It is a good time to be a truck driver, since the ongoing trucker shortage has caused wages to skyrocket as companies compete for workers. According to a 2019 analysis published by the American Trucking Association, there was a shortage of some 60,800 drivers in 2018. This was a 20% increase from the 50,700 recorded in 2017. And the shortfall is expected to worsen to over 160,000 by 2028 if current trends persist.
There are many factors causing the shortage, but one of the main ones is the aging driver population. According to an ATA survey, in the over-the-road for-hire truckload industry, the average age of the workforce is 46. Other sectors, such as private carriers and less-than-truckload, have even higher average ages.
Many of these drivers are set to retire within the next ten years. The trucking industry has to attract younger workers to replace them or it faces a serious shortfall. Making the problem worse is the industry’s difficulty in recruiting other sectors. In 2018, women made up only 6.6% of truck drivers, while minorities made up 40.4 percent.
Hence, wages have been steadily going up. The National Transportation Institute’s quarterly survey of truck driver pay reported that nearly half of all workers received salary hikes. This was up from the 11% reported in the previous year.
In order to attract more drivers, many private companies are offering generous salaries and other perks. For instance, Wal-Mart announced that as of February 2019, they would increase yearly driver salaries to an average of $87,500 by boosting the all-in mileage-rate to almost 89 cents. This includes additional pay for every arrival and an extra one-cent per mile.
Wal-Mart also added benefits such as safe driving bonuses given quarterly and for first year drivers, three weeks of paid time-off. Most importantly, drivers will enjoy two days at home per week.
But of course, these salaries and bonuses are not reflective of what the average driver actually earns. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of May 2018, truck drivers earned a average (mean) annual wage of $45,570.
The BLS also reported that the states with the highest average (mean) wages are:
- Alaska – $56,250 (annual wage); $27.04 (hourly wage)
- North Dakota – $53,020 (annual); $25.49 (hourly)
- Massachusetts – $50,580 (annual); $24.32 (hourly)
- Nevada – $50,440 (annual); $24,25 (hourly)
- District of Columbia – $50,250 (annual); $24.16 (hourly)
The states with the lowest average wages are:
- Mississippi – $40,780 (annual); $19.60 (hourly)
- Maine – $40,670 (annual); $19.55 (hourly)
- Arkansas – $40,620 (annual); $19.53 (hourly)
- Alabama – $40,080 (annual); $19.27 (hourly)
- West Virginia – $38,580 (annual); $18.55 (hourly)
The top industries where truckers received the highest annual median wages were:
- Truck transportation – $45,000
- Wholesale trade – $42,960
- Construction – $41,650
- Manufacturing – $41,280
How Are Truck Drivers Paid?
Most North American truck drivers are paid through a mileage rate, which is listed as cents per mile. This is usually computed using the shortest or most efficient distance between the points of origin and destination. Some companies, however, may pay based on the actual mileage of the driver, based on the truck’s odometer readings.
According to the BLS, most companies pay from 28-cents to 40-cents per mile, although a few will pay as high as 45-cents per mile. On average, a truck driver is expected to travel from 2,000 to 3,000 miles weekly, based on a maximum 70-hour restriction over eight days.
In addition, a driver may be paid some of these extras:
- Pickups and drop-offs. If the driver has to make several drops and pickups along his route, he is paid an extra rate (not including the first and last ones). For example, if the driver has six pickups and drops, his extra earnings are computed as the bonus rate X 10 (the number of drops and pickups the driver made, less the first and last).
- Waiting time. This extra covers any delays the driver encounters, as long as these are not his fault. These delays include holdups in loading and unloading cargo, traffic, and equipment repair. However, not every company pays this because they are reluctant to ask the receiver or shipper for additional money to cover this. Hence, there is no extra to pass on to the driver.
Finding the Best Paying Truck Driver Jobs
When choosing which job to take, you should not make the posted rate the primary factor. While the rate may sound attractive, it may be cancelled out by a high cost of living. According to a 2019 study by Seek Capital, the best states to find work as a trucker (taking into account their cost of living) are:
- The annual average wage for a trucker is $50,920, which is 20.7% more than the average worker
- The average yearly wage is $41,900, 18.2% more than the average worker
- The annual average wage is $45,550, 16.8% more than the average worker
- The annual average wage is $45,600, 16.8% more than the average worker
- South Carolina. The annual average wage is $44,270, 16.4% more than the average worker
The lowest paying states are:
- South Dakota. The annual average wage for a truck driveris $41,590, 7.6% less than the average worker
- The annual average wage is $50,200, 9.2% less than the average worker
- The annual average wage is $47,300, 10.2% less than the average worker
- New York. The annual average wage is $50,460, 12.6% less than the average worker
- The annual average wage is $47,940, 14.6% less than the average worker
However, the amount you’ll actually be paid depends on several factors, including where you live, how long you’ve been driving and if you’re CDL trained, as well as the company you’re working for. If you’re willing to relocate to a state with a higher wage, you will likely be able to find a better-paying truck driver job. But you should make sure to do your homework to ensure that you’ll actually be paid a higher wage. And don’t forget to keep an eye out for any benefits or perks the company offers.
In conclusion, it has never been a better time to be a truck driver, since it is basically a seller’s market and is expected to remain so in the foreseeable future.