Nov 1, 2020
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The Trucker Pay Structure, Compensation and Benefits 2021

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Trucker Pay Structure

Perhaps you have thought to yourself that a career in trucking would make sense. You have so many reasons to speak with a driver recruiting professional. We will cover a few bases that studying for the certification as a CDL driver makes sense. Trucking school usually lasts between three weeks to six months, but the length of time depends on the type of CDL, the student’s ability, and whether you enrolled in a part-time or a full-time program. 

The Pay Structure

Depending on the trucking company that you drive for, you have three ways to get paid in trucking: 

  • Pay by the mile
  • Pay by the load
  • Pay by the hour

Usually, drivers who deliver in the city receive pay by the hour. When the work picks up, you have the chance to earn overtime. In general, long-haul drivers get paid by the mile. That means you want to take on the longer hauls because you will receive a bigger paycheck for it. Unfortunately, this type of pay loses money when you sit at a delivery dock or get stuck in rush hour traffic or wait for a load because no new miles get added to the odometer. Owner-operators usually receive pay by the load. The contracting company will pay the driver a set percentage for the load delivery, which is generally much higher. 

Which trucking job you should take on depends on your individual goals. For example, if you want to come home every night, then you might pick a trucking job working in the city or statewide. With jobs like this, you come home every night, or you get to go home close to every night. People who want higher pay would choose to be an owner-operator, and they have the other advantage of having their freedom. Finally, you have income by the mile. This trucking type is advantageous to those who want to travel to the nation. They don’t necessarily have a wife and kids, which affords them the luxury of seeing the country. The trucking advantage is that it’s highly flexible, and you can start with one type and later switch to another. 


What does a trucker earn each year? Owner-operators can earn over $200,000 annually, but they must pay many expenses with it, cutting 70 percent of the profits. The average trucker earns $43,680 per year. However, you have many experienced truckers who make between $80,000 to $100,000 per year. How much you earn depends on the type of trucking that you choose. Hazmat trucking, for example, earns between $54,832 and $71,202. 

Before you choose a type of trucking, you might want to look at a few factors like:

  • Required education
  • Demand
  • Certifications
  • Salary
  • Years of experience required
  • Risk of the work

Understanding all factors can help you to make an informed decision. Depending on the compensation arrangement, you could earn bonuses and overtime pay. However, you have to exercise some degree of caution with rewards because some unscrupulous trucking companies have ways of wiggling free of them. Acquaint yourself fully with the terms and conditions. Beware of any bonus that sounds too good to be true. Look for the fine print in the sign-on bonus if you can find it. You have to know what the company expects in return because no trucking company hands out free money. 

The Reason for Bonuses

Bonuses exist because trucking companies face a crazy shortage, and the 94 percent turnover rate costs them thousands of dollars every year. Offering incentives help companies keep reliable drivers that they desperately need; how the bonus works will depend on the company. As a new CDL driver, don’t sign on with a company thinking that will be the only requirement. In most cases, you must meet more than one condition to receive your bonus. 

Beware of “chargeback” bonuses. You don’t even want to sign up for this type of bonus. Like with insurance and commissions, they sometimes put a clause in for a “chargeback.” In other words, the company pays you the bonus originally, but if you fail to meet the terms and conditions, the trucking company can demand the bonus back, leaving you on the hook for the cash. Considering how some companies offer as much as $10,000 sign-on bonuses, the result could leave you with a $10,000 debt. 

The other trick to beware of with sign-on bonuses comes from how they might lower your salary. Do the payments remain the same, even with the compensation? Look at it from all angles because some trucking companies use this to entice truckers without any intention of paying the bonus. 

Why Become a Trucker?

Why should you get an education as a CDL driver? First, schooling takes far less time in most cases than other forms of knowledge. You can start earning within seven weeks to six months instead of two to four years. On top of that, you can usually trust that one of the trucking companies will hire you because of the truck driver shortage. Many trucking companies will pay for your schooling. You sacrifice a percentage of your pay until you have paid for the schooling, but this route ensures that you have a job right out of school. You don’t have many other professions that offer a deal like this. 

The other benefit of being a trucker comes from how you get to see the nation. Speak to any veteran trucker, and you will find how they have driven in up to 48 states. Because you haul freight from one state to the next, you see a lot of the nation. The destinations that always intrigued you become available at your fingertips. 

With driver recruiting, people choose a trucking career that comes from how widely available the jobs are. You can get a job in trucking quickly because of how you have a widespread driver shortage. In 2018, experts estimated the deficit at 60,000 drivers. Because of this ever-widening gap, you can negotiate better benefits and higher pay. You have more power in the negotiation.

Many experienced truckers don’t stick with a single trucking company for long because of trucking companies looking to hire the best talent. They continually offer better bonuses, better perks, and higher pay to bring in some of the best from other companies. 

This should hand you an outline of the pay structure, the compensation, and the benefits that come with being a trucker. Truckers keep our nation’s economy running smoothly. In every disaster, from hurricanes to pandemics, truckers deliver medicines and goods to ensure that everything continues to run smoothly. You receive some incredible benefits like health insurance, paid time off, and liability insurance. No matter what you choose, a career in trucking comes with plenty of benefits. hopes that this article addresses the Trucker Pay Structure in great detail. Feel free to add your thoughts by leaving us a comment below.

Truck drivers should also check out our free truck driving job postings.

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