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Realistic Salary Expectations for Truck Drivers

How Much Do Truck Drivers Make?

Updated July 2021

The exact salary that truck drivers make will depend largely on the position they hold and the regular route that they drive. The main job that most truck driver’s start out with is over-the-road (OTR) driving. These routes have drivers travel across large portions of and sometimes the entire continental US to deliver their load. However, some drivers may start in other positions. It’s also key to remember that different positions have different pay scales and pay can vary between carriers and based on your qualifications as a driver.

OTR Truck Drivers Pay:

The average OTR truck driver can make about $50,000 per year in starting salary. That’s a pay level that is equal with many college graduates with a 2 to 4-year degree in their specific field of study. You will need your CDL license, and you will have to pass your test before you are eligible to start working with the carrier that hired you on. Many companies will also have a training period or program that you will have to go through as part of your orientation before you start driving independently.

OTR drivers will usually drive goods longer distances. You may be away from home for 3 to 6 weeks at a time, but you will get periods of “home time” between trips so you will get to see your family and enjoy some time to yourself between trips.

Your “Hidden Paycheck” Abounds:

You don’t just get a $50,000 (average) salary when you begin truck driving. Many companies include a host of other benefits for their drivers, including some of the following:

  • paid vacation
  • healthcare benefits (including dental/vision benefits)
  • retirement benefits/contributions to your 401k (often company-matched)
  • sign-on bonuses (mostly for carriers who are short drivers)
  • performance bonuses (for meeting certain performance milestones or “exceeding” expectations in your work)
  • the opportunity to get up to $200-400+ back monthly as compensation for what you paid to take classes and get your CDL (on top of your monthly payment paid until you equal what you paid to get your license)

These are just a few of the benefits that carriers can offer drivers to encourage them to sign on to drive under their names.

Post-Covid Trucking Industry

Many industries have seen a shortage in workers ready to be hired. This is also true for the trucking industry where CDL training is the first step before a person can be hired as a truck driver. In order to combat this shortage, many companies have added additional benefits to bring in more drivers. Some of these benefits include:

  • Pay increases to help draw in more truck drivers
  • More payable hours (Loading/Unloading, waiting hours… etc)
  • More respect for the truck drivers and the work they do for communities.
  • Investment into safety and quality of life
  • Reevaluation of training programs

These are just some of the changes that are being made in the trucking industry to try and recover in a post-Covid world.


OTR is the truck driving position most drivers start in. However, some others may begin in other positions as well. Truck drivers salary has the potential to go up as they gain years of experience.

If this sounds like the kind of money you’d like to start bringing in for your family, please feel free to contact us at Napier Truck Driver Training for further assistance! We can help you get enrolled in your training classes and get started on a path to a new career today!

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