do the same thing at a big grocery store in the morning- go talk to the drivers that deliver there.

      Good luck!

  8. Dan
    December 29, 2015 at 10:28 pm


    I need help! I am completely debt free and been in the trucking industry for over a decade. I am unemployed at the moment but I received an offer. Background: from Connecticut with all endorsements… single, no kids, 44
    1st offer and accepted it… I drive a new 2016 Freightliner (NO TOUCH), No slip seating, M-F, start 5-8am to 4 or so pm. OT after 40 with decent benefits. Most drivers receive 45-55 hrs a week @ 20.00 an hour. Starting Jan 4th…. Net pay would be maybe 700.00 – 750.00 on the average.

    2nd offer is Temp work with a good company, slip seating, No official set schedule, temp but I know the client. The hours are there! I could push 65-70 hrs a week and home every day. Pay is 21.00, OT after 8, double time after 12… I’ve done temp work like this before and I know (for a fact, after speaking with the drivers themselves) I could net easily 1k working 60 hrs. I also know Temp is not forever.

    I would appreciate your thoughts…. What would you do? Thank You!

    • Ken Skaggs
      December 30, 2015 at 8:42 am

      Hi Dan,

      I like offer #2 myself. The pay is better, and it will likely work into something permanent.

      Good luck!

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