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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 $0.40CPM 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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Truck driver salaries are a hot topic, and one of the most important considerations to a driver when taking a job. Industry statistics show that average truck driver salaries are on the rise. Mostly due to the driver shortage. But what if you want to make more money without compromising your driving preferences? Once you’ve established yourself as a qualified driver, let’s look at ways to make more money in trucking.

“The salary scale typically begins around $28,000 and can go as high as $68,000 for new drivers”, according to www.truckdriverssalary.com. For experienced drivers, that range can move from there up to $80,000+ per year, some pushing up into six-figures.

You’ve done everything to ensure you’re being as efficient as possible. You’re not leaving any money on the table in your current role. So where can you look to find incremental dollars? As a driver there are usually 3 main areas to explore when you want to make more money in trucking.

Adding Additional Endorsements

Once you’re an established CDL driver, you can seek to add additional endorsements that will give you access to larger range of truck driving jobs. Double/Triple Trailer endorsements allows a driver to haul twice or three-times more freight, while driving the same amount of time as with a single trailer.

A HAZMAT, or hazardous materials endorsement, will open doors to new opportunities with companies that might specialize in the transportation of flammable or otherwise dangerous materials.

Tanker endorsements allow you to haul large gaseous or liquid loads and are mandatory if you want to work hauling gas and oil. A full list of these endorsements and requirements can be found here.

Maximizing Available Bonuses

Bonuses are a great way to make more money in trucking. Most carriers likely have their own bonus structure, and you should have a copy of the payout information available to you. Outside of a sign on bonus, your carrier might offer various additional bonus options based on performance, safety or longevity.

Planning well and using proper driving techniques could qualify you for a Fuel Efficiency Bonus.

Having a track record that shows you’re a safe driver who follows the rules, you could be in line for a Safety Bonus. Being consistently prompt with your deliveries, you might qualify for an On-Time Delivery Bonus. Be sure you’re aware of all of your available bonuses, and work to achieve them regularly.

Keep Your Skills Sharp and Your Reputation Safe

  • Every mile under your belt might have a lesson that went along with it. Keep a focus on what you’ve learned and experienced as a truck driver. Do this and you’ll likely have a long and safe career. And the additional pay that comes along with it.
  • Technology is always changing so make sure you’re doing your part to keep up with the necessary tools and systems that can benefit you in the future. Something that’s optional now, might become mandatory to use in the future. Lean it now, and you’ll have an advantage later.
  • Your reputation in the industry might be just as important as your driving record. Be sure to always keep things professional and respectful whenever you’re working. You never know when you’ll run into a former dispatcher or another driving down the road.

All of these things can be considered when you look to make more money in trucking. Though there’s been a trend with truck driver salaries continuing to rise you can also use these ways to add to your bank account. The amount of effort you put into it now, will be rewarded with a bigger paycheck in the future.

If you’re looking for a great trucking job that pays well and meet your needs, sign up here for a profile and see what matches we’ve got for you.

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Recruiting and hanging onto good truck drivers is a major concern for most trucking companies. The driver shortage is something that’s been talked about for years, and it’s not going away any time soon.

With driver salaries and bonuses continuing to climb, many companies are taking a hard look at what that means for their truck driver recruitment efforts. And what they need to do to attract and retain good drivers.

We asked our Facebook driver network to vote on what’s more important to them when looking for a new truck driving job: a good salary or a large sign-on bonus?

Our results were overwhelmingly in favor of a good salary with 95% of the votes!

Focus on Salary

As it turns out, that’s the direction some hiring managers are now taking. Some companies are moving forward with plans to cease sign-on bonus add-ons in favor of putting together a solid long-term salary package. By not offering sign-on bonuses, they’re seeking to avoid attracting job-hoppers, and keep everything clear and up-front on take-home pay expectations.

They’re planning that in the long-haul it will be good for both the company and the truck drivers if drivers’ checks are predictable and the calculations are clear.

You may have had offers that were a great starting salary, but no bonus. Or an low-to-average starting salary with a 5-figure signing bonus. Or that rare unicorn with a high salary and a great bonus to start. In any case, you need to be certain you understand what you’re agreeing to.

Make sure you read all of the fine print, both with your salary offer and / or your sign-on bonus. The fine print might make all the difference to your paycheck and ultimately your future career with that trucking company.

We know that money isn’t the only deciding factor when selecting your new company.  But when it come to salary vs. sign-on bonus, what do you think? Let us know your opinion on our Facebook Page. Share your story and you could be featured in an upcoming post!

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“With freight demand climbing and rates on the move, trucker pay should rise in the coming months”, says Gordon Klemp, a driver pay analyst and president of the National Transportation Institute. Klemp shared his prediction in a conference call with investors in early November.  Stifel, an investment firm, hosted the call and distributed a recap of Klemp’s remarks.

If carriers secure rate increases in contracts with shippers, they pass some gains on to drivers, Klemp told investors.

He didn’t forecast any percentage-based increases in driver pay. Instead, he noted that driver pay increases with freight rates. Not all of the gains in per-mile rates will translate to drivers’ paychecks, but “driver pay is moving up alongside the freight increases,” notes the conference call recap distributed by Stifel.

Though carriers consistently increased driver pay in recent years, driver wages climbed only 6.3 percent on average over the last decade. “For-hire drivers lost effective purchasing power over the past 10 years and adjusted lifestyles accordingly,” says Stifel’s report.  Looking even farther back, driver wages are in effect just half of what they were in 1979, before deregulation, said Klemp.

Klemp also noted that carriers face an uphill battle in recruiting younger drivers to the industry.

These drivers “disinclined to enter” trucking, “as they are often concerned with work-life balance”.  Nearly 60 percent of the current driver workforce is older than 45. That’s a good bit higher than 1994, Klemp noted, when just 45 percent of drivers were 45 years or older.  “However, with freight demand strengthening and the driver shortage becoming acute, the stage is set for drivers to realize driver pay increases over the foreseeable future,” says Stifel’s report.

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