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How Do Truck Drivers Get Paid? (23 Driver Pay Options)

Professional truck drivers are mostly paid through the pay-per-mile (CPM) system, which ranges from 28 to 40 cents per mile based on factors such as experience, type of cargo, the company they work for, and the region in the U.S. they’re driving.

However, there are at least 23 ways truckers can get paid (or increase earnings) in the trucking industry.

This article defines a large truck as any medium or heavy vehicle, including commercial and non-commercial vehicles, with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) greater than 10,000 pounds, excluding buses and motor homes. This is in accordance with the 2021 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Traffic Safety Facts report.

Apart from your regular salary or hourly wage, various bonuses, pay types, and incentives are often overlooked but can provide significant financial benefits.

Each factor represents a chance to significantly boost your income and gain recognition for your dedication and skills. Understanding how to maximize these opportunities is indispensable for your financial growth in your truck driving career. 

This article is your roadmap, showing you the hidden highways to bigger paychecks. Whether you’re a seasoned driver or just starting, understanding these pay methods is essential to make the most out of your long-haul career. 

So, how do truck drivers get paid?

Below are 23 types of truck driver pay methods or systems used in the trucking industry.

  • Pay Per Mile (CPM)
  • Hourly Pay
  • Salary
  • Detention Pay
  • Accessorial Pay
  • Stop Pay
  • Performance-Based Pay
  • Safety Bonuses
  • Fuel Efficiency Bonus
  • Per Diem Pay
  • Guaranteed Pay
  • Layover Pay
  • Breakdown Pay
  • Owner-Operator Pay
  • Special Incentive Pay
  • Referral Bonuses
  • Team Driver Pay
  • Training Pay
  • Sliding Scale Pay
  • Longevity Pay
  • Load Sharing
  • Tarp Pay
  • Timely Delivery Bonus

Prepare yourself! You’ll learn how to increase your earnings as a truck driver while understanding how payment issues contribute to trucking accidents.

how do truck drivers get paid as a profession

1. Pay Per Mile (CPM)

In the trucking industry, pay per mile is called (CPM), which stands for Cents Per Mile. Carriers use this standard method to express the amount they pay drivers based on their travel distance. Two methods are used to calculate mileage pay: practical mileage and hub mileage. These methods count every mile, ensuring fair compensation for drivers.

How Much Do Truck Drivers Get Paid?

Truck drivers who use the Cents Per Mile (CPM) method get paid based on their experience level. The rate also depends on the type of cargo they transport, their company, and their work region. New drivers can earn about $0.28 to $0.40 per mile. Experienced drivers specializing in cargo or team driving can earn from $0.45 to over $0.60 per mile. Drivers who haul specialized freight, such as oversized loads or hazardous materials, typically earn higher rates.

2. Hourly Pay

Hourly pay is suited for truck drivers doing short, intrastate deliveries. It benefits those frequently stopping at local retailers and efficiently handling additional tasks beyond driving. With hourly pay, every minute spent loading, unloading, or managing paperwork is compensable. Hourly pay rewards drivers for maintaining swift, effective service and strong customer relationships. Furthermore, mastering these additional tasks can lead to increased earnings.

3. Salary

Truck drivers can benefit from a salary-based compensation model that offers consistent income, regardless of the miles traveled or loads carried. It provides a stable paycheck, often paid weekly, and makes financial planning easier for professional truck drivers. In 2024, based on data from, the average salary for truck drivers in the USA is $62,495 per year. Salary in the trucking industry varies based on location, experience, and employment type. Team drivers earn more than solo drivers as they can cover more miles. Knowing the factors that affect your income can help you understand the compensation structures of the industry.

4. Detention Pay

Detention pay compensates for delays during loading and unloading, acknowledging that not all time spent on the job involves driving. It ensures that every minute of your time has value and is a crucial part of your earnings. It offers financial relief during delays and highlights the value of your time, fostering a sense of belonging and respect within the trucking community, beneficial for those on pay per hour or salary-based systems.

5. Accessorial Pay

Accessorial pay compensates truck drivers for tasks beyond primary driving, such as loading/unloading, handling hazardous materials, and navigating congested urban areas. It acknowledges the complexity of a driver’s work, highlights diverse skills, and solidifies a driver’s sense of belonging within the industry.

6. Stop Pay

Stop pay compensates truck drivers for their time at each delivery or pickup location, unlike detention pay, which covers extended delays at a single location. It acknowledges the time and effort involved in managing multiple deliveries and is crucial for drivers whose routes involve frequent loading and unloading.

7. Performance-Based Pay

Performance-based pay is a compensation system for truck drivers that rewards them based on their efficiency and accomplishments while on the road. This type of pay includes percentage pay and load sharing, which means that the more efficiently they work, the more they earn. This method encourages the development of skills and route optimization, which directly impacts their paycheck and helps to create a sense of belonging and accomplishment within the trucking community.

8. Safety Bonuses

Safety bonuses are additional pay awarded to truck drivers with a record of accident-free driving. These bonuses incentivize safe driving practices and highlight the importance of responsible driving.

9. Fuel Efficiency Bonus

Truck drivers can earn fuel efficiency bonuses by maximizing fuel usage, directly impacting their earnings and environmental impact. Adopting fuel-efficient driving strategies can boost income, and companies reward those who excel in saving fuel. Truck drivers must strive for fuel efficiency to maximize earnings and minimize environmental impact.

10. Per Diem Pay

Truck drivers need to understand per diem pay to cover meal and lodging costs on the road. It separates earnings from expenses, potentially lowering overall taxes and reflecting on how the types of truck driver pay can impact financial health. Per diem pay is tax-free, saving money on meals and lodging. Consult a tax professional to maximize this benefit. Effective per diem pay management leads to significant cost savings and is crucial for trucker’s financial planning.

11. Guaranteed Pay

Guaranteed pay provides stability for truck drivers, ensuring a consistent income regardless of miles or loads. It’s a safety net for owner-operators, guaranteeing a regular payday and peace of mind during slow periods. You’re compensated fairly for your time and commitment, making financial planning much more straightforward.

12. Layover Pay

Layover pay compensates for delays and waiting times at customer locations, ensuring earnings aren’t compromised, which can be especially important for drivers who are paid per hour or have salary-based pay. It’s essential when shipments get delayed due to factors beyond anyone’s immediate resolution. Integrating it with other compensations like stop pay reinforces your sense of belonging and financial stability.

13. Breakdown Pay

Breakdown pay compensates drivers for mechanical failures or maintenance issues that prevent them from continuing their journey. This type of compensation is crucial in the trucking industry, where drivers are paid per mile. It is calculated based on practical mileage and ensures that drivers adequately compensate for the time they cannot drive.

14. Owner-Operator Pay

Owner-operators earn income based on a percentage of the load’s revenue, making it ideal for those who value independence and control. Income can fluctuate, but earnings can be optimized by strategically selecting loads and negotiating terms. This model also fosters community among owner-operators who share strategies to maximize their take-home pay.

15. Special Incentive Pay

Owner-operators can earn extra pay through a bonus system that acknowledges the extra effort and risks involved in certain tasks. This added compensation reflects the true value of their work and recognizes the skills and expertise that they bring to their jobs.

16. Referral Bonuses

Referral bonuses incentivize drivers to recommend qualified candidates to their companies, streamlining recruitment and enhancing workforce quality. These bonuses directly impact driver pay and serve as a powerful tool in attracting talent while recognizing the value of drivers in recruitment through their insights and networks.

17. Team Driver Pay

Team driver pay is a compensation strategy where truck drivers work together to handle long-range deliveries and share responsibilities. This system rewards the collaborative effort of taking extended routes and provides higher rates and profit sharing. With more earning potential, team driving becomes attractive for those looking to share the journey with a fellow driver.

18. Training Pay

Trucking companies offer compensated training programs to newly hired drivers. Programs vary in payment methods and cover the training period. This approach provides stability and emphasizes the industry’s investment in professional development, including diverse ways truck drivers get paid. Companies calculate fair compensation, attracting dedicated individuals to start their trucking careers.

19. Sliding Scale Pay

Sliding scale pay adjusts your earnings based on haul length, guaranteeing fairness for all trips. Unlike a flat rate per mile, this approach factors in practical mileage, ensuring you’re accurately compensated. It significantly impacts profitability for owner-operators, balancing the scales between various haul lengths. Sliding scale pay offers a more nuanced, equitable compensation system for trucking jobs, bridging the gap between hourly pay and traditional per-mile compensation.

20. Longevity Pay

Longevity pay is an incentive that rewards experienced truck drivers and boosts their pay-per-mile rate. This system helps companies retain skilled drivers and contributes to operational efficiency and safety. Drivers with extensive experience command higher pay rates and enjoy additional benefits and bonuses, making longevity pay a crucial factor in long-term career planning in the trucking industry.

21. Load Sharing

Load sharing is a compensation approach that distributes earnings based on the specific loads carried by drivers. It pivots on a profit split model and is particularly popular among owner-operators. For team drivers, it can significantly enhance pay by covering more ground and transporting more valuable loads, splitting a percentage of the load’s profit.

22. Tarp Pay

Tarp pay compensates truck drivers for securing loads with tarps. It acknowledges their physical labor and skill and rewards their dedication to cargo safety. Tarp pay is essential when handling cargo that requires protection from the elements, and it is different from stop or detention pay.

23. Timely Delivery Bonus

Truck drivers can earn extra compensation by meeting or exceeding delivery schedules through a timely delivery bonus. Consistently securing this bonus can significantly boost overall earnings while fostering a sense of recognition and belonging within the company, embodying the varied ways truck drivers get paid.

What CDL Driver Compensation Methods Lead to the Most Trucking Accidents?

Trucker payment methods can affect commercial driver’s license (CDL) holder behavior and influence the frequency and severity of truck accidents. It is crucial to understand this correlation in order to improve safety measures in the transportation industry.

  • Pay Per Mile (CPM):
    • Incentivizes longer distances over shorter times, potentially encouraging speeding and reduced rest.
    • This can lead to fatigue-related accidents as drivers push their limits to cover more miles.
  • Hourly Pay:
    • Encourages safer driving habits since pay is not directly linked to distance covered.
    • It may lead to fewer speed-related incidents but could encourage longer hours on the road.
  • Pay Per Load:
    • It can push drivers to take on more loads than safely manageable to increase earnings, indicating that the pay for truck drivers is sometimes incentivized in ways that could compromise safety.
    • This might result in the overloading of vehicles, leading to mechanical failures and loss of control.
  • Salary-Based Pay:
    • Provides a stable income but may disconnect performance from pay, reducing the incentive for efficient operations.
    • Potential for complacency in driving habits, with less focus on maximizing earnings through risk-taking behaviors.
  • Performance-Based Bonuses:
    • Rewards for fuel efficiency, timely deliveries, and safe driving can encourage positive behaviors.
    • Such bonuses incentivize risky behavior to meet or exceed targets if not carefully structured, suggesting that how truck drivers make extra earnings can influence their on-road decisions.

Each payment method has implications for driver behavior and safety on the roads. Trucking companies must carefully consider how their payment structures might influence driving habits and, by extension, the likelihood of accidents. Implementing comprehensive safety programs and policies, alongside fair payment methods, can help mitigate these risks.

What Causes Most Trucking Accidents in the United States?

A July 2007 study, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration published the Large Truck Crash Causation Study – Analysis Brief, which provided a detailed examination of the factors that contribute to truck-related accidents in the United States. 

The study listed the following 10 factors, in descending order, that were found to be most common for large trucks and their drivers.

  1. Brake Problems: Faulty or poorly maintained brake systems can make it impossible to stop or control the truck effectively.
  2. Traffic Flow Interruption: Accidents often occur in areas with heavy traffic congestion, interruptions from a previous crash, or disrupted traffic patterns.
  3. Prescription Drug Use: Some truck drivers use prescription medications that may impair their ability to drive safely.
  4. Traveling Too Fast for Conditions: Driving at speeds that are not safe for the road conditions, such as during bad weather, can lead to accidents.
  5. Unfamiliarity with Roadway: Truck drivers unfamiliar with the road layout, exits, or specific roadway characteristics may be more prone to accidents.
  6. Roadway Problems: Issues with the road itself, such as potholes, inadequate signage, or poor design, can contribute to truck accidents.
  7. Required to Stop Before Crash: Situations in which trucks are forced to stop suddenly due to traffic control devices, crosswalks, or other road users can lead to accidents.
  8. Over-The-Counter Drug Use: The use of medications bought without a prescription, which might impair driving abilities, is another cause of accidents.
  9. Inadequate Surveillance: Failing to monitor the road and the truck’s surroundings properly can result in accidents, especially in blind spots.
  10. Fatigue: Driver exhaustion remains a critical concern, affecting reaction times and decision-making capabilities on the road.

Who Are the Victims of Most Trucking Accidents Involving Company Driver Truckers?

According to the 2021 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) report titled Traffic Safety Facts, 5,788 people died in traffic accidents involving large trucks. Of these deaths, 72% were occupants of other vehicles.

Truck drivers involved in fatal accidents have a higher chance of causing someone’s death. So make sure you prioritize safety over pay.

If you work as a truck driver, it is crucial to prioritize safety. If an accident occurs, the injured party may hire an experienced 18-wheeler accident lawyer to file a lawsuit against you.

If convicted, you could lose your Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) or even your job, be required to pay financial compensation, or even face imprisonment. Therefore, it’s critical always to be cautious and adhere to safety guidelines while driving.

What States Have the Most Trucking Accidents?

The states with the highest trucking accidents typically have heavy traffic volumes, significant industrial activity, long-haul demands, major transportation hubs, or specific payment incentives for quicker deliveries.

The states that often report the most trucking accidents are listed below.

  • Texas: Texas consistently has many trucking accidents, which are attributed to its size, extensive highway system, significant industrial and agricultural sectors, and major metropolitan areas like San Antonio, Houston, and Dallas.
  • California: With its vast economy, dense population centers, and major ports like Los Angeles and Long Beach, California sees a significant number of trucking accidents.
  • Florida: Florida’s extensive highway system, large population, and high volume of tourists contribute to its high number of trucking accidents.
  • Georgia: The presence of major transportation hubs, like Atlanta, and busy highways contribute to the high incidence of trucking accidents in Georgia, impacting how pay for truck drivers may be calculated in high-risk areas.
  • Pennsylvania: Its location as a critical connector between the eastern seaboard and the Midwest, along with heavy industrial activity, results in many trucking accidents.

Which State Has the Most Fatal Large Truck Crashes? 

According to the 2021 report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) titled Traffic Safety Facts, Texas has recorded the highest number of fatal traffic crashes involving large trucks, both commercial and non-commercial. The report further states that 832 large trucks were involved in these fatal accidents, which also involved the largest number of vehicles overall.

Texas has the highest number of fatal truck accidents in the US due to its large size, extensive highway network, heavy industrial and agricultural activity, significant freight traffic, high-speed limits in rural areas, dense metropolitan areas, and variable weather conditions.

US states with the most fatal traffic crashes involving large trucks
Texas Leads the US With the Most Fatal Trucking Accidents

What Factors Affect How Truck Drivers Get Paid Or Affect Pay Increases?

Truck driver pay rates depend on various factors, including complexity and working conditions. Here’s a list of crucial factors that affect truck driver pay.

  • Experience In Driving Jobs: Generally, more experienced truck drivers earn higher wages. Experience can improve drivers’ efficiency and safety, making them more valuable to employers.
  • Type of Employment: Various driving jobs offer different types of truck driver pay. Company drivers typically receive a different pay structure than owner-operators. Owner-operators who own trucks usually face higher expenses but could also earn higher wages.
  • Type of Load: Depending on the load, base pay could be adjusted to reflect the specialized skills required. The nature of the cargo can affect pay rates. Specialized loads, such as hazardous materials or oversized loads, may command higher pay due to the additional skills or certifications required.
  • Miles Traveled: Many truck drivers are paid per mile, so the more miles driven, the higher the potential earnings. However, this can also mean longer hours away from home.
  • Hours Worked: Some truck drivers are paid hourly, especially for local routes. Overtime hours can significantly affect earnings in these cases.
  • Route: Long-haul routes (cross-country or interstate) often pay more than local routes due to the time spent away from home and the endurance required for long distances.
  • Location: Pay rates can vary by location, reflecting the cost of living, driver demand, and local economic conditions, demonstrating how pay is based on multiple variables.
  • Company Size and Reputation: Larger companies or those with a strong reputation may offer higher pay rates, benefits, and job stability, showing the differences in how companies pay.
  • Bonuses and Benefits: Many trucking companies offer sign-on bonuses, performance bonuses, and benefits like health insurance, which can affect overall compensation.
  • Economic Conditions: The overall demand for truck drivers, influenced by economic conditions and the freight market, can impact pay rates, demonstrating how drivers can get paid differently based on industry needs. High demand for drivers can lead to higher wages.

Understanding these factors can help truck drivers navigate their career options and negotiate better pay rates.

How Do You Maximize Truck Driver Pay? (9 Ways to Boost How Truck Drivers Get Paid)

Maximizing earnings as a truck driver involves increasing your pay rate, optimizing your work hours, and managing expenses. Below are nine strategies to consider. 

  1. Gain Experience and Skills:
  • The more experience you have, the more you can earn. Specializing in hauling specific loads, such as hazardous materials or oversized freight, can also increase your pay due to the additional skills required.

2. Pursue Higher-Paying Routes or Loads:

  • Long-haul or specialized loads often pay more, indicating how pay is based on the nature of the driving jobs. If you can handle the demands, these routes can boost your income.

3. Maintain a Good Safety Record:

  • A clean driving record can qualify you for safety bonuses and lower insurance premiums, indirectly boosting your earnings and showcasing how companies pay attention to responsible driving behaviors.

4. Optimize Your Schedule:

  • If you’re paid by the mile, plan your routes and schedules to maximize driving time within legal limits, taking advantage of one of the ways truck drivers get paid. Efficient route planning can reduce downtime and increase the miles you can cover.

5. Consider Becoming an Owner-Operator:

  • Owning your truck can lead to higher earnings, but it comes with increased responsibilities and overhead costs. Careful management is crucial to ensure that expenses don’t offset the higher income.

6. Negotiate for Better Rates:

  • As you gain experience, don’t hesitate to negotiate better rates with your employer or clients, especially if you have a good track record.
  1. Take Advantage of Bonuses:
  • Many companies offer sign-on, safety, and performance bonuses. Understanding and meeting the criteria for these bonuses can significantly increase your earnings.

7. Manage Expenses:

  • For owner-operators, efficiently managing fuel costs, maintenance, and other operational expenses can significantly impact net earnings. Keeping personal expenses low while on the road can help even for company drivers.

8. Stay Informed About Industry Rates:

  • Keeping up with industry standards for pay rates and negotiating your contract based on this knowledge can help you earn more.

9. Continuous Learning:

  • Engage in continuous learning and training opportunities to stay ahead in the industry, making you a more valuable employee or contractor.

Truck drivers can increase their earnings by strategically focusing on these areas and achieving a more satisfying career path.

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