If you have a love for the open road but don’t mind working long hours in solitary conditions, truck driving may be a good career for you. Entry-level truck driver salaries can vary widely based on a number of factors, such as geographic location covered, the company you work for, mileage and cargo value.
Long-haul truck drivers should expect to be paid by the mile, while more local drivers earn an hourly wage. First-year drivers will earn less than their more experienced counterparts, and will likely fall in the lower spectrum of average earnings. According to national 2010 data from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the lowest 10 percent of drivers earn $24,730 annually. The lower 24 percent earn $30,270 annually. The median salary is $37,770, while the top 10 percent of driver earn $57,480.
A driver’s route and location also plays a part in determining salary. The BLS cites Alaska and Nevada as the top-paying states for truck drivers, with mean salaries of $48,250 and $46,470, respectively. New Jersey, Massachusetts and New York round out the five top-paying states, with annual mean wages around $43,000. The Chicago-Naperville-Joliet area is the highest-paying metropolitan region, with annual mean wage of $45,400.
The cargo for which drivers are responsible for hauling influences wages. Certain industries pay more than others. For example, truck drivers for the postal service typically earn the highest, with an annual mean salary of $54,040. The industry with the highest levels of employment — general freight trucking — pays an annual mean salary of $41,100.
Bonus and Advancement
First-year drivers earn on the lower spectrum of hourly wages and may not have a fixed route or schedule in the beginning. Some truck drivers begin by substituting for regular drivers who are out sick or on vacation. As a driver progresses in his career, he has the potential to earn bonuses or more preferable routes and schedules. The longer a driver works with a track record for safety, the more he will likely earn.