high paying truck driving jobsFinding a trucking job is easy, but it isn't so easy to know if you've found one of the top paying trucking jobs. If you have a CDL and can drive a truck of almost any kind, you can always find a trucking company with an open position. With a good paying trucking job, you can afford your household budgets, save for your future, and pay down any existing debt. 

What Is the Average Pay for Truckers?

According to 2021 reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average truck driver makes $48,310 per year. If you’re wondering “What state pays CDL drivers the most?”, Alaska has traditionally paid the highest salaries to truck drivers but the state of Washington now tops the scales coming in with an average salary of $57,190. Drivers willing to tackle the traffic and congestion of the New York metropolitan area have the highest paying CDL jobs.

How Are Truck Drivers Paid?

There are three main ways that companies determine a trucker's pay: hourly, by the number of miles driven, and a percentage of the payment for the load. 

1.     What Is Hourly Pay?

While hourly pay is not typical in the trucking industry, it is a potential type of trucker pay. This type of pay functions just like any hourly job: you clock in, work your shift, and clock out when you're done. Hourly trucker pay is generally used for local driving jobs.

The advantage of being paid hourly comes from a more predictable income and more home time. However, hourly truckers may miss out on some of the pay benefits available to truckers who get paid by the mile.

2.     What is MILEAGE Pay?

Most truckers get paid by the mile. The more miles you drive, the more you get paid. There are often bonus programs from companies, usually involving drivers' efficiency. Mileage pay usually adds up to a decent hourly wage, although it will depend on bonuses, per-mile rate, and how the company structures its payment system. This type of pay scale creates a high paying trucking job. 

There are a few obvious disadvantages to by-the-mile trucker pay. For example, if you are driving in town, you have to go slower, which means you're logging fewer miles and earning fewer dollars per hour. If you were hourly, it doesn't matter how fast you're going.

Long haul truck drivers are generally paid by the mile with bonus plans, which help the driver earn more when the company makes a better profit. Despite some flaws, most truckers seem to prefer by-the-mile pay, as experienced drivers stand to earn a substantial income.

3.     What Is Percentage Pay?

With percentage pay, you earn a percentage of the gross payload. In essence, it works like this: drivers get somewhere around 25% of the pay from delivering the freight. So if the pay for the shipment was $1,000, the driver walks away with $250. It isn’t very common, but many truckers and trucking companies prefer this system, as it can increase efficiency and income while creating a mutual goal of success and one of the top paying trucking jobs in the industry.

What are the Highest Paying Trucking Jobs?

The three highest paying CDL jobs are over-the-road, hazardous materials, and owner-operator jobs. These truck driving jobs tend to have several characteristics in common, and trucking companies are eagerly searching for the types of individuals who are willing to work for their wages. If you are ready to put in the effort, you can certainly find success when pursuing these types of positions. In some cases, you may need certain qualifications; in others, you just need to be willing to do what others are not.

If you're new to the trucking industry, it is unrealistic for you to expect to start your career with one of the highest paid CDL jobs. As with any job, it takes time to build experience and prove yourself to qualify for these types of positions. Also, there are always other drivers competing with you to find these high paying jobs. But if you put in the time and effort, you can quickly advance and become a high paid CDL driver.

1.     Over-the-Road-Trucking Jobs

The most common of the top-paying trucking jobs are often the ones where you are on the road for long periods or traveling long distances. These types of jobs, called "over the road" or "OTR" jobs, which require drivers to crisscross the country and chase down several different cargoes, one after the other. OTR truck driving jobs generally pay very well since they take a person away from their home and family for weeks or months at a time. It is a tough job to do, but trucking companies are willing to compensate you handsomely for it.

2.      Hazardous Materials Jobs

Hauling hazardous material can also significantly bump up your wages. These positions generally pay more because it's not only more dangerous than moving around dry goods, but it also requires special certifications that can be tedious or costly to acquire. Still, if you put in the effort to get those certifications, these types of truck driving jobs will pay well and may not send you all over the country.

3.      Owner-Operator Trucking Jobs

Many high paying trucking jobs are offered to Owner Operators. These jobs allow you to work independently, set your own schedule and own your truck and equipment. In some cases, you may have to set up your own contracts, and you are accountable for running the business as well as driving your truck, but it can be very rewarding and lucrative work.

Additional Advantages of Top Paying Driving Jobs

There are several advantages to taking the highest paying truck driving jobs, besides the obvious increase in your paycheck.

For example, if you're always working over the road jobs, you don't have to worry as much about common expenses that a more grounded lifestyle would entail, like utilities and personal transportation. If you are willing to move hazardous materials, you will acquire experience that may be favored for other jobs. As an owner-operator, you may be able to be more selective about your loads and only take jobs you really want.

Some legwork is required, but if you're willing to do the research and get your CDL endorsements, you too can have access to the highest paying trucking jobs.

How to Find the Highest Paying CDL Jobs

With the driver shortage continuing to grow, there are several high paying trucking jobs available if you know how to find them. Truck driving jobs are not easy to get unless you know what you're doing, so it is particularly important to understand the industry and know what to expect before jumping in. However, once you understand how trucking companies operate, how scheduling works, and what you need to do to get the most out of this great opportunity, you can start applying for trucking jobs and land a perfect fit.

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Authored By:

Kate Williams

CDLjobs.com has been a leader in the trucking industry since 1999, connecting truck drivers with companies hiring drivers. Kate Williams is the company EVP and CFO with over 30 years experience in finance.