How Much Do Truck Drivers Make?

If you’re thinking about becoming a truck driver, then you’re probably wondering how truck drivers get paid. Truck drivers make a wide variety of salaries depending on where they live, years of experience, and if they’re CDL trained. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in May 2018 that on average, the annual salary for tractor-trailer truck drivers was $45,570; the highest-paid drivers made $65,260 or more.


The growing need for new truck drivers means that there are exciting opportunities for everyone who wants to be out on the open road.

What Benefits Do Truck Drivers Get?

In a competitive fight for the best drivers, trucking companies need to offer more than just good pay. They must treat their drivers well and offer comprehensive benefits packages. To find out what benefits trucking companies offer, visit their website, and see what benefits are included in their job listings.


At Matheson, we pay our drivers by the hour (not by the mile) and give our drivers the same schedule every week so they know what to expect. This means that our truck drivers’ weekly pay stays consistent. We also provide comprehensive medical, life, and retirement plans, employee assistance programs, and additional fringe benefits.

How Can Truck Drivers Make More?

In a lot of jobs, a sure way to make more money is to get a new degree. However, in the truck driving industry, formal education plays no role in how much truck drivers make. A high school diploma is all that is needed to enter driver training programs. Instead of more education, a guaranteed way to increase your pay as a truck driver is to get a Class A commercial driver’s license (CDL). Drivers with a CDL tend to get better positions that are well-paid.


Other factors that influence pay in trucking are experience, location, and type of trucker.

Years of Experience

The pay scales for experience levels differ depending on the trucking company, but rookie drivers almost always start off at the lower end of the pay scale. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the bottom 25% of heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers make an annual salary of up to $35,040.


Your wage can increase significantly after a little bit of experience, so it’s worth it to stick around and put the time in. Having a good track record of reliability and safety will help you climb up the pay scale. As of May 2018, truck drivers in the 75th percentile earned an average of $54,400 annually.


Many companies also offer bonuses to drivers for safe driving records. Since trucking companies value safety and reliability so highly, many are willing to reward drivers for delivering loads in good condition, on time, and under budget.


At Matheson, one year of experience and a Class A commercial driver’s license (CDL) is required for our trucking jobs. These two qualifications already set you up for better pay.


How much a truck driver makes is largely dependent on where they live. The top three states that pay truck drivers the most are Alaska, North Dakota, and New York. Alaska is the highest paying state for truck drivers, but truckers in Alaska also have a much higher cost of living.


When considering where to work as a truck driver, it’s best to look for areas that pay well and have a low cost of living. When the cost of living is taken into account,  Nevada, Mississippi, and Kentucky are the best states for truck drivers. By factoring in the cost of living, truck drivers can maximize their wages.

Type of Trucker

There are many different categories and types of drivers and trucks, and each position pays differently.


There are many different types of truck drivers with different types of certifications. Dry van drivers transport dry goods and non-perishable items. This is usually a position that those new to the truck driving industry will start out in, meaning it generally has a lower salary. Flatbed drivers are required to have specialized knowledge and experience at tying down their cargo. This means that they get higher pay than others. Refrigerated freight drivers typically get paid even more because they have extra responsibility. Refrigerated freight drivers must know how to set the truck temperature and properly store items at their correct temperature.


Specialized truck drivers get paid more than other drivers because of the extra skills and certifications that are required. Below are some types of specialized trucking jobs with higher pay:

  • Line Haul and Intermodal Driving Positions: Linehaul truckers move less-than-truckload freight between terminals. Intermodal drivers do a similar job just on shorter routes.
  • Hazmat Drivers: These truck drivers move hazardous materials (such as fuel or chemicals) that could harm people and the environment. Drivers with hazmat certifications can request higher pay because of their unique qualifications.
    • Tankers: Tankers transport liquid in a tank that is connected to their truck. This type of trucker is required to have a special tank endorsement.
  • Oversized Drivers: These drivers move loads on heavy-equipment transport trailers that accommodate at least 80,000 pounds.
  • Ice Road Truckers: Ice road truckers transport food, fuel, equipment, and supplies across frozen waterways. This dangerous job has a higher income than any other type of trucking.



Now that you know how much truck drivers make, it’s time to take the next step and get your CDL. There are plenty of truck driving jobs available, and the number will only keep growing as the industry expands. There are countless exciting opportunities for you to explore as a truck driver now that you’re an expert on how truck drivers get paid.


Check out our careers page to find a truck driving position that is right for you.