Average Truck Driver Salaries and Wages

Many people interested in exploring truck driver careers wonder, how much do truck drivers make? What is the average truck driver salary and is it enough to enjoy a comfortable living? While average wages do vary significantly from state to state - and by employer - the typical salary range is higher than the median of most trade school jobs and drivers who have specialized experience can make significantly higher than the average in this industry.

Truck drivers and driver/sales workers comprise one of the largest occupations in the country and hold about 3.2 million jobs. It is an increasingly competitive industry, and those who wish to make more than average will need advanced skills and specialized training.

How Much Do Truck Drivers Make?

As of December 2011, the median salary for a truck driver in the United States is $38,338. Drivers who will be driving trucks that are more than three tons in weight (or cargo that is the equivalent of this weight) must have a Commercial Driver's License (CDL) to operate the vehicle legally. Anyone interested in a trucking career must complete a formal training program at a public or private training school, or complete their training through an employer-sponsored training program. All training programs prepare students for the CDL examination and typically include a combination of classroom training, interactive programs or simulations, behind-the-wheel training, and logging in a few hours of real-world experience.

Factors that Affect the Truck Driver Salary

Training programs can last anywhere from a few weeks and months, to up to a year in length. Your salary may be affected by the extent of training completed and the type of school you attended. Several factors play a role in how much a truck driver will make throughout their career. These include:

  • Type of training program completed
  • Years of experience
  • Location of the job
  • Employer
  • Job description
  • Advanced skills, certification, or training the driver has completed

Truck Driver Benefits and Bonuses

Average truck driver salaries can vary significantly by employer when you factor in bonuses and benefits. Full-time drivers will typically make more than part-time drivers, and those who have a good track record and have been with the company for several years may be eligible for bonuses and benefits packages. Benefits such as paid time off, sick leave, vacation time, and on-the-job training can offer some more value than just salary and wages. Most truck drivers are paid on a salary basis, not an hourly wage, and may be expected to log in a certain number of driving hours each month or year.

The value of benefits can equate to as much as $18,000 for those earning a base salary of $38,000. These benefits include: Social Security, 401K/403B plans, disability insurance, healthcare insurance, pension programs, and time off. Bonus payments for the median salary are about $275 per year. All in all, the bonus and benefits package accounts for just under 30 percent of the individual's salary package.