How Much Do CDL Drivers Make: A Detailed Analysis

If you’re curious about the average salary of a CDL driver, this guide is for you. The trucking industry is an essential part of the US economy, and it’s important to understand how much CDL drivers make in this demanding job.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into various aspects that determine an average CDL driver salary. We’ll compare earnings between new and experienced drivers, discuss pay scales in small versus large companies, and explore income potential for Over-the-Road (OTR) truckers.

CDL Driver Salary

Furthermore, we will provide insights on how freight and vehicle types can influence your paycheck as a trucker. If you’re considering becoming an owner-operator or are curious about “how much do CDL drivers make” compared to non-CDL jobs, we’ve got that covered, too.

Last but not least, discover which states offer the highest average truck driver salary according to Bureau Labor Statistics analysis and learn about tools like DAT load board that can boost your career in the trucking industry.

Truck Driver Pay Structure: The Lowdown

Truck driver pay can be broken down into three parts. First, there’s the base pay, which can be hourly or based on mileage. It’s the moolah you earn no matter what, and it’s where the big bucks come from.

Next up, we’ve got bonuses. These little nuggets of joy are given out for meeting targets and being a safety superstar. So, if you’re a truck-driving superhero, you might get a bonus as part of your sweet compensation package.

And let’s not forget about the perks. Some trucking companies offer benefits like health insurance and retirement plans. They might not fatten your paycheck but add serious value to your overall package. Don’t overlook them.

Knowing this breakdown will help CDL drivers make intelligent career choices. Oh, and by the way, there are different types of truck driving jobs, each with its unique pay structure. So, choose wisely.

Earnings Comparison: Newbies vs. Road Warriors

When it comes to trucking, experience pays off big time. Just look at the difference in earnings between new drivers and those who’ve been around the block.

Training Pay for New Truck Drivers

Newbies in this field usually start with an average training wage of around $18 per hour. They’re learning the ropes and gaining valuable experience to set them up for success. Check out some CDL training programs to get started.

Salary Growth with Experience and Certification

The more miles you rack up and the more certifications you earn, like a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), the more you can make. Experienced CDL holders can bring in over $70k annually, mainly if they specialize in hauling hazardous materials or oversized loads.

But it’s not just about driving skills. Seasoned drivers also know how to plan efficient routes, manage fuel economy, and provide top-notch customer service. All of these factors contribute to higher pay from employers.

So, while starting might mean lower wages, you can pave your way to severe moolah in the trucking industry with patience and continuous skill improvement.

Small vs. Large Company Truck Driver Salaries

Regarding truck driver salaries, size matters; it may be a massive distinction in your remuneration, regardless of whether you work for a small or bigger organization. I’ve got the info you need.

Prospects in Smaller Companies

In smaller companies, you’ll be tight with the boss. Advancement opportunities might be on the table, but budget constraints could mean fewer benefits. It’s a trade-off, my friend.

Opportunities within Larger Organizations

Big companies mean significant benefits. Health insurance, retirement plans – they’ve got it all. Plus, they’ve got the resources for training programs to level up your skills. Cha-ching.

Choosing between small and large trucking companies is a personal decision. Some like the small, cozy vibe, while others thrive in the big corporate world. You do you, driver.

No matter where you work, use DAT Freight & Analytics to secure the best loads and negotiate killer rates. It’s like having a money-making sidekick. Ka-chow.

Income Potential for OTR Truck Drivers

Driving could be an attractive option if you’re considering a career in trucking, Over The Road (OTR). These drivers often have to make long hauls that keep them away from home for extended periods, but the compensation packages can be pretty lucrative.

The average income of OTR drivers

The average salary of an OTR driver is estimated to be around $45,000 annually, but this figure may vary depending on factors such as experience and the employer. However, the salary for an OTR driver can differ depending on factors such as their experience and who they are employed by. Some experienced OTR drivers earn over $70,000 annually.

Impact of HAZMAT endorsement on OTR driver’s salary

In addition to base pay and bonuses, certain endorsements can significantly boost your earning potential as an OTR driver. One such endorsement is the Hazardous Materials (HAZMAT) certification. This allows you to transport hazardous materials, which typically pays more due to the increased risk and responsibility involved.

Getting a HAZMAT endorsement involves passing additional tests. Still, it’s worth it when considering how much it increases your income potential – some estimates suggest that having a HAZMAT endorsement could add up to 10% or more to your annual earnings.

Becoming an OTR trucker offers financial rewards and opportunities for travel and adventure across different states – something few other professions offer. So, if you enjoy being on the open road while making good money simultaneously, becoming an Over-The-Road trucker might be the perfect fit.

Owner-Operator Earnings Overview

Becoming an owner-operator may be a lucrative endeavor. Yet, it also brings difficulties, such as higher vehicle expenses and the need to seek out customers actively. You’ll be raking in more dough, shelling out more for vehicle expenses, and hustling for customers like a pro.

Revenue Structure for Owner Operators

Forget about that fixed salary or hourly wage. As an independent trucker, your earnings come from the loads you transport. Rates are negotiated with shippers or brokers and depend on distance and freight type. According to OOIDA’s Business Education Series, successful owner-operators can pocket over $100,000 yearly before expenses.

Expenses Associated With Being an Owner-Operator

But hold your horses; being an owner-operator means taking on extra responsibilities and costs. You’d make truck payments if you financed your ride, coughing up fuel, insurance, repairs, maintenance, licensing, permits, and more. Trucking Truth has a handy breakdown of these expenses to help you make smart decisions about your trucking career.

Being an owner-operator can prove lucrative and fulfilling for those up to the challenge. It’s not a venture suitable for everyone, yet those who take up the gauntlet often find it gratifying monetarily and in terms of self-fulfillment.

Role of Freight Types and Vehicle Types in Trucker Pay

Your choice of freight and vehicles can make or break your bank account. Choose wisely.

How Different Freight Types Affect Driver’s Pay

Freight rates vary based on weight, volume, and distance. Need some extra cash? Try heavy haul trucking jobs for oversized and overweight items. They pay big bucks.

Smaller trucks, smaller pay? Lighter freights may not fill your pockets, but they offer more job opportunities. Don’t underestimate the power of demand.

Want to earn more? Get your HAZMAT endorsement. Handling hazardous materials means more money in your pocket. Safety first, though.

The Impact of Vehicle Type on Earnings

Size matters. Bigger trucks mean bigger paychecks. But remember, bigger rigs come with more significant expenses. Fuel and maintenance costs can eat into your earnings.

Driving a beast? Get those extra endorsements on your CDL. It’s like adding sprinkles to your ice cream but for your paycheck.

CDL: The Key to Higher Earnings in Trucking

A Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) can rev up your earning potential in the trucking industry. CDL jobs pay more than non-CDL gigs, so why settle for less?

CDL vs. Non-CDL Salaries: A Big Difference

Without a CDL, you might be stuck driving small vehicles and making local deliveries, which means lower wages. But with a CDL, you can hit the road for long-haul trucking or specialized freight transport, where the money is. The BLS reported that, in 2023, those with a CDL earned an average of $45,260 annually compared to light truck delivery services’ median income of just $34,730.

But wait, there’s more. Having a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) also opens doors to career advancement in larger transportation companies. They prefer hiring certified professionals who can handle those big rigs safely and efficiently on the open road.

If you’re considering joining the trucking industry, getting your CDL should be your first pit stop on the road to success. Remember, it’s not just about passing the test but mastering the skills needed to navigate those massive machines in all kinds of conditions. So buckle up, put in the time and effort, and enjoy the ride to increased income and growth opportunities in the industry.

Highest Paying States For Truckers

Local and regional supply and demand forces significantly impact a trucker’s earnings across the United States. Some states offer higher wages than others, depending on economic conditions in those regions.

Top paying states, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics

Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers in Alaska earn an average salary of $56,250 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Following close behind Alaska is Nevada, with an average salary of $53,400 per year for heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers, as well as Massachusetts ($50,720), the District of Columbia ($49,280), and Wyoming ($49,210).

Other high-paying states worth considering

But wait, there’s more. Trucker Path’s research suggests that North Dakota is also a lucrative option due to its booming oil industry, which demands many CDL drivers.

Think about the expenditure needed to reside in each place. High salaries may come with high living costs, affecting your take-home pay. Always factor this in when evaluating job opportunities.

Moving to areas with higher wages may help increase your income. However, other elements like the type of cargo transported, the size of the employer, and the amount of experience should also be considered. Geography isn’t the only determining factor.

DAT Tools: Boost Your Trucking Career with a Click

As a truck driver, seize every opportunity on the road to success. One golden chance is harnessing the power of DAT, the country’s largest freight network.

Advantages of the DAT Load Board

The DAT Load Board offers benefits for rookies and seasoned drivers. It helps you snag the most lucrative loads and empowers you to haggle like a pro with shippers and brokers.

  • Find Profitable Loads: With access to over 1 million daily loads, you’ll strike gold quickly.
  • Negotiate Rates: The DAT RateView tool provides real-time market rates, allowing you to wheel and deal confidently.
  • Broad Network: Joining this vast network opens countless opportunities across the United States.
  • Credit Reports & Reviews: DAT offers detailed credit reports and broker reviews, keeping you away from risky business and boosting your bottom line.

This toolbox has launched countless trucking careers. You’ll rev up your earning potential as a CDL driver by making informed decisions based on distance, pay rate, and shipper reputation. So, if you’re ready to accelerate your growth in the trucking industry, check out DAT’s solutions explicitly designed for carriers.


The average salary for a CDL driver in the United States is around $45,260 per year.


Absolutely. With competitive wages and numerous job opportunities, getting a CDL license can lead to a rewarding career in trucking.


Larger companies tend to offer higher salaries because they can handle more freight volume, but pay rates also depend on experience and specialized driving skills.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Alaska, Nevada, Massachusetts, North Dakota, and the District of Columbia are among the top-paying states for truckers.