Truck Driver Salary: Average Truck Driver Pay Per Mile

July 26, 2012

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.

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.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

152 Responses to Truck Driver Salary: Average Truck Driver Pay Per Mile

  1. Brittany Farrier
    July 20, 2014 at 6:25 pm

    Hi, Ken.

    I am looking at attending Miller Motte in Fayetteville, NC for a truck driving course. A friend of mine who is a trucker said I should start with Prime. Have you heard of them? If so, what is your view on them? I am a female too by the way if that makes any difference.

    • July 21, 2014 at 7:09 am

      I never heard of that school, but they look legit. I would have to ask them a few questions first-
      Will I get some time behind the wheel? (The more, the better.)
      Do you have your own truck for the road test? (Otherwise, you’ll just end up with a CDL Permit.)
      Do you have a list of companies that hire your graduates?

      Prime is as good as any other huge corporation. Some drivers love them, and some hate them. I always say, your job is what you make it to be.

      If that school answers well on those questions, I would call every one of their job opportunities before I commit to any one. Ask a lot of questions, and make a wise choice.

      Good luck.

  2. chad
    July 22, 2014 at 6:20 pm

    i was at a company that paid me 90% of the load but got fired because of oos i found another company that pays by the mile .91 cents per mile plus fuel surcharge i never ran on cents per mile always percentage so i was wanting now your opinion on it which one would be best for me i have five kids and wife doesnt work and i completely own my truck and trailer its a dry van. the problem is that with cents per mile the load always dont pay with percentage u always no what our getting paid lets say for instance my last load picked up in bowling green ky going to ardmore ok 787 miles and paying 2300 with percentage it would be 2,070 thats my cuts plus fuel i figured 700 dollars in fuel load weight 41,500 so ill make 1,370 how would u figure it with mileage pay

    • chad
      July 22, 2014 at 6:24 pm

      on percentage thats almost 3.00 a mile

    • July 23, 2014 at 6:26 am

      First, I have to say 91-cents is nothing. Keep looking.
      There’s a lot to consider with percentage vs mileage. Deadhead miles for one. Personally, I always did better with percentage pay. But every company is different. Also, it depends on what you’re hauling. Dry van in general pays less than tanker, flatbed or heavy haul.
      The bottom line is- you should know what your cost-per-mile is to run your truck (and trailer if you have one). Consider all of your expenses (fuel, insurance, permits, repairs, payments, etc.), and divide that by how many miles you run on average. Once you know that number, you’ll know your starting point.
      For example- let’s say you get 6 MPG. Divide that by $3.80 per gallon (or whatever you pay). In this case, it’s 63-cents per mile. Add in some other expenses and most likely your actual cost-per-mile is probably around 75 to 80 cents. Now you can see why I say 91-cents is nothing.
      When you own your own truck and trailer you have a lot of companies that would love to hire you. Don’t settle for less.
      Good luck.

  3. sandy
    July 25, 2014 at 8:28 pm

    Hey ken I was thinking about getting my cdl I called cross country truck driving school in thomasville nc. They said I the price is $2600. I can put $600 down and make payments. I want to start off making $50000 to $60000 per year. Is this a school a good decision ? They said its 4 to six weeks training. I want to make as much money as possible!!

    • July 26, 2014 at 11:10 am

      Hi Sandy,

      That looks like a decent truck driving school. The price is fair, the course is fast, and they have excellent job placement assistance. It’s not easy to make 50K+ your first year, but it can be done. But it won’t happen at any of the companies your school tells you about. You’ll have to find it on your own. They’re out there, but it will take a little work to land one. All it takes is being qualified with a CDL and a good driving record, and the interviewer has to like you and believe you will do a fine job. Here’s a few ideas-
      Union jobs, asphalt companies, sand and gravel haulers, grocery distributors, route-sales jobs, movers. Most of these jobs pay very well. They also want experience, but sometimes a person can be in the right place at the right time. The key is- get out there and spend some time looking, and don’t grab the first offer for $10 an hour- keep looking. Prepare for an interview by selling yourself- convince them that you will be a safe driver, and very good with customers, and you don’t mind doing extra work or working long hours and you’ll have a chance.

      Good luck.

Leave a Reply

Freight Rate Quote: As Seen on A&E’s Shipping Wars

This is going to revolutionize freight rates as we know them. If you haven't had the chance to watch A&E's Shipping Wars TV Show, let me tell you: They auction your freight off to the lowest bidder- and they have over 100,000 trucks in their network. You simply will not find a lower freight rate anywhere.
uShip Shipping Rates