Truck driver compensation is highly variable due to multiple factors. More experience, difficult loads, maintaining a clean driving record, a willingness to endure risk, and travel to remote locations are some traits of a driver who earns a higher than average salary.
For example, a hazmat driver transporting dangerous, toxic materials must operate their commercial vehicle with greater care and alertness. A hazardous materials accident, even a minor one, could lead to the evacuation of entire towns. A material leak or worse, an explosion could occur and possibly cause a mass casualty incident or environmental damage.
When you compare the risks of transporting hazardous materials with the average dry van load of toilet paper, it’s easy to see why a hazmat driver must be more attentive to safety, and why they receive a higher-than-average compensation. However, if transporting hazardous materials isn’t appealing to you, you have other options besides transporting hazardous materials to increase your pay.
How Much Is a Truck Driver’s Salary?
Salary: $45,000 to $60,000
Truck driver salaries vary depending on region, type of equipment, and a driver's experience level. The average for drivers with their careers in full swing is around $45,000 to $60,000 annually. Depending on the company and with a safe driving record spanning several years, a driver can potentially earn upward of $70,000 or more. Drivers willing to train for extra endorsements and accept increased risk or time spent in remote areas can push their earnings much higher than average. We'll go into that next.
9 Highest Paying Trucking Jobs
Indeed lists the salary as $247,850, but this varies greatly and does not take into account all the factors. For example, an owner-operator cannot be classified as a job for the purposes of a site like Indeed, and rightly so. These drivers are much, much more than your average salaried employee. They are business owners operating a trucking company, even if they have just one truck.
An owner-operator’s responsibilities cover the full range of a trucking company's operations., From managing expenses, to finding loads, to paying employees insurance, benefits, and wages. The skies are the limit for owner-operators, and their take-home pay ultimately depends on the amount of work they are willing (or able) to take on.
But an owner-operator doesn’t have to go it alone. Owner-Operators with 2.5 years or more experience are eligible to work with CloudTrucks. We give owner-operators complete freedom to run their business and the power of the back-end support of a primary carrier by giving them access to hundreds of curated loads.
For owner-operators who want to drive under our authority, we offer ourFlex program. Once a driver is approved, and they download the app, they are ready to accept the loads they like, and start earning.. Drivers who have signed on with CloudTrucks average a net income of $20,000 per month and get paid in minutes instead of months with our CT Cash card. Ready to learn more? Head on to our Getting Started.
2. Ice Road Drivers
Ice road driving became a famous trucking industry niche, when the History Channel launched the show: Ice Road Truckers. As depicted in the TV show, these drivers operate in the wilderness areas deep in the northern latitudes of Canada. They take on immense risk as they traverse challenging terrain and dangerous road conditions to deliver cargo to remote towns and mining operations. Optimal conditions for these loads exist for a few short months out of the year. These drivers earn a full year's salary in that short period, giving them time to pursue other opportunities during the off-season or enjoy their time off.
To become an ice road trucker, you need several years of experience and a history of safe operation with a broad range of equipment. It's considered one of the most challenging ways to drive a truck but also one of the most lucrative.
3. Oversized Load
Oversized loads, also known as over-dimension loads, exceed the standard legal dimensions set by federal regulations. As a result, oversized haulers must display a higher than average skill in maneuvering loads such as construction equipment, wind turbines, mobile homes, and industrial machinery. These drivers must follow additional regulations that specify the routes and times of day these loads are legally allowed to move. As a result, an escort crew is often required, and some companies require the driver to hire their escort team.
Because these large items are usually quite expensive, additional insurance and other precautions are required. A higher compensation for the driver behind the wheel of these behemoth loads comes with the territory.
4. Specialty Vehicle Haulers
Specialty vehicle haulers transport high-value or specialty vehicles such as race cars, luxury automobiles, collectibles, and other expensive items–usually in an enclosed trailer. They must exercise extreme caution to avoid damaging these high-value loads. Even when parked, these drivers must take additional precautions to ensure another driver's negligence doesn't damage the load and follow special procedures to protect against theft.
5. Team Drivers
Team drivers are the pinnacle of high-speed, long-range load delivery. Typically a team consists of two drivers in the same truck, driving in shifts to keep their load moving up to twenty-two hours a day. To give you an idea of how big a difference this makes, consider that it typically takes a solo driver six days to drive from coast to coast. A team can make the same trip in as little as three days. Companies that require such high-speed delivery pay more for the service, and the team of drivers, in turn, earns a much higher compensation.
6. Private Fleet
Some major retailers and manufacturers maintain their fleet of drivers to transport goods from their distribution centers or factories to their stores or customers. One of the most well-known private fleets in America is Walmart. Their drivers enjoy higher than average pay, shorter work weeks, and best-in-industry benefit packages. The caveat to private fleets is their high standards for hiring drivers. Some private fleets require many years of experience and clean driving records. However, they also enjoy extremely low turnover compared to the rest of the trucking industry.
7. Mining Industry Drivers
These drivers operate massive dump trucks in mining and quarry operations. They must maintain a high level of productivity while on the clock while at the same time operating safely in an area where smaller commercial vehicles and company equipment are present. Outside the mining industry, you can find these trucks at specific industrial and port locations that handle raw materials and goods used at the base of our nation's industrial chain.
8. Liquids / Tanker
Because of the physics involved with liquids in large containers, something as simple as turning sharply or slamming on the brakes too hard can cause an instant disaster. A mistake with hazmat liquid loads such as gasoline or liquid propane can result in giant fireballs and extreme heat—often referred to as a "Viking Funeral" by the drivers. Acids and deadly fumes are also a part of the risk package for liquids/tanker drivers, and other drivers on the road often give them a wide berth. The compensation for liquids/tanker drivers reflects the hazardous loads they transport and the high level of skill they demonstrate in moving these materials safely.
9. Hazmat Drivers
As mentioned earlier, hazmat drivers have to be on high alert. Their loads consist of dangerous and highly toxic materials. Any accident has a high potential to spark a disaster leading to loss of life, lengthy and expensive clean-up, and lost profits for the driver and company. Hazmat drivers must also pass a TSA (Transportation Security Administration) background investigation, maintain additional endorsements, and follow additional state and federal regulations.
Because of the need for specialized equipment and the additional risks and requirements associated with transporting hazardous materials, hazmat drivers typically earn a substantially higher salary than drivers operating a standard dry van, reefer, or flatbed unit.
Drivers who want to earn more in the trucking industry, go above and beyond the norm to acquire in-demand skills and endorsements that open new and lucrative doors for their careers. Even if you've recently acquired your CDL, these high-paying jobs will be within your reach once you've put in the time and maintained a safe, clean driving record.