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  • Allen Czermak

How Much Do Truck Drivers Earn In The USA?

There are several ways to categorize the different types of truck drivers on the road today in the USA. They can be classified by the number of drivers in the vehicle, who owns the truck or according to salaries and distances. Truckers try to make the most money in the least amount of time and this puts a lot of pressure on these haulers to make the most distance in as quickly a time as possible. At the same time, truckers and their bosses want to make sure that they stay safe and avoid accidents caused by fatigue. Owners will try to give their riders the best trucks and pay them the most amount that is possible to keep both the owners and the workers satisfied. Both yearn for safety with new tools and technology to help succeed with safeguards for the truckers.

As most industries, salary commensurate with experience, but there are other variables for salary amounts, such as solo driving as opposed to team driving, owner operators as opposed to salaried drivers and over the road drivers as opposed to regional drivers. Each type of driver has their advantages and disadvantages over all the others. We will explore some of these rankings and evaluate how salaries, distance and experience all come together for the best experience for both the drivers and the owners of the trucks.

Local/Dedicated Route Driving

If you are a novice driver, this might be the place to begin your career in haulage. You will be in your own bed each night and come home at a reasonable hour. Yes, sometimes, you will come home later than other times, but the bottom line is that you will be able to eat a home cooked meal, play with your kids and your wife or parents will know exactly where you are when they put their heads on their pillows.

Most local routes are within a two-hundred-mile radius and the hours range from eight to ten per day. Your driving speeds may be slower than long haulers because you will often be riding on smaller roads on a regular basis rather than doing speedier highway driving.

Experience that is generally required is a year of truck driving experience in order to be called a local trucker. You better know how to back up into tight loading areas several times daily and you will be most likely in contact with different business owners each day. This is great if you are a people person because long haul driving can be lonely for socializers.

A dedicated itinerary generally means that you will be picking up your load at the same location each day and deliver to the same customer. As of Aug 21, 2022, the average annual pay for a dedicated truck driver in the United States is $64,093 a year. Just in case you need a simple salary calculator, that works out to be approximately $30.81 an hour. This is the equivalent of $1,232/week or $5,341/month.

Regional Trucking

This type of truck driver is a very important part of our logistics system for getting our country's goods from point A to point B. Regions are broken up into sections such as Midwest and Northeast with cutoffs within a one-thousand-mile radius. Although, you may be driving all week and staying over for several nights you will almost always be home for the weekends barring any weather or traffic delays. As of Aug 21, 2022, the average annual pay for a regional truck driver in the United States is $72,612 a year. Because of the trucker shortage, trucking companies are hiking up pay to keep drivers on their payrolls. They are increasing driver salaries about $4,000 to $6,000 a year, or about 9% to 11%.

OTR (Over The Road) Driving

Haulers who bring freight over long distances are named OTR drivers. They can spend three to four weeks on the road without returning home driving all over the United States and Canada. OTR drivers carry a variety of loads ranging from construction materials, heavy machinery, and other equipment. OTR drivers obtain the highest salary of them all of which as of Aug 21, 2022, the average annual pay in the United States is $72,085 a year.

All of the above salaries are averages and depend on each state and each individual trucking company. The longer a loyal driver stays with the same company the higher his salary will increase. As his mileage per hour or day grows so will his salary as long as he keeps himself and his truck safe. He must balance his need for more pay with family commitments, his health and wellbeing.

Now let’s look at some other variables as it comes to the type of drivers who operate the haulers.

Solo Driving vs. Team Driving

A solo operator experiences freedom at its fullest. If you are looking for independence and individuality, then solo driving may be your choice. You will be the only one in the truck giving you freedom of what to listen to on the radio along with which rest stop to break at among other privileges. There will be no discussions about what to eat or where to eat it except with yourself. Solo drivers must take time out to sleep between shifts since they don’t have a partner to switch off with.

Does what was just written above not entice you? Then you may want to be a team driver and find a dear friend if you are lucky with a good partner. Spending hours and even days and weeks on the road with the same buddy will either click or explode and only time will tell what will happen. Being on a team gives you a chance to snooze, facetime with your family or just enjoy the long ride and check out the scenery. It all depends on your personality.

Since the pandemic, owners are finding that the trucker shortage is making them increase drivers' salaries in order to encourage them to come back to work. Greater salaries, however, are getting solo drivers to rethink their long-distance driving away from home. Since they are being paid more per hour, they can work less spending more time at home with their families and less time on the road. There will have to be a happy medium developed for the trucking companies and the drivers to work together so there will not once again be trucker shortages because of the salary increases. Drivers are getting used to being home more often and the companies will have to figure out more incentives to keep drivers on the roads for longer periods of time.

Owner Operator Drivers

As of Aug 21, 2022, the average annual pay for an owner operator truck driver in the United States is $240,067 a year. It’s all about owning your own business and let’s be honest there is nothing like working for yourself, that is if you are self-motivated and can roll with the punches. To get to the point, what happened in the last couple of years can put any self-employed individual to bed for a long time. If you can take those types of bumps and can somehow handle a hauler in good condition, then you can see by the comparisons that an owner operator makes twice the salary than that of a salaried truck driver.

What is the downside? Expenses of course. Diesel fuel costs, truck maintenance fees, and stopovers are only the top of the barrel. Include good insurance coverage, delays caused by weather or freight from overseas and you have a complex trucking business to run. Experienced truck drivers have seen it all, the good, the bad and the ugly and can make a fair assessment if independent trucking is for them.

Owner-operators have the work flexibility to work on their own terms. You are able to make your own schedules although you still must work around the constraints of the shipment schedules but you will be able to run the business the way you like. Experienced truckers can look back at their own past situations while working for others and learn from them.

Final Words

There are so many variables in the trucking industry, too many to write about them all in one article. Salaries are determined by location, experience, types of teams and the distances in miles that are covered each day. Safety is a major consideration and truckers who go to the limits of what is allowed in both speed and days before resting are playing with fire. In the last two years since the pandemic trucking companies were forced to raise truck drivers’ salaries more than usual because of the truck driver shortages. While products wait at docks to be delivered to consumers there are no truckers to drive the trucks. Hopefully with salary increases and other incentives these shortages will be problems of the past. Making all truckers happy, whether they are short haulers or long haulers, solo or team drivers will increase the trucks on the roads and give the consumers the goods that they want and need so badly.

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