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.

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189 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.

  4. July 30, 2014 at 6:04 pm

    hey Ken my name is stacy I’m just about to complete my first year driving for a big company I only make 37 cents a mile and run about 2000 to 2500 miles a week should I start looking for a better paying job or should I wait till I have more experience I would like to make 50000 to 60,000 a year that’s why got into this career but I know u have to start at the bottom and work your way up with experience and time on the job so please give me your opinion

    • August 3, 2014 at 6:52 pm

      Hi Stacy. A year is enough experience to land a good job. I know there are some that require 2 or 3 years, but good jobs are out there for someone with one year experience. At 37 CPM, if you ran 3000 miles a week you’d make 50k. But if you could find say 42 CPM you could run 2500 miles and make over 50k. Two companies worth mentioning are New Century, and Heartland Express. I know those two pay over 40. I’m sure there are more. You should look locally for it. Don’t use those little trucking magazines you find at the truck stops. Get your local newspapers, or even look in the phonebook and make some calls.
      Good luck.

  5. Pam Bayne
    July 31, 2014 at 5:17 pm

    I have sent you a message before about my son and being a truck driver. He has almost a year experience, no accidents, clean record. He is making $.18 to $.22 a mile and they will not give him long runs. He has been looking at different trucking companies and found one that he really wanted to work for. He was turned down because he has two felonies, one in 1992 and one in 1999. Is there any hope that he can get a decent paying trucking job? How does he go about finding the ones that are a little forgiving in your past.

    • August 3, 2014 at 6:55 pm

      Hi Pam. Wow- your son hung in there a long time at a very low wage. Don’t fret though- it gets better from here. With a year experience he should be able to double that pay. Tell him to take his time looking, ask a lot of questions, and make a wise choice. And about those felonies- it’s tough, but I suggest smaller companies, like 5 to 10 trucks. Check your local newspapers.
      Good luck.

    • August 3, 2014 at 7:07 pm

      hi Pam my name is stacy I have a felony in 1992 in a DUI in 1995 I’ve been driving almost a year now for Schneider intermodalI started with $.30 a mile with $.06 a mile safety bonus tell your son to check the website out they have a lot of different job to choose from in every state

  6. August 5, 2014 at 9:54 pm

    3000 miles a week, seems only possible if working a 12-14 hour day or 6 days a week, 10 hours a day. That’s assuming normal traffic (average 50 miles and hour) and not 70 on an interstate all the time. Delivering in a city would lower the MPH considerably. So what this writer is saying you either drive 12 hour days or no weekends. Not much of a life. No wonder nobody wants to truck.

    • August 6, 2014 at 6:08 am

      There’s a lot of truth in there Jon. We often do the math and say- I should be able to cover x-amount of miles by a certain time- but it usually never works out that way. Welcome to trucking. Anything that can happen probably will.

  7. Reed
    August 6, 2014 at 12:07 am

    Hey. I just read your article above. I hope you don’t mind my asking. But lately I’ve been looking into OTR and possibly owner/op. I’m 20 years old and have 1 year exp. on flatbed. I’m curious. In your opinion do you think it would be wise for me to pursue owner/op and this point in my career as a driver? And 1 more month I will no longer be limited to intrastate. Basically my question is in your opinion do you think me pursuing owner/op and OTR will end up badly for me in the long run.

    • August 6, 2014 at 6:28 am

      It’s hard for me to say whether being an Owner=Operator, or even an OTR driver is a fit for you personally. Those long hours at the wheel are a challenge for anyone. But, since you are so young, if you aren’t married yet (or if you bring your wife with you), this could be a great time for you to save some serious money. You could conceivably save 80% of your money if you live in your truck and save hard. Speaking strictly of the economy, I think now is a good time to be an owner operator. The thing about owning a truck is- it’s an investment. If you shop smart, you could buy a $20,000 truck, work it for a year, then sell it for $20,000. I’ve seen it done, and you can do it too.

  8. Fay Jones
    August 10, 2014 at 5:07 pm

    Does it seem profitable to purchase a truck and hire a driver and lease your truck to a company. Could you come out with that these days?

    • August 11, 2014 at 5:52 am

      Hi Fay. A lot of people do just that. But that won’t work out too well if your truck only makes 90-cents a mile- unless you get a huge fuel surcharge on every load. It pays to haul something special, not just dry-van. Flatbed, heavy-haul, dump trucks, etc do very well. You can make it with dry-van hauling, but it will be a little tougher. Here’s what you have to consider…
      What does it cost to run your truck? Usually it’s about 60 to 75 CPM.
      What do you want to pay your driver? Most experienced drivers won’t hang around too long if they aren’t making 40 CPM, and $1000+ a week, plus health insurance.
      What do you want to make?
      Add those together and you’ll know your bottom-line. Off the top of my head, it’s probably around $1.60 a mile. But again, it depends on what you haul. A lot of local drivers do very well too, even dry-van haulers.
      Good luck.

  9. August 11, 2014 at 10:29 am

    Hey Ken, whats your opinion on CRST and Melton trucking school training programs and job placements, which is a better start ?

    • August 13, 2014 at 8:08 am

      I don’t like ANY trucking company training school, they take advantage of drivers by locking them in at a very low wage for too long. However, as a place to work once you have experience, both are excellent jobs. (CRST flatbed does better than their dry van div.).

  10. August 14, 2014 at 8:53 pm

    Hey Ken, im 24 years old and am seriously considering becoming a truck driver. im curious on a few thing though. does trucking allow you to have a life outside of work? on average how many miles/hours would a beginner drive per day? are there any good schools that you know of in ohio for me to get my cdl? how long does it take to move up the ladder and get higher paying jobs? and how much stress can this job create?

    • August 16, 2014 at 5:00 am

      Hi Nicholas. You asked the best question anyone ever asked me about trucking- Does trucking allow you to have a life outside of work? The short answer is- not too much if you are driving OTR. But it depends on who you work for and where you go too. A lot of people say trucking is a lifestyle, and this is why. You have to give up your home-life for the job. Most OTR companies get you home every weekend or every other weekend. But if you are young, not married, or your kids are grown, you don’t care- that’s when you can make some real money because you can actually enjoy the road, especially if you bring your wife along with you. But, if you really want a home-life, I suggest getting a local job. This way you will be home every day like a normal person.
      Most beginners do most of the driving. So, (again, if you are OTR) your trainer will make you do all of the driving, unless you get into a jam- then the lead driver will take over. Most OTR drivers drive about 500 to 600 miles a day.
      There are a whole bunch of good truck driving schools in Ohio. Just Google your town and truck driving schools, and you will see a list of them. Disregard any one that is owned by a trucking company. Make some calls and find the closest one that offers financial aid, lets you get in and done quickly, and has a long list of potential companies that will hire you.
      Generally speaking, after your first year you can just about pick your next job. After your 2nd, and especially after your 3rd year, you really will be able to pick any job you want.
      Trucking can be a very stressful job. Most people don’t make it. Traffic, time away from home, stupid dispatchers, smart-ass customers, and your health (all those hours sitting can do some damage) all play a roll when it comes to stress. Those that do well are the ones that actually enjoy being alone, or on the road with the one you love, going to some cool places, and getting out of the truck to have some fun once in a while can make all the difference.

      Good luck!

  11. kenny
    August 16, 2014 at 2:47 am

    Hey my name is kenny i am looking for a trucking career i want to do long distance and i want to make some money i have no experience so m looking for a company to send me to school and let me sign a contract i have a perfect driving record with or points im intrested in cr england what is your thoughts on that company and whats you advice on how i should get started down this road?

    • August 16, 2014 at 5:10 am

      Hey Kenny. I’m Kenny too. Ha ha.

      I suggest NOT going to CR England for training- or any company for that matter. Read some of the other comments. The one just above this I explained how to choose a good school.
      Having a clean driving record is so important I just can’t stress it enough. Keep it clean and you will do well in this field.
      If you truly enjoy the road, and it sounds like you do, you will make some money.
      The best way to get started is to get financial aid, and go to an independent truck driving school. Then get a job with a major OTR carrier (your school should have a list of those that hire new drivers fresh out of school.) Then, after you get a year experience, look around for something better. It’s out there. All of these companies that hire new graduates (and especially those that do their own training) do so because they have a terrible time trying to keep drivers. The good jobs don’t have that problem. In other words, all those trucking magazines at the truckstops that are chock-full of jobs are just those jobs that are low pay, long hours, and slow trucks. But you got to start somewhere.

      Good luck!

  12. eric
    August 21, 2014 at 12:48 am

    Im really looking into becoming an otr driver. Long distance. Your opinion is that i should go to a local driving school. Then look for a job through the school or on my own. Not going to a large trucking companies school? I live in bergen county new jersey. Any ideas

    • August 21, 2014 at 7:14 am

      Hi Eric,

      Yes, you will save thousands of dollars, maybe tens-of-thousands, if you go to an independent truck driving school, even if you pay for it yourself. But most people can get a government grant, which is even better. Bergen County NJ is an awesome area to find good paying driver jobs.
      I see you want to drive long distance. I don’t blame you. Get away from all that traffic over there. Any local job in that area will likely have you in and out of NYC every day. The good news is- a lot of OTR companies have trouble getting drivers to go to NYC or NJ. But since you live in that area, they would love to hire you.
      Take a look at this page- Bergen County Truck Driving Schools. And make sure you scroll down past the sponsored listings! (Those are the ones I warned you about.)
      Call them all, and ask a lot of questions… How much? Can I make payments? Got financial aid? How long does it take? Do you have a list of companies that hire your graduates? … And make a thoughtful choice.

      Good luck,

  13. kimberly
    August 23, 2014 at 1:35 am

    Hi I recently got hired on at a trucking company that is going to train me to get my CDL. My driving record is pretty straight except I got a speeding ticket about a year and a half ago. I don’t plan on staying with this company more than a year and a half (I want to be a OTR trucker and they don’t offer this), they seem like a pretty legit company and they will give me my money back for schooling as long as I am with the company after I pay it off. My question to you is will this speeding ticket affect me getting a decent paying job? Also I have two dogs that I’m not going to be able to take with me on this job and have to pay for boarding (which is crazy expensive), do you know the est company that would allow me to have my dogs? I want to get on at Walmart eventually i hear they make really good money and also I would be able to have my dogs. Walmart’s website requires 3 years experience, do you think they would hire me with less than that?

    • August 23, 2014 at 8:49 am

      Hi Kimberly,

      If Walmart says they require 3-years experience, this is etched in stone- they will not budge on that, even if you have 2.8 years experience. Every company has their minimum requirements, and this is imposed on them by their insurance companies.

      More companies these days allow pets, so I think you should make some calls when the time comes- you’ll find the right one.

      Read the fine-print from that company willing to pay for your schooling. How long do you have to stay there? At what pay rate? Is it really worth it? Most OTR companies that pay for training rip you off for a year or more. I never heard of a local company doing it. Maybe you got a nice place to start right there.

      Good luck.

      • kimberly
        August 23, 2014 at 9:45 am

        They said whenever I pay the loan of 4900 off then they will cut me a check in that amount, only stipulation is that I have to still be working for their company. They want me to stay with an experienced driver for at least 6 months after getting CDL, they encourage HAZMAT and any other additional training but it is not required, Here is
        what they list:

        Graduates of our Truck Driving School start at 35 cents per mile.
        36 cents per mile after 1 year over the road. Earn up to 44 cents per mile.
        Paid on all dispatched miles, loaded & empty.
        Paid for extra stops.
        Paid for Driver Assist
        Paid Detention
        Paid extra for New York City
        Yearly safety bonus
        Additional 1 cent per mile for 2500+ miles
        Weekly home time
        Team pay up to 55 cents per mile

        This place seems pretty legit and straight forward, they have a A+ with the BBB.

        As for my other question, do you think that my speeding ticket will affect my chances of getting hired on elsewhere in a few years? Thank you so much for your help, Kimberly

        • kimberly
          August 23, 2014 at 9:48 am

          Also no money down required.

        • August 23, 2014 at 3:01 pm

          Hey Kimberly, that’s a pretty fair offer. I’d like to know the name of that company. Most of them get their drivers to work for half-pay for the first year.

          About speeding- if your ticket was 16 MPH over the speed limit or more, that will affect your driving record and no one will want to hire you (except maybe a very small outfit). If was between 10 and 15 MPH over, that will have some affect, but you should still be able to land a decent job.


          • kimberly
            August 23, 2014 at 6:43 pm

            Is there a way I could e-mail it to you or something I’d really prefer not to list it on here, thanks Kimberly

          • Andrew
            August 26, 2014 at 6:03 am

            Hi Ken my name is Andrew and was looking becoming a truck driver and looked around and found Pam transport is that a good place to start?

          • August 26, 2014 at 7:03 am

            Hi Andrew,

            If you already have attended truck driving school and have your CDL, PAM Transport is as good a place as any to go to work. However, if you are planning to attend their CDL training program, I highly recommend you DON’T do it.

            Most of these OTR companies do the same thing- they train drivers for a CDL and put them to work for half-pay for a year or longer. Drivers wind up spending $20,000 for the same training they could have had from an independent truck driving school for about $5000 or $6000 (and maybe even get a grant to pay for it.) Plus, if you go to an independent school, you will have many job choices, and could change jobs after 3-months if you weren’t happy. When you train at a trucking company, you are stuck there until you pay for your schooling, or they sue you for the cost.

            Good luck.

  14. Greg
    August 25, 2014 at 11:54 pm

    Hey Ken I am trying to find out about driving jobs that would allow me to have a home life. What’s your opinion? And are there decent paying jobs available. My name is Greg.

    • August 26, 2014 at 5:37 am

      Hi Greg,

      Depending on where you live, there are a lot of good paying jobs that get you home every night. Here are a few suggestions- sand and gravel haulers, asphalt drivers, any construction driver, route sales drivers (soda, beer, potato chips, bread, milk), local movers, local freight haulers, garbage truck drivers.

      The best way to land one is to talk to a current driver. Go where they go- behind large grocery store, by industrial neighborhoods, and just talk to the driver who is driving the truck with no sleeper.

      Good luck.

      • Greg
        August 26, 2014 at 12:39 pm

        Thank you Ken for the information I really appreciate it. I am considering changing careers do you think I should go otr my first year for experience?

        • August 27, 2014 at 5:30 am

          Hi Greg,

          Yes and no. Going OTR your first year is a good idea because it is less challenging than city driving (not as many tight parking challenges). However, in some aspects it is more challenging- like long days or weeks away from home.
          A year on the road will help you as a driver though, to understand what it involves. That’s invaluable experience.

          Good luck!

  15. John Griffin
    August 27, 2014 at 12:50 pm

    Hi Mr. Skaggs,
    Iam am looking into becoming a trucker. I am currently serving in the Air Force and have been for the past 18 yrs. I am lookiing at a possible Medical Retirement and need to look at my future possibilities. I have always been a fan of trucking. I have read all the questions and concerns of the other people on here from July 2014 – today. You have provided some great info and direction. I am looking at purchasing my own truck and possible flatbed / box trailer. My question is, would being an owner operater be the better way to start this new adventure? I have the means to buy a great used truck/trailer and would rather use my own equipment for this career. Thanks for any guidence you can provide.

    • August 27, 2014 at 1:21 pm

      I always said once you go owner-operator, you never go back. There’s nothing like the freedom to choose you own destiny. I agree with you- buy a truck and maybe even a trailer. (There’s more money in flatbed than van, but you’ll work harder too.) My only concern is, if you have no trucking experience, you may have to work for a company for 6-months or a year first, while you learn the business. If you do have military trucking experience, a lot of companies will still hire you- or you can jump right into buying a truck. The more you learn before you buy, and the more you figure out what you want personally (as far as home-time, how hard you want to work, etc), the better off you’ll be in the end.

  16. Hugo
    August 28, 2014 at 12:07 am

    Hey Ken!

    I am in a bit of a dilemma here, and I would really appreciate your advice and help. I am a 23 year old guy that lives in Southern California, and have graduated recently from a 4 year institutional school. The problem is that I need to start working now. But I also want to continue with school to apply for a physician assistant program. However, I still need at least 3 to 5 years to finish the pre-requisites to even apply to the program, and another 3 years to finish the program. I do not know if I would be up for another 6 to 10 years of school. I have always thought about becoming a truck driver, but I am not sure if it would be a good alternative. I have a lot of family members that are truckers, but I do not know if it would be worth changing career paths at this point in my career path. Would you suggest to keep on with school? Or give the trucking lifestyle a shot, to see if this career would be appropriate for me?

    • August 28, 2014 at 12:51 pm

      Hi Hugo,

      Man, that’s a tough call. You have a 4-year degree. You can get a decent job in just about any field. I guess the question is- What would really make you happy? I was glad that you called it the “trucking lifestyle”. Trucking, especially OTR trucking is a lifestyle. You’re gone for weeks at a time. Yeah, you make decent money (and you can save a lot of it if you live in your truck). But maybe not compared to 4-year degree possibilities. I see the real goal you have requires 6 more years. This is a major turning point ion your life, and without really knowing you, I can’t say what would be best for you.
      Think about the long nights sleeping by yourself in a cubicle of a bedroom (unless of course you have a girlfriend or wife to bring with). Think about the days when you have to get across New York City in an hour but traffic is a mess, and you hardly slept, and your phone won’t stop ringing, and the cops are pulling you over. Also, think about the money you can save because you won’t need an apartment for a while. But then, think about what you can do with your degree, or the one you want 6-years out. It’s a tough call. Take your time and think this one through. I’m sorry I’m not a lot of help here. All I can say is, this is important, so make the right choice.

      Good luck.

      • Hugo
        August 28, 2014 at 1:36 pm

        Thanks for the insight! I really needed someones else perspective. I never really thought about it like that. Now that I think of it, I might as well finish school, since I already started.

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