Salary Options for Commercial Truck Drivers

The American trucking industry, ranging from long-distance commercial trucks to short-range commercial delivery vehicles is a vibrant and growing part of the economy. Trucks remain the most effective method to bring goods from the factory to the market place and the recovering economy has resulted in a growing demand for qualified truck drivers with a commercial driver’s license (CDL). When asking how much do truck drivers make, it is important to evaluate all of the factors that go into becoming a truck driver.

Current Employment Information for Commercial Truck Drivers in the United States

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were over 1,604,000 heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers working in the United States in 2010. The number of job openings in this field is expected to increase by at least 21 percent by 2020, which is considerably faster than the average for other professions. This trend is likely to continue to endure for the foreseeable future as the economy continues to improve. In addition, CDL driver pay is likely to increase due to the increased competition between companies seeking qualified CDL drivers for their own truck fleets.

Retirement and Commercial Truck Drivers

In addition to the field’s general growth, attrition due to retirement is also opening a large number of career opportunities in this field. Many drivers who obtained their CDL in the 1970s or earlier have retired or are planning to do so in the near future. This is especially true in areas such as long-haul commercial transport, which can be especially difficult for older drivers. Because of the need to replace these drivers, the CDL driver field is even more promising than its continued expansion indicates.

Truck Driver Salary

Truck Driver Salary


How Much do Truck Drivers Make With a CDL?

According to the BLS, commercial drivers enjoyed a median annual Truck Driver Salary of over $37,700 in 2010. However, the top ten percent of truck drivers earned over $57,800, making this career very competitive with other fields requiring a similar amount of training and certification. In addition, a truck driver will receive a variety of benefits, such as insurance and vacation time.

Facts that can Influence a Truck Driver Salary

In most cases, drivers are paid on a per mile basis, in addition to receiving bonuses for prompt delivery and other factors. This generally results in long-haul truck drivers receiving a higher level of pay than short-distance drivers do. However, there are currently federal restrictions on the amount of time a driver can work which limits the amount of money a truck driver can earn in any given day.

Drivers that own their own trucks often receive a percentage of the revenue obtained from shipping their cargo. These drivers can enjoy considerably higher earnings when compared to long-haul drivers who work for a single company. However, owner-operators are independent contractors and thus must pay for their truck’s maintenance in addition to working to solicit cargoes from potential clients.

Specialized CDL certifications

Some fields require that the driver receive additional certification before he or she can be qualified to transport cargo. The most common example of this is drivers who are transporting hazardous materials. These drivers must obtain a hazardous materials endorsement in order to legally transport these cargos. Those drivers who have obtained a certification in this or any other specialized field can generally command higher wages than other drivers do. In addition, they may enjoy greater job security, especially if their certification is currently in high demand. Many companies that regularly handle these types of cargo may require their drivers to be certified as a condition of their employment.

CDL Training and Truck Driver Salary

Although all drivers must have a CDL before they can work in this field, obtaining CDL training at a reputable institute can increase the driver’s earning and employment potential, especially if they do not have extensive job experience. In addition, the Department of Transportation may make obtaining formal education in this field a requirement for new interstate truck drivers at some point in the near future.

Truck driver training institutes focus on both the practical and legal aspects of long-distance trucking, enabling the driver to effectively work in any part of the United States. The Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI) currently certifies a number of programs as conforming to accepted industry and government standards for long-haul truck drivers. Because of this, students seeking training in the long-haul trucking field should seek out a program that is currently approved by the PTDI.

Practical Experience

Many employers prefer to hire individuals with some degree of delivery or driving experience. Because of this, many truck drivers have worked as delivery drivers. Many of these jobs do not require the driver to have a CDL, depending on the vehicle he or she is driving. By obtaining experience in a related field, a driver can dramatically improve his or her job and earning potential in the field of commercial trucking.

Ultimately, obtaining a CDL is an excellent way to enter into a growing field that continues to remain competitive with other careers. Truck driver salary continues to keep pace with inflation, while the demand for qualified drivers continues to outpace supply. By becoming a CDL driver, an individual can be assured of a career that is secure and that enjoys excellent benefits.