How Much Money Do Truck Drivers Really Make?

Whiteline Express Truck Driver

The trucking industry is a lot of things — typical is not one of them. Your typical job doesn’t have you hauling high-tonnage shipments across the country on a daily basis. Your typical job doesn’t have you working 11-hour days.

One of the more notable parts of this job that is considered atypical is how truck drivers are paid. Unlike most full-time jobs, there isn’t a yearly salary. Heck, there isn’t even an hourly salary. There really isn’t a uniform way that drivers are paid at all — it largely depends on your specific role within the industry. This is why, along with other reasons, you can’t really put a “yearly salary” number on any truck driving position, even though some companies will try.

Generally speaking, the numbers that you’ll see for truck driving jobs will come in cents per mile (CPM). CPM usually refers to the salary of an Over-the-road (OTR) driver, who stays in his or her truck overnight. For the sake of this article, that’s the type of salary that we’ll be focused on.

What is a realistic pay range for an over-the-road truck driver?

There is a lot of information to go over on the subject of truck driver earnings but I’ll start by getting straight to the point — a realistic salary range.

40 – 60 CPM

This is the industry standard. It’s lower than many truck drivers will claim and that’s no coincidence. There are very few bad things to say about truck drivers, as they’re usually extremely friendly. That said, they tend to gas themselves up a little bit and will, without fail, exaggerate their salary or what they believe the industry standard is.

That said, 40-60 CPM is a really good range. With most drivers driving between 2,000 and 3,000 miles per week, even the lowest end of both categories will place you at $41,600 per year. The average in that range is over $50,000 per year while the highest end of that will have you over $90,000.

You get out what you put in.

Is $100,000 a truly attainable salary as a truck driver?

A number that you’ll hear floating around this question is $100,000 as a yearly salary. This number is… well, for lack of a better term — unrealistic. There are a few drivers out there who can make $100,000 and an even smaller amount who exceed that. The number was largely popularized by Walmart, which likely only has a very small amount of drivers actually hit the $100,000 yearly number.

According to a Walmart truck driver job posting, drivers start at 62 cents per mile. That’s a very good rate but it won’t get you anywhere near $100,000 unless you’re driving ridiculous mileage with no vacations. The drivers that are reaching that type of yearly number are working the maximum amount of hours and have a ton of experience. They’re also hitting countless bonuses.

This leads me to my next point.

Watch out for deceptive advertising in the trucking industry

As somebody with a background in the advertising industry, advertising a yearly salary would likely be described as “deceptive advertising,” which is largely frowned upon. The truth of the matter is that you have to reach specific difficult goals, hit bonuses, or drive unattractive routes to reach these salaries.

In fact, it’s actually against the law. Unfortunately, the trucking industry is not well monitored and job applications aren’t necessarily considered “advertising.”

Whiteline Express is a company that prides itself on integrity. As a result, you probably won’t see us advertising any sort of yearly salary on our job postings — if you did, it would be riddled with disclaimers and clarifications.

If a pay rate seems too good to be true, it probably is. There are exceptions to this, but it’s important to know what a reasonable pay range looks like.

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