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Can a Truck Driver Make $100K a Year?

Here are 33 ideas that you can use as a truck driver to make $100K a year. In many states, these ruck drives are earning a good amount but there are few states where salary is less.

Can a Truck Driver Make $100K a Year? Yes, a few experienced truck drivers can earn $100K or more annually with careful planning regarding their skills in this occupation and having a clean driving record. The annual income of truck drivers can vary depending upon various factors like experience, skills, nature of the material/goods delivered, and the owner company. Furthermore, different U.S. states and areas have different paying rates and working environments.

Can a Truck Driver Make $100K a Year?

Truck driving is the most demanding job amongst all USA workers due to long working hours, low pay rates, and other health and psychological disorders.

However, due to truck drivers’ shortage with increased delivery jobs, it is easy to get a truck driving job.

Companies pay the truck drivers on a per-mile or pay-per-hour basis.

Rate per mile can vary according to solo or team drivers, interstate delivery jobs, over-the-road driving, the nature of the job, and trucking drivers having recommended skills for specialized jobs like delivery of hazardous material. 

There are various hindrances in truck drivers’ good earnings like per mile paying rate, hours of service restrictions by the government, and deductions from salary by trucking companies in terms of expenditures.

According to surveys, about 50% of truck drivers are not satisfied with their earnings.

The Average Wage rate for truck drivers in the USA

Different truck operators have different compensation models according to their business plans. Some offer a salary in terms of dollars, while others pay on an hourly basis.

Both payment plans have their benefits and drawbacks. 

It depends on various factors like the operating mode, experience, skills, route type, and location of operation.

Furthermore, it also depends on the nature of the goods a truck is carrying.

However, the average of all the truck driver’s annual salary, keeping all factors aside, is $40,000 to $65000 according to different surveys.

Here is a chart to show the average salary of truck drivers based on different factors according to various surveys from time to time. However, actual earning can vary according to the performance of the driver. 

Operating Mode Average Annual Income
All driving modes $40,000-$65,000
Beginner $40,000-$50,000
Experienced $60,000-$80,000
Specialized Skills $200,000-$300,000
Owner Operators $150,000-$300,000
Trainers $70,000-$90,000
Team Drivers $120,000-$160,000

 Other Benefits for Truck Drivers

Truck drivers receive several other benefits throughout the year based on their performance in different assignments apart from their salary.

Good performers can substantially increase their pay with received incentives.

According to government instructions, some of the expected benefits for all drivers are life insurance, fuel discounts, toll fee exemption, other insurances related to injury and vision, paid leaves, and retirement plans.

Some of the performance-level benefits are fuel efficiency bonus, road safety bonus, bonus for completing their tasks on time, and safety and increase in per-mile rate with an increase in distance.

These performance-based incentives also help drivers earn certificates and a reputation that paves the way for a higher paying rate due to good performance and reliability.

If you calculate these benefits and add them to the salary, you can increase the pay by up to $10,000.

Comparison of different Compensation Plans for Truck Drivers

Two of the widely used models in practice to calculate truck drivers’ pay are pay per hour and pay per mile basis.

Both plans have their pros and cons, but most companies stick to pay per mile basis. However, with restrictions on driver’s in-service hours (HOS), pay per hour is more beneficial.

Pay per mile is beneficial for the long haul over-the-road assignments, where the stopping, loading, and unloading times do not count.

Pay per hour is beneficial to compensate for non-driving assignments like loading, unloading of trucks, traffic jam, and load on the vehicle. 

List of Truck jobs that give more money than others

Fewer truck jobs need more experience, skills, and special handling of the goods and trucks to ensure safe and on-time delivery.

These jobs pay more salary and special incentives and increase the demand for those experienced drivers who can complete their tasks efficiently.

Here is a list of these jobs and brief information about their nature:

Driving on Icy roads

Driving in snowfall areas is challenging and needs the experience to control such a heavy vehicle.

Due to poor vision and low road friction due to ice, it makes it a highly paid job in the trucking industry.

Oil and Gas Tanker

Oil and gas are explosive materials, and they come in the category of no-touch freights.

Moreover, it isn’t easy to handle liquids than solid material. Therefore, the salaries of oil and gas tanker drivers are comparatively higher.

Delivering Hazardous Material

Hazardous materials include toxic chemicals, radioactive materials, poisonous and biological materials harmful to the environment and human beings.

It requires special skills and certifications to handle such materials. The salaries of these drivers increase according to nature, class, and risk factors involved.

Delivering Oversize Loads

Oversized loads require special loading/unloading requirements, making it difficult to transport due to heavy loads and the truck’s large size.

It includes the delivery of pressure vessels, boilers, and other industrial-grade equipment and machinery. Therefore, the per-mile rate is high for the delivery of such materials.

Over the Road (OTR) Driving

Over-the-road long-distance driving pays more than general short-range delivery jobs.

Drivers have to travel thousands of miles between different states away from home for several days.

Moreover, it requires knowledge about road safety, stamina, and other state rules, and it comes with experience.

Companies with their Self Transportation

Few companies have their fleets to deliver their products like Pepsico, Amazon, Walmart, etc.

They offer more pay than regular trucking companies because they need highly qualified and experienced drivers with clean driving records.

How to increase your annual income as a truck driver?

Truck driving is a hardworking job compared to other workers in the USA.

However, it is easy to find because of the shortage of trained drivers and increased delivery jobs with time.

You can earn more than 100K dollars a year by consistency in the field and improvement of your skills. 

Training and skills

It is a specialized job that requires 8-10 weeks of training and a specific skill set for an individual to make him eligible to drive a large commercial truck.

The particular skills needed to drive a large vehicle include inspection, preventive maintenance, and driving long distances.

Other additional skills like loading and unloading cargo with safety, maintaining the log of working hours, knowledge of federal government and state regulations, and continue reporting to the trucking company about your journey and status.

If a driver understands these topics and a clean driving record, some good company will hire him and earn more than the average driver.

Trucking companies and vocational institutes also offer training courses with classroom learning and on-road training to produce new drivers or train the working drivers.

Experience

Experience is a crucial factor in the earning of truck drivers. As soon as their work experience as truckers increases, their pay rates and demand in the market increase.

Moreover, experienced drivers can negotiate their job agreement conditions like pay rate, other perks and incentives, and annual leaves.

According to a survey, you can earn $1000-$2000 more with each year of experience as a truck driver.

In this way, you can make $10,000-$20,000 more than a beginner, but the overall impact on salary will be huge due to the increased demand in the market.

CDL approved certification

CDL is a mandatory requirement as a truck driver on the road; otherwise, you can get heavy fines and a bad driving reputation, reducing your future opportunities.

Therefore, the first and most crucial step in this profession is passing a written test, passing a driving test, and clearing a medical examination. 

Good companies prefer to hire CDL drivers and pay more than the small, non-reliable contractors that allow you to drive without CDL.

Moreover, after getting CDL, you should pass other tests to get specific endorsements on your CDL for a specialized job. These endorsements will increase your salary by 8-10% more than with a simple CDL. 

Mileage Pays More

The delivery of goods to longer distances pays more than short distances. However, you have to remain away from your home for several days.

Therefore, you should be willing to travel long distances to increase your salary and earn 100k dollars a year. It demands the sacrifice of your leisure time spent at home.

Some trucking jobs pay more than others

Few specialized skills to deliver specific materials increase the pay rate as a driver and enable you to earn more money.

However, it would help if you got special endorsements on your CDL from the transportation department to take those jobs.

Some of the jobs are tanker drivers to transport liquids like fuels and other chemicals, transportation of hazardous materials, and large, heavy-sized machinery.

Another endorsement on your CDL that pays more is double/triple endorsement to drive 2-3 trailers combined.

The highest-paid truck drivers are the ones going over icy roads. They can earn $200k-300k during the winter by taking delivery assignments on the highway covered with ice. 

Work in companies that pay more

Private companies with their fleets of trucks to deliver their goods have the highest salaries, but they hire only experienced and qualified drivers.

Therefore you should start your career as a beginner with medium-sized companies that hire new drivers and train them.

They pay in the range of $35000-$50000 per year. After gaining sufficient experience, you can switch to large companies like XPO Logistics, Walmart, UPS, and many more. In this way, you can earn more than 100k per year.

Drive your own truck

Owner-operators have the highest income that is about 2-3 times of the regular truck drivers.

However, you should not begin your driving career as an owner because it requires experience and working capital to be successful.

Furthermore, you have to perform some particular tasks like registration of your vehicle, payment of taxes, and deal with government officials.

Moreover, you have to cover your expenses from the income, and your take-home salary will be less than your earning.

However, it gives you freedom in operating hours and other trucking companies’ targets for drivers. 

Other incentives or side jobs

The federal government has new regulations for CDL drivers to have a maximum of 14 working hours a day and 60 working hours a week.

Therefore, they have plenty of spare time to start any other job or business to increase their income. They can even drive any other vehicle that does not require a CDL.  

Develop skills to do jobs that other people are reluctant to do

The highest-paid drivers are the ones having unique skills that others don’t have.

Transporting hazardous materials and driving on icy roads puts the drivers’ lives at risk, and they need niche skills and endorsements on their CDL to do these jobs.

Therefore, they should have the courage and dedication to develop such skills to make them stand out amongst other 2-3 million drivers and earn a handsome sum of money. 

Work in states/areas having high paying rate or tax relief

Some U.S. states have a higher average income per year than others. There is a difference of about $10,000 between the state with the highest and lowest average income.

Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) issues data regularly about the total truck driver jobs in a particular state and their average pay.

States with more populations have more delivery jobs. Moreover, areas with industry and manufacturing plants have plenty of trucking jobs involving the supply of raw material and final product delivery. 

States having ports and refineries have jobs for drivers to deliver the transported material from seaports to their destination.

Stick with Your Job

Turnover rate is the percentage of employees that leave a company during a fixed time. The turnover rate is more than 80% for truck drivers.

Therefore, to make your worth and increase your chances of earning more, you have to be consistent and stick with your job.

There is a constant pay rise for drivers with time. Moreover, due to the shortage of drivers, you can expect more pay rates in the future.

Moreover, the high turnover rate forces them to quit their job, creating a niche for new drivers.

Furthermore, companies even hire new drivers nowadays and train them on their expenses to earn a CDL license.

It has an added benefit to achieve a non-driving managerial or supervisory post with time if you are consistent and perform your duty with due diligence.

Save Money by Reducing your Living Expenses and Making Alternate Arrangements

Purchasing meals from restaurants on highways and truck stops can cost around more than $1000 per annum, and often it is substandard and not suitable for health.

Therefore, they can save money by self-cooking or taking their food items with them.

Stores at truck stops have high prices of general use items like beverages, coffee, toiletries, and laundry requirements.

Therefore, you should keep stock of these items in your truck to save a few hundred to thousand dollars annually. 

Safety is Important

Road safety and handling a heavily loaded large vehicle like a truck is the driver’s real test.

They record all the violations and major accidents due to a truck driver’s negligence in a national database against the CDL of the respective driver.

Moreover, in non-compliance, they have to pay heavy fines, and in extreme cases, results in the permanent cancellation of their license.

It leaves him without his livelihood option. Every time a driver applies for renewal of CDL, government officials check the driving history and deny him a license based on that record. 

Moreover, trucking companies also hire drivers with a safe and clean driving record and pays them more.

They avoid hiring drivers with poor performance and have a history of driving under the influence of drugs, hit-and-run cases, and accidents involving injuries.

Therefore, drivers should pay attention to safety while driving as in this way they can grow their career and earn more money with time.

Your efficiency Paves the way for more earnings

Your efficiency during the driving career helps to earn you more.

Good companies appreciate drivers’ performance every quarter by offering them incentives and awards based on their efficiency and risk-free driving.

In this way, good achievers earn more money than regular drivers. If you have an excellent CDL record, it helps you negotiate with companies your pay rate for future jobs. 

Performance on the road is more important than experience.

Nowadays, companies increase the pay of drivers based on their performance indicators: the timely completion of their tasks with safety.

They receive extra pay rise other than routine pay rise based on their efficacy. It urges other drivers to perform better.

Earn more as a Team Driver

Team driving is the best opportunity to work for long-haul over-the-road (OTR) routes.

Both drivers work in shifts to cover large distances within a minimum time.

Both drivers receive the payment for the total distance covered. In this way, you can earn 1.5-2 times the pay of a solo driver.

Earning as a Trainer

Few experienced drivers start training new drivers and open their academies for CDL test preparation. In this way, they can earn up to $70,000-$90,000 per year.

Even large companies hire experienced drivers to train and arrange refresher courses to polish their skills and enhance their drivers’ road knowledge regularly.   

Can a Truck Driver be a Millionaire?

Becoming a millionaire for a new driver can take a time of 10 years if he performs better and his salary increases with time and receives bonuses.

Owner-drivers and the ones having specialized skills can become a millionaire within 4-5 years due to high earning rates of 200k-300k per year. 

Owner-operators can increase their annual income by investing their profits in their business and increasing their fleet size. In this way, they can become a millionaire in a shorter period.

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