Is truck driving really a lucrative career option? Some would say it isn’t, however, you really need to look at the actual numbers to get a reasonable idea as to how much money you can realistically earn. Local truck drivers are generally paid by the hour, however, long distance or over-the-road (OTR) truck drivers are paid by the mile. New truck drivers can expect between 30 and 40 cents per mile. Experienced truck drivers will earn more with their rates often set through negotiation between themselves and their employer.
Being paid by the mile may sound good, especially if you’re a long distance truck driver. However, your pay is based on miles covered, so any down time, including loading and unloading, is unpaid time. Some employers may offer a down time allowance, especially if your loads take more than two hours to load or unload. You are also restricted in the number of hours you can drive each day and there are compulsory breaks from driving after completing 70 hours of work each week. That 70 hours is total hours, not driving hours, and includes loading/unloading .
That all sounds rather dim, however, it does help to determine your actual driving hours, your possible mileage, and roughly how much you can earn. Most OTR truck drivers spend between 6 and 8 hours actually driving. If we take 7 hours as the average, we will have a good starting point. Mileage rates are between 30 and 40 cents, so again we’ll take the average at 35 cents per mile. Finally, truck drivers will average 40 to 50 miles per hour depending on traffic and the number of towns they travel through. We’ll again take the average of 45 miles per hour leaving us with an equation of 35 cents per mile times 45 miles per hour times 7 hours per day – a total of $110.25 per day; $661.50 per week; or $34,398 per year.
I don’t know too many entry level jobs that pay almost $35,000 per year and requiring, at most, five weeks of truck driver training. Lifting that per mile pay to 50 cents per mile will earn you around $50,000 if we continue to use those averages, even more if they learn to maximize their speed and time behind the wheel. Over-the-road truck diving can be lucrative, especially once you have gained plenty of experience.