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The truck driving industry has been romanticized in a variety of songs and films, leading to multiple misapprehensions about the trucking lifestyle and pay scale. There are numerous variables in regard to how much truck drives make. Annual incomes for truck drivers have come to the forefront of conversations as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and an influx of women into the industry.


According to the National Transportation Institute, in 2001 the primary factors affecting pay for commercial drivers were driver turnover, the number of available drivers, consumer demand for products, and freight rates. The average annual income for U.S. truck drivers is a little over $66,000 per year, according to a survey conducted by Indeed.com.

Factors affecting pay scales include experience, the type of load being hauled, and the region. Independent owner-operators have greater incomes than those that drive for a company, with an average of $220,000 per year. Heavy haulers average from $75,000 to $120,000 per year.

Excluding ice road trucking that’s extremely dangerous and requires extensive experience and endorsements, specialty vehicle hauler incomes range from $67,000 to $89,000. Team drivers can make from $67,500 to $80,000, with fleet driver incomes steady at about $87,500. Tanker and liquids drivers average about $75,000, with hazmat drivers coming in between $55,000 to $73,000.

It’s important for anyone considering a job in the trucking industry to be aware that those are best case scenario incomes. The median income for truckers has steadily declined since the 1980s and in some areas of the nation, pay has decreased by as much as 50 percent. Many attribute the decrease to The Motor Carrier Act of 1980 that imposed a variety of rules and regulations to which truck drivers had to adhere.

The trucking industry provides a multitude of opportunities for individuals. However, to earn the most income it may be necessary to relocate to a different part of the nation where pay scales are higher. Additionally, not everyone is equipped to handle the trucking life. It requires considerable time alone, spending time away from family and friends, and it can be stressful.

Those disadvantages are offset by the ability to make a decent income right away, a high level of job security, and benefits. Bonuses may be offered for driving certain routes and truckers have more independence than other professions. It all begins with getting a CDL license.

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