CDL Driver Salary – How Much Can You Earn?

CDL driver salaries varies a lot depending on the type of vehicle you drive, the load you carry, and of course the hours you work. Below we share some earning statistics from the US Department of Labor to give you a better idea of the earning potential of commercial drivers.

Heavy Truck & Tractor-Trailer Driver Statistics

  • Heavy truck and tractor-trailer drivers earned a median hourly wage of $17.92.
  • The highest 10% of truck and tractor-trailer drivers earned more than $27.07/hour.
  • The lowest 10% of truck and tractor-trailer drivers earned less than $11.63/hour.

Light or Delivery Services Truck Driver Statistics

  • Light or deliver truck drivers earned a median hourly wage of $13.27.
  • The highest 10% of light or deliver truck drivers earned more than $24.15/hour.
  • The lowest 10% of light or deliver truck drivers earned less than $8.10/hour.

Long haul truck drivers are generally paid by the mile with bonus schemes often in place for employees who save their companies money. Local trucker drivers are most commonly paid by the hour and paid extra for working overtime.

The exact amount earned by long haul truck drivers varies a lot from company to company and also on the type of cargo being shipped.

In general, CDL driver salary levels increase with experience, seniority and also depending on the type of truck driven. Generally speaking, larger truck drivers earn more than light truck drivers.

How Much Can You Expect To Earn?

Trucking companies often report salaries of $100,000 or more for truck drivers however this isn’t a realistic starting point for any driver. In your first year of driving you should expect to earn a base salary of between $30,000 – $40,000. Some trucking companies will add bonuses on top of this and these can be quite lucrative although you should never assume you’ll receive a bonus.

Owner operators stand to earn much more than company drivers. Being an owner operator could see you earning anywhere from $50,000 up to $200,000 per year depending on your knowledge of the trucking industry.

The following graph was prepared by

CDL Driver SalaryStatistics taken from the US Department of Labor are from the year 2008.


US Department of Labor:
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30 Responses to “CDL Driver Salary – How Much Can You Earn?”

  1. Perry Abbott says:

    Do you think it’s possible to make $40K or $50K per year driving in your own state, rather than OTR? I don’t think I want to be away from my family as much as it seems OTR requires.

    • Aidan says:

      I can’t say with absolute certainty, but I’ve heard that local driving can pay very well and that salaries in the $40K/yr are fairly common in some areas.

  2. Jeff Hopkins says:

    This is a really cool site. You done a good job.

  3. Jeff says:

    My wife is interested in truck driving. She was successful in her industry and then the economy tanked and she is one of those people who loves to drive–for relaxation and enjoyment. She brought it up because her work has been low for two years and she wants to work full time.

    Though I don’t want her working at night. She wants her dog to be able to drive with her in the cab during the day. Just wondering what may be a good route for her to start.

    • Aidan says:

      There are a few options. She could choose to drive locally, so she wouldn’t have to drive at night, but I don’t know how easy it will be to find a company that will allow a dog in the cab. She could choose to drive regionally, which are typically short runs, so she probably wouldn’t have to do any driving at night. She could probably take the dog, but it’s likely that she might not be home every night. Another option is for you to join her and the two of you work as team drivers, driving cross-country, and many companies will allow her to keep her dog in the cab.

      You may want to contact some of the trucking companies I’ve highlighted on this site and see what suggestions they can offer you. Good luck to you!

  4. Garrett Robertson says:

    Realistically, how much does the average OTR truck driver make each month?

  5. Larry S. says:

    Thanks for the reply Aidan,

    I start school on Feb 8th and should be done around April 6th. It’s an 8 week school in which they teach you more than alot of other places do including preventive maintenance ect.

    Florida Coast Career Tech is the school. So looking forward to it.

    Which trucking company would you recommend to seek out for 2013?:)



    • Aidan says:

      Good to hear you’re moving forward in pursuing your career! To be honest with you, the best trucking company is going to be the one that’s the best fit for you. Most of the ones highlighted on this site have been around a long time, so they’re stable and you can be certain they’ll be around for years to come. Don’t depend solely on what the recruiters say, though. Ask your instructors at FCCT. Visit a truck stop and ask some of the drivers. Most are quite friendly and will be glad to tell you about their experience.

  6. Deborah Wolters says:

    What is a ‘Company Reefer’ driver??

  7. Larry S. says:

    I was wondering how you stay cool at night in your truck on a Hot Summer night on the road? Isn’t it dangerous to let the truck idle all night with the AC on or whatnot?

    • Aidan says:

      Not at all, Larry. The big rigs’ engines were designed to be run continuously. Not only can you run the AC in the cab, refrigerated trucks run the trailer refrigerator 24/7 also.

  8. Larry S. says:


    I’m retired Military, 45 yrs old and about to attend an 8 week full blown CDL A Course.
    I always wanted to drive trucks to make some money, see the country maybe. What are the outlooks for placement and pay as a CDL Class A driver in 2013?


    • Aidan says:

      Hey Larry, the outlook is great. There is always a need for drivers, and just starting out, you should be able to earn anywhere from $36K-$41K in your first year.

  9. Corey Craig says:

    How much does a rig cost, if you wanted to be an owner/operator?

    • Aidan says:

      Hi Corey, great question, but it doesn’t have a quick answer. The cost of a tractor can vary greatly depending on which manufacturer you choose, whether you buy new or used, if you’re purchasing the tractor and the trailer or just the tractor, and several other variables that make it difficult to give a specific number. Some of the trucking companies will help you get your own rig through their leasing program. You’ll just need to ask the company you’re interested in driving for. Generally speaking, it can run around $250K for a tractor and trailer combined.

  10. Anna Gray says:

    This is just what my boyfriend has been looking for! Sending him the link now!

  11. Albert Evans says:

    Quality site…thanks for such indepth information.

  12. Sam R. says:

    Great site man! Thanks for putting all this information together in one place.

  13. Nick Dayton says:

    Hey Aidan, do you think truckers make more money now, since the graph is from 2008?

    • Aidan says:

      Nick, I’m thinking probably so, at least for some of the drivers. The pay scale may not have changed across the board for all of them.

  14. Harry Phelps says:

    Do you make less money if you only want to drive in your local area so you can be home every night?

    • Aidan says:

      Harry, it’s possible to make less money driving locally, because drivers are generally paid by the mile. So it makes sense that the drivers who travel across the country usually make more.

  15. Joe says:

    Thanks for the information – EXACTLY what I’ve been looking for!!

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