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Wide load truck

The exact dimensions of an over-dimensional load vary by state. In a nutshell, over-dimensional is exactly what it sounds like—any high, long, heavy, or wide load truck that is larger than typical dimensions. This usually includes trucks or loads taller than 13’6” (with some regional differences) and wider than 8’6”. Length regulations change by state. Because there are different regulations based on where you’re driving, it’s important to check every state along your route before you start. If you’re considering moving to over-dimensional loads for the next stage of your trucking career, here are some pros and cons to keep in mind. 

Pros

1. Pay and Job Security

Let’s start with the big questions. Is there any real pay benefit to hauling more challenging loads? Actually, yes. Wide load truck drivers and other over-dimensional load haulers are pretty well paid for the position. You will be required to carry special permits, but even with that added expense, the finances work out well in your favor for over-dimensional loads. In addition, you won’t be tied to a single piece of equipment. That significantly boosts job security. Being able to haul a variety of loads means you won’t drive with your truck or your pockets empty.

Vic R. Oversized Load Truck Driver

We talked to Vic, a truck driver who has hauled oversized loads for 14 years. 

Vic was previously doing container work but chose to transition to oversized loads for the pay increase. He now makes significantly more money and has variety in his work daily. Vic shared “There’s a lot more money in oversized loads. Every day is an adventure, and it’s never boring.”

Over-dimensional loads require a high level of responsibility and a bigger mental load, but there’s also usually less physical work. That said, don’t look for compensation as a good CPM. This type of run isn’t about the miles—there’s a lot of waiting involved. If you are not a patient driver and willing to wait for parking, room to fuel up, etc., this probably isn’t the job for you. Because miles aren’t the bottom line, typically pay will come as salary, percentage pay, or hourly wages

2. Show Your Skills

Hauling a wide load truck or other types of over-dimensional load is not usually a job for rookie drivers. There is a high level of skill required for this type of position because the cargo is often high value and oversized. Defensive driving is a must. As a result, many drivers have 10+ years of experience in other types of trucking. The vast majority of over-dimensional drivers have at least some flatbed trucking experience. Similarly, drivers with more endorsements are often hired more easily. Even if you don’t need endorsements for a particular load, endorsements have a lot of value. They show that you are able to work a variety of assignments and, importantly, that you are a hard worker who prioritizes their career. 

There are no hard and fast rules about years of experience or endorsements, but in general, more is better in this case. Hauling over-dimensional freight can be a great job for drivers who want to incorporate a lot of the skills and experience they have gained along the way. 

3. Pilot Cars

Pilot cars (also known as escorts) are commercial passenger vehicles that drive alongside an oversized vehicle. They are required to have visible signage on the front and rear of their cars, and you’ve probably seen them on the road before. In tricky situations or routes, they can be a big help.

If you’ve never driven with a pilot car before, you should know that they won’t necessarily join you for the whole trip. They may only accompany you through the most treacherous areas.

Escorts will either drive ahead of you as a scout or they will follow you to help ensure that other vehicles observe proper spacing. There are also specialized escorts called pole cars whose purpose is to check the height of any overhead obstacles to make sure that the truck and its load will be able to pass safely. Most escorts also carry safety equipment in case of a breakdown on the road.

Cons

1. Preplanning Is a Must

Preplanning is a standard part of any trucking job. But, many experienced drivers might not need to spend as much time preplanning as they once did. For a wide load truck or other over-dimensional loads, preplanning is not optional. You must know your route well before you set off. Are there any road obstacles to be aware of? When can you fuel? Will parking be readily available when you’re scheduled to stop? 

It’s also a good idea to find out whether your pilot car knows the route well. Some escorts run the same lanes over and other. Others are simply hired and may be driving your route for the first time. There can also be different requirements in different states or regions. Make sure you know the regulations of each place you will travel through.

2. Route Requirements

As an over-dimensional load driver, you will usually have a set route with a specific delivery window. That can be a bit of a challenge, especially in bad weather. In an oversized flatbed, a big storm could have a big impact on your intended delivery time. Unfortunately, responsibility for an on time delivery ultimately falls on the driver. That’s one reason why many oversized loads don’t move during the night

Responsibility for an on time delivery ultimately falls on the driver.

With that being said, there are some loads that can be hauled at night as long as there is proper lighting. Ultimately, that decision depends on the state you are driving in. For most places in the United States, anything under 10’ wide can run at night. On the flip side, superloads (the next size classification up) often haul only at night. Most of these giants require a police escort as well as pilot cars, and they prefer to run when the roads are emptiest.

Getting Started

There is no set way to become a wide load truck driver or to start hauling over-dimensional loads. Typically, employers look for flatbed experience, and drivers need to be comfortable tarping and strapping their load. There are some training programs through companies like ATS and Lonestar, but not all drivers start over-dimensional trucking through a formal program. Multi-axle trailers are one of the best ways to start moving toward the world of over-dimensional loads. 

There really is nothing like hauling over-dimensional loads, so do your research before you get started. It’s not for everyone, but for patient, experienced drivers who want to put their skills to the test, driving a wide load truck or hauling over-dimensional loads is very rewarding.

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How to Know if your Truck Driver Salary is Competitive

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2019 the median Heavy and Tractor-Trailer truck driver salary was $45,260 annually or $21.76 per hour. That said, your truck driver salary will be very different depending on your type of run, haul, and location, among other factors. For bigger companies, you may be able to look up their average salaries. Unfortunately, that’s less likely to be available for smaller companies. But, even without company-specific numbers, you can get a sense of how your salary stacks up. Read on to understand different types of income and whether your salary is competitive.

Consider the Factors

Type of Haul

You can’t compare your salary to the industry average without thinking about the type of haul. Typically, car transport drivers and heavy equipment transporters are some of the highest paid jobs. Hauling highly valuable goods tends to come with an increase in paycheck because these drivers need a high level of performance. On the other hand, straight truck local trucking often brings in one of the lowest salaries in the industry. This recreated chart from Trucker’s Training gives a few examples of salary across CDL A haul types.

Trucker Job

Median Pay

Reported High Income

Ice Road Trucking $40,000 $210,000
Heavy Equipment Transporter $60,000 $150,000
Car Transport Driver $73,000 $120,000
Dry Bulk Grain Hauler $54,000 $120,000
Refrigerator Trailer Drivers $52,000 $80,000
Intermodal Trucker $48,000 $72,000
Flatbed Tractor Trailer Drivers $48,000 $72,000
LTL Line-Haul Trucker $48,000 $72,000
OTR Freight Trucker $48,000 $62,000

Remember, there are plenty of other factors on truck driver salary. So, even within a haul type, there can be a lot of variety in pay.

Type of Run

Whether you’re a “local runs only” driver or an “OTR for life” driver can make a big difference in pay. There will be variation in pay by company and other factors, but in general, OTR drivers have the highest salary potential. According to current Zip Recruiter data, OTR drivers in the United States average $63,888 annually. Regional drivers get the next highest paycheck and earn an average of $60,969. Finally, local drivers in the United States earn an average of $51,355 each year. 

Keep in mind that Type of Run is just one piece of the puzzle. There are some local jobs, such as HazMat Tanker jobs, that will out earn OTR positions. Endorsements, haul type, company size, and more all contribute to earning potential. 

In addition, there’s a lot to consider beyond money. If you’re raising a family or want to have weekends off, Regional or local jobs might be a better fit for you. Type of run is also just one of many factors that will influence truck driver salary. Choose the run type that fits your lifestyle, and then consider how you can meet your salary needs.

Factor in Experience

As with many jobs, seniority matters in many trucking companies. Based on 2020 data from Trucker’s Training, new drivers can expect to earn between 27 and 40 CPM after training. In general, that rate continues to increase with more time on the job. In other words, more experience brings a higher truck driver salary. That financial boost may come as a raise from your current company. Some employers reward drivers for loyalty.

Experienced drivers also are often more competitive for higher paying jobs. Remember, building a strong reputation is part of having more experience. A potential employer may call your current or former boss. Having a good recommendation as a skilled, reliable driver is a huge benefit in a competitive hiring pool.

Small Company vs. Large Company

The size of the company you work can have pros and cons. Pay tends to be a little lower in small companies, but they also offer a more personal environment. On the other hand, larger companies tend to pay more but may have a less family-like company culture. Think of the decision of company size as a sliding scale rather than black and white. You might have to make tradeoffs, but there is also plenty of middle ground.

Look at Income Potential Rather than Salary

The reality of a paycheck is that it adds up differently depending on where you live. $50,000 will feel like more money in Cleveland, OH than in Los Angeles, CA. When you look up the average salary for your type of driving, make sure you include location. You can look up average truck driver salary by state with this list from Seek Capital. Drivers in Los Angeles are likely to earn more annually than a Cleveland driver, but they will also spend more on daily expenses like a mortgage or rent and groceries. 

According to Seek Capital, the top 3 states for truck driver salaries are Nevada, Mississippi, and Kentucky.

Maybe surprisingly, these aren’t the states where truck drivers earn the highest gross salary. Instead, they are the states where truck drivers earn significantly more compared to the average salary from other jobs.

How to Increase Your Salary Potential

If you’re not happy with your current truck driver salary, there are a few ways you can increase your earning potential. Some of these opportunities may be at your current job, and others will take a little time and training. Remember, whenever you change CDL jobs, get as many compensation details as possible from your recruiter before you pursue the position. 

tanker endorsementEndorsements

Earning additional endorsements is a great way to give your long term income potential a boost. Getting more endorsements such as a Tanker, HazMat, Doubles, or Triples will take time and money. Consider this an investment in your future.

Maintaining current endorsements will qualify you for better jobs with higher salaries. Before you choose a program, consider what kind of jobs you want in the future. Then, pick a program that fits your financial needs and career goals. 

Overtime Opportunities

If you are working an hourly job, overtime opportunities can be a good way to increase your salary. This is more frequently an opportunity for local driving positions than other run types. That does mean that you may have less free time on your hands, but overtime opportunities often pay very well. Some companies offer more than their regular rate for overtime hours. As a result, a few extra hours of overtime work might be worth the increased paycheck.

Bonuses

Trucking companies offer bonuses as an incentive for many things. Some are performance, safety, or mileage bonuses that come directly from your work. Others relate to the hiring process — referral bonuses, loyalty incentives, and sign-on bonuses.

Some of these, like a loyalty bonus, are tied primarily to time and aren’t necessarily driven by driver performance. However, others you may be able to increase with a strong professional performance. In addition, keep in mind other quality drivers whenever your company is hiring. A new driver referral bonus can benefit your paycheck and build your reputation by making a good recommendation. 

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truck driver pay

Truck driver pay is one of the key elements that CDL drivers look for in a new job. Some of the most important factors for earning potential are years of experience, location, the number of miles driven, special qualifications such as endorsements, type of haul, and haul range. Not all jobs are equally compensated, but you should be able to know what to expect from your paycheck. Make sure you get all the details from your recruiter. Whether it’s for a new job or to get started in trucking, here are the types of compensation you may get offered. 

Base Pay

For company drivers, there are four main types of base pay. Some drivers may receive additional compensation in the form of bonuses or specialty pay. That said, the bulk of your income will come from one of these types of base pay.

1. Hourly

Hourly pay is likely familiar to many drivers because it’s common in many industries. In trucking, pay per hour is frequently used by intrastate delivery companies with relatively small driving ranges. Drivers who are paid hourly can often expect work with frequent stops, loading and unloading, and regular customer interaction. Many hourly positions offer overtime hours which can add a big bonus to your paycheck if you’re willing to take on extra hours.

2. Pay Per Mile

This is one of the most common types of pay across the trucking industry. Pay per mile, often called CPM (cents per mile), pays drivers for the miles they run. Within mileage pay, there are several ways to calculate truck driver pay.

  • Practical Mileage. This is the number of miles based on the most efficient path between the address at your starting location and the address at your destination. It’s often calculated with an ELD. Think of it as similar to how Google or Apple Maps calculate a driving route. 
  • Household Goods (HHG) miles. HHG miles are also called zip code miles. Companies calculate routes based on the shortest distance between the post office zip code in the origin city and the post office zip code in the destination city. 
  • Hub Mileage, also called Actual Miles. This type of truck driver pay uses the mileage change on the odometer. It accounts for all hours of service miles including changes in routes or stops. 
  • Sliding Scales Pay. Often this type of pay is used by companies who want to give short-haul drivers a chance to earn a higher income. For example, short hauls (1-500 miles) may pay $0.55 CPM while routes of 500+ miles might earn $0.50 CPM.

In addition to CPM, a job description that pays based on miles should include the number of miles per week that drivers can expect. For example, a job description might offer $0.53 CPM and an average of 2500 weekly miles. A higher CPM is usually good news, but it’s important to read the fine print. Your total pay depends on the number of miles traveled, so look for jobs with a high CPM and enough miles to earn the paycheck you want.

3. Salary

Salaried trucking jobs offer income consistency. For drivers who receive a salary, income is not dependent on the specific miles or hours worked. Instead, a flat rate is set at the start of the job contract and drivers will consistently earn that amount. Often, salaried drivers receive pay weekly.

4. Pay Per Load

Pay Per Load is the least common type of base pay. Most jobs that offer pay per load are in the agriculture, oil and gas industries, or are local delivery jobs.

Drivers earn a flat rate of pay for each load they deliver. In this type of pay, drivers earn more when they deliver more loads regardless of hours or miles.

Additional Truck Driver Pay

Per Diem

In a nutshell, per diem is money given for any place you stay overnight, meals, and other incidental expenses. Per diem is a form of reimbursement, but the biggest benefits come during tax season. Companies may offer per diems by day, per mile, or even as a percentage. If you are a company driver, per diem wages are not considered taxable income. 

For example, if you are paid $0.60 CPM and $0.45CPM is your base income and $0.15CPM is per diem, 25% of your income is not taxable. 

As of 2018, even though company drivers can no longer claim $63 per day as an expense on their taxes, they can claim the standard deduction. A higher per diem wage doesn’t change your annual income, but it does mean that you will pay less in taxes. Owner operators are still able to use per diem and deduct it as an expense on their taxes.

Detention and Layover Pay

When drivers are stopped for long periods of time, some companies will offer compensation. Drivers get detention pay when they are held up at a shipper or receiver for an extended amount of time. Layover pay may be given to drivers who have to wait between loads. Detention and layover pay are particularly important for drivers who are paid by the mile. In addition, some companies offer breakdown pay when incidents happen on the road and drivers cannot log miles.

Stop Pay

Stop pay is typically offered to drivers who will make multiple stops on their run. In general, stop pay does not include the initial or final destination. Like detention and layover pay, stop pay compensates for the time that drivers are not adding miles to their logbooks. More deliveries mean more time stopped and fewer miles. Stop pay helps make up the difference. 

Special Incentive Pay

Drivers can earn special incentive pay for loads that are more difficult because of location, border crossings, hazardous materials, or other non-typical duties. For example, tarp pay is not uncommon for flatbed drivers. Truck drivers who haul refrigerated loads may get a higher cent per mile rate. Similarly, there may be additional compensation for over-dimensional loads or routes in NY and NJ. Endorsements such as HazMat, Tanker, Doubles/Triples, or TWIC cards also frequently help drivers earn higher pay or bonuses.  

Bonuses

While base pay makes up the majority of a driver’s income, many people receive additional pay through bonuses. All companies choose their bonus structures a little differently. Some of the most common bonuses are for fuel, safety, and inspections. Many companies also offer hiring bonuses for signing on to their job or referral bonuses for bringing in new drivers. Performance and on-time delivery bonuses are also frequently used to incentivize drivers. 

Team Driver Pay

Like solo company drivers, team drivers most commonly receive pay based on mileage. For teams, the per-mile rate is a bit higher than for a solo driver, but team drivers share the rate.

The rate for each driver may be lower than for a solo company driver, but each person’s annual income is often higher because teams can drive significantly more miles.

Typically, team drivers split the mileage pay evenly. In some situations, each driver has a different per-mile rate. This may be based on experience or other similar factors. Team drivers may also qualify for bonuses if they reach certain mileage targets. 

Owner Operator Pay

Percentage pay is one of the most common types of income for owner operators. Typically, owner operators negotiate a percentage of the linehaul (gross revenue of the load minus the fuel surcharge). A load with a higher gross revenue means a better payout for the driver. Both independent owner-operators and lease to own operators can also expect to be paid all or almost all of the fuel surcharge. 

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When someone says they’re a truck driver, some people might think that’s all there is to it. But if you’re a driver, no matter if you’re in your first year or a seasoned veteran, you know that there are many types of driving jobs. Today’s spotlight is on being a tanker truck driver. What do drivers love about hauling tanker trucks? What would they change? Here’s what you need to know if you’re thinking about becoming a tanker truck driver.

The Pros

1. Good pay for the industry

Tanker truck drivers average $20.32/hour across the United States. That’s higher than the average hourly wage for many other driving positions. As with any job, pay increases with endorsements and experience.

Some tanker truck drivers may have longer hours. The good news is that most of these jobs are also hourly. If you have a long run, you’ll get paid for your time. 

The pay also depends on the material you haul. Hazmat driving typically earns more because of the experience required and extra job risks. 

2. Good benefits

Not all tankers drive Hazmat, but many do. Because being a tanker truck driver is considered slightly more dangerous than other types of CDL driving, the benefits are also better. Good health insurance, life insurance, and vacation days are all standard for tanker drivers

3. Typically short load/unload times

Loading and unloading a tanker truck is done with a big hose. While you might wait for hours to get your dry van or reefer unloaded, you’re usually in and out in 15 – 20 minutes when unloading a tanker. Getting loaded usually takes around 45 minutes. 

4. Many drivers are home every night

Tanker truck jobs are typically regional or local hauls. Frequent home time is a huge perk of being a tanker truck driver. You get to spend more time with your family and stay closer to home while doing a job you love.

If home time is a priority for you, becoming a tanker truck driver might be a great way to be home every night or nearly every night. 

5. Can be no touch freight

As a Hazmat driver, you’re often no touch. Frequently, your clients will take care of loading and unloading, so you don’t have to worry about heavy loads or the liability of handling freight. You may still be hooking up hoses, but you won’t have to tarp a load on a windy day.

The Cons:

1. Driving takes some adjustment time

When driving a tanker truck that isn’t full to the top, there is room for your load to move when you start and stop. This is called “surge.” Basically, if you slow down too quickly, the liquid in your load will be a little bit behind. A moment later, you might feel the liquid slam into the front of the tank. The force can be enough to slide your whole truck forward several feet! It’s challenging at first, but most drivers say they adapt quickly and use safe driving habits.

2. Can be more dangerous than other hauls

If you’re a tanker truck driver, there’s a good chance you’re hauling Hazmat. Whether that’s chemicals, hot oil, gasoline, or something else, it does increase your risk.

Normal activities like checking your load and your driving time can be more dangerous.

Even if you’re hauling food grade or other non-hazardous materials, climbing on top of a tanker truck in icy conditions can be dangerous.

3. Draws more attention from DOT 

While there aren’t any studies that officially confirm this, some drivers report that Hazmat drivers tend to draw more attention from DOT. This also may depend on the reputation of the company you’re driving for and the region you’re driving in.

4. Safety equipment

If you’re a hazmat driver, you will have a few extra safety requirements. A big one is the uniform you wear. If you’re a tanker driver, you typically wear fire resistant coveralls and an H2 monitor as protection from toxic fumes.

If you live in a hot part of the country, it’s not always comfortable, but it’s a small price to pay to keep yourself a little safer.

During load and unload times, you will also wear safety glasses and a helmet with a face shield to reduce your risk. 

The Take Away

As with any job, there are pros and cons to being a tanker truck driver. If home time and good pay are a high priority, this might be the perfect job for you. There are extra risks for tanker truck drivers, but there are also specific rules to help drivers stay safe. Overall, most drivers who haul tanker trucks say they love it and are never going back.

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