OTR Trucking - What Is It & Requirements

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Have you ever dreamed of a career on the road that offers plenty of benefits? Ever wanted to visit America’s cities or see the nation's deserts, oceans, mountains, plains, and everything in between? Over-the-Road (OTR) truck drivers enjoy the freedom and adventure of life on the open road, take in the sights, and earn excellent pay while doing so.

What does OTR Mean?

OTR stands for over-the-road trucking, also known as long-haul trucking. These are the folks who run coast to coast, and most have visited all 48 of the contiguous states. OTR drivers differ from their regional and local counterparts in several key areas, which we will go into more depth about later. Meanwhile, OTR drivers are essentially a special class of truck drivers that remains on the road for weeks and sometimes months at a time. 

Many types of freight, including fresh vegetables and cargo arriving at our nation’s ports from overseas, must be transported from either the west coast or east coast long distances across the country, sometimes more than 3,000 miles, and the average distance for a typical OTR load is around 1,200 - 1,400 miles. These are the primary loads OTR drivers transport.

OTR drivers operate in two main ways: solo drivers, or as a team of two drivers. While they drive the same distances, solo drivers typically take six to seven days to move a shipment from one coast to the other, while OTR teams can move a shipment from coast to coast in roughly three and a half days.

Driver Perspective

“Learn all you can. Talk to other drivers. And protect your driving record at all times.”

Michael Kasanda, 3 years of experience

Difference between OTR, Regional, and Local

OTR Regional Local
OTR drivers spend several weeks to several months at a time on the road. Regional drivers are usually on the road for 1 - 2 weeks at a time. Most of the time, local drivers return to their homes daily.
Travel to virtually every state and into Mexico and Canada. Typically operate as solo drivers. Usually operate as solo drivers.
Operate as either solo or team drivers. Often transport a specific type of cargo within a region such as the Northeast, Southeast, Southwest, or Midwest, etc. May run dedicated routes of the same cargo to the same locations day after day.
Transport fewer loads over greater distances. Transport a higher number of loads over shorter distances than OTR drivers. Many LTL (less than truckload) shipments are transported by local drivers.

OTR Trucker Salary Ranges

How do OTR driver salaries compare to their regional and local counterparts? Well, it depends on a number of factors. Because of the longer distances and more time on the road, OTR drivers generally make more than their counterparts and are paid either by the mile or a percentage of the line haul revenue for a load, or a percentage of the total revenue for the load. 

Regional drivers, with their shorter distances, and weekly or bi-weekly hometime, usually earn less than OTR drivers.

Local drivers are usually paid by the hour and depending on the company this may lead to dramatically lower pay than OTR and regional drivers. On the other hand, drivers transporting specialized cargo such as hazardous materials like gasoline may earn more than OTR and regional drivers. 

Driver Perspective

“I think if you have a family, you really need to make them aware of how long you are out and always speak in the worst-case scenario.”

Mitchell McHugh, 21 years of experience

Here are the numbers:

  • OTR drivers earn 24.01% more than the average base salary.
  • OTR truck drivers in the US earn an average annual salary of $77,090.
  • The average salary range for OTR truck drivers in the US varies from $56,000 to $104,000.
  • The typical hourly rates for OTR truck drivers in the US fall between $24 and $44.
graphic showing the median, regional, and local otr salaries

Highest Paying Cities for OTR Truck Drivers

Highest Paying Cities for OTR Truck Drivers
City Salary
Phoenix, AZ $128,131 per year
Dallas, TX $121,980 per year
Omaha, NE $119,496 per year
Nashville, TN $118,647 per year
Tulsa, OK $117,127 per year
Chicago, IL $116,734 per year
Chattanooga, TN $112,726 per year
Springfield, MO $109,892 per year
Salt Lake City, UT $96,437 per year

OTR Trucker Jobs

OTR trucker jobs are in constantly high demand, more so than regional and local jobs, so if you’re concerned about job security or finding a trucking job with no experience, OTR may be the right fit for you. OTR also has a slightly different work-life balance as a trucker compared to locals, another factor to consider before becoming an OTR driver. To further sweeten the prospects of becoming an OTR driver, once you’ve acquired 2.5 years of CDL experience, have a clean driving record, have no accidents, and are at least 25 years old, you’re eligible to drive for CloudTrucks. 

CloudTrucks has left the outdated methods the trucking industry has stubbornly clung to over the decades and has moved into the future, establishing itself as a next-generation trucking company. We are a virtual carrier which means you have the full support of our backend office without the forced dispatch. Owner-operators who wish to maintain their own MC Authorities can partner with CloudTrucks using our Flex program. Get paid in minutes instead of months with our CT Cash card.

All you have to do is sign up, download our app, choose the loads you want, and maximize your revenue with our cutting-edge Schedule Optimizer technology. To learn more, visit our Getting Started page.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I calculate an OTR truck driver's salary?

They are typically calculated based on a combination of miles driven, hours on the road, and any additional pay for specialized hauling or routes.

Where can I get more information about OTR trucking regulations and requirements?

You can learn more from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and state Department of Transportation websites.

How many miles is considered OTR?

OTR has no fixed mileage. Typically, any route that takes you far from your home base for several days or weeks could be considered OTR. This often involves covering hundreds or even thousands of miles per trip.

What are the hourly rates for OTR truck drivers?

OTR truck drivers in the US usually earn hourly rates between $24 and $44.

Is OTR trucking a good career choice?

OTR trucking can be rewarding for those who enjoy the open road, independence, and the opportunity to explore different parts of the country. However, it requires being away from home for extended periods.

What are the challenges of being an OTR driver?

OTR trucking involves long periods away from home, irregular schedules, and potential health challenges from sitting for extended periods. Weather conditions, traffic, and varying road regulations can also pose challenges.

What is the difference between OTR and LTL?

OTR involves long-haul trips covering extensive distances, while LTL focuses on smaller shipments from multiple customers in one trip.

Which is better, OTR or local?

It depends on your preferences. OTR offers adventure and potentially higher pay, but you're away from home—local means more time at home but potentially shorter hauls and less pay.

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