What Is the Average Income of an Owner-Operator Truck Driver?

One of the dreams of many job seekers is to have a job that allows them to tour America and see its many beautiful sites. Some choose to be owners-operators of trucks for this reason, while others choose to drive trucks for the promise of substantial wages. There is more to trucking than simply looking at your potential gross wage when determining if this field is right for you. There are several factors in determining the real wage for an owner-operator trucking professional.

Salary and Benefits Overview
According to the industry’s association, the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association, the average gross income for an owner-operator was $158,005 in 2008, a time of high fuel prices. Being self-employed, most owner-operators must purchase their own benefits programs such as insurance and retirement, and will only have a traditional vacation by merely choosing not to accept jobs during a planned absence. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that the average net wages for a truck driver in 2010 was $18.97 per hour, or $39,450 annually, before overtime.

Computing Net Wages

The same Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association survey explained the difference in owner-operator’s pay discrepancy by discussing the many expenses associated with this occupation. An employed truck driver who drives the truck of his company doesn’t have many of the associated repair and fuel costs that one who owns his own truck has. The gross expenses for a owner-operator trucker during this survey was $117,458. Considering all factors, including tax deductions and other business factors, the average yearly net profit for an owner-operator was $49,711.

Work Environment

Work environment can certainly play into computing the net wages for an owner-operator. If you are willing to drive to any destination with any cargo that meets your commercial driver’s license endorsement criteria, you will likely find more job opportunities than a driver limiting these factors. If you are willing to sleep in your truck’s sleeping compartment, prepare your own meals and research fuel prices, you can significantly reduce gross expenses over a year’s time.

Other Considerations
While no formal education beyond truck driving school is required to be an owner-operator truck driver, if you develop better business skills, either in a college setting or in self-study, you will likely make and keep more money. Learning basic truck maintenance and repairs can also save you a considerable amount per year. Team driving, which allows overnight driving, will also directly affect efficiency income, making this a popular occupation for couples. High fuel prices also play a significant role in the profitability of an owner-operator driver and may lead to tighter competition, driving down income.