Commercial Divers: Salary Overview
Commercial drivers transport goods from one place to another using a tractor-trailer truck.
Their job responsibilities typically include securing cargo for transport, inspecting the truck, driving long distances, reporting incidents and mechanical problems, recording their driving hours in a logbook, and keeping the truck clean and in good working condition.
A commercial driver’s routes are typically assigned by a dispatcher, but those who work independently have to plan their own routes taking into account road restrictions.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers was $45,260 per year, as of May 2019, which means that half of all truck drivers earned less than this amount and half earned more.
Drivers of heavy trucks and transport-trailers are typically paid a per-mile rate which varies from employer to employer.
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Salaries vary depending on the truck driver’s experience and level of skills but also based on the size of the truck, the distances they travel, and the type of cargo they transport.
For example, those who transport hazardous materials usually earn more than the rest because they need a special endorsement and are exposed to potentially dangerous situations.
Truck drivers who drive long distances between states may earn more than those who drive shorter distances.
Some long-distance drivers also receive a share of the revenue from shipping.
According to BLS, the top 10 percent of truck drivers made more than $66,840 in May 2019, while the lowest 10 percent made less than $29,130 per year.
Commercial Driver Salary by Level of Experience
The level of experience plays an important role in determining a truck driver’s salary.
As an entry-level employee, you will typically start with a salary that is somewhere in the range of $30,000, and as you earn experience you can start earning more than $50,000 a year.
However, as mentioned above, your total earning will also vary depending on how many miles you travel and the type of cargo you carry.
And, as we will see in the next section, salaries also vary depending on the industry of employment.
Commercial Driver Salary by Industry
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, heavy and tractor-trailer drivers held approximately 2 million jobs in the United States in 2018.
Their biggest employers were truck transportation companies, wholesale trading companies, manufacturers, and some of them also worked in the construction field.
The report shows that approximately 6 percent of all truck drivers were self-employed.
The average annual salary reported by heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers who worked in the truck transportation industry was $47,400.
Merchant wholesalers of nondurable goods paid truck drivers, on average, with $49,320 per year.
Truck drivers who were employed by nonmetal mineral product manufacturers earned, on average, $44,790 per year.
The average annual salary reported by truck drivers who worked in the warehousing and storage sector was $49,030.
Truck drivers employed by merchant wholesalers of durable goods earned, on average, $44,020 per year.
According to the BLS report, the highest paying industries for truck drivers were the motion pictures and video industries, motor vehicle manufacturers, and companies in the electric power generation, transmission and distribution field.
The average annual wage reported by truck drivers who worked in the motion pictures and video industries was $72,550.
Motor vehicle manufacturers offered a mean annual wage of $64,840 per year for truck drivers.
Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers who worked for companies in the sector of electric power generation, transportation and distribution earned, on average, $62,710 per year as of May 2019.
However, we should mention that these high-paying industries hire only a few truck drivers so finding employment in these sectors can be hard and may require a few years of experience in a different sector.
* Based on information from the May 2021 salary report from the BLS. The figures represent accumulated data for all states of employment for Commercial Divers. BLS data represents averages and medians for workers at all levels of education and experience. This data doesn't represent starting salaries.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.